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McNair Center Startup Ecosystems

Ranking Startup Activity in Cities

Are startup hubs exclusive to a handful of U.S. cities? Or is high-technology entrepreneurship spreading throughout the country? To answer these questions, the McNair Center recently published The Top 100 U.S. Startup Cities in 2016,  ranking startup activity by tracking venture capital deals in U.S. cities. The report found that roughly 70% of startup activity is concentrated in 50 American cities. While the top seven U.S. cities for entrepreneurship are San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Cambridge, Palo Alto, Austin and Seattle, startup clusters are also forming in many American cities.

There are several rankings of startup activity. While these rankings use different methodologies, the results point toward the same trends in startup activity. This blog post compares the McNair Center’s methodology and that of rankings published by the Kauffman Foundation, City Lab /Martin Prosperity Institute and Startup Genome. We also identify the consistent themes across the rankings.

Kauffman Foundation: Startup Activity by Rate of New Entrepreneurs

The Kauffman Foundation ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by new business creation activity and the number of people engaging in business startup activity, using the following three metrics: the rate of new entrepreneurs, the opportunity share of new entrepreneurs and startup density.

The rate of new entrepreneurs measures the percentage of the adult population of an area that became entrepreneurs each month. Opportunity share of new entrepreneurs provides the percent of new entrepreneurs who were employed before starting their business; this metric tracks entrepreneurs who started their own businesses because they saw a market opportunity. Startup density is the number of startup firms per 1,000 companies. Startup firms are defined here as as small businesses that are less than one year old and employee one person in addition to the owner. This web-based ranking is dynamic, and the data can be downloaded. Users have several options such as measuring startup activity by larger or smaller states and by growth entrepreneurship. While the overall rank is a weighted average, users can also change the ranking for each individual measure.

City Lab / Martin Prosperity Institute: Measuring Global Venture Capital

A 2016 ranking prepared by City Lab with the help of the Martin Prosperity Institute provides the geography of venture capital investment in high-tech startups for more than 200 U.S. metro areas for 2016. This analysis ranks metro areas in terms of the total dollar amount of VC investment, as well as their share of national venture investment. The ranking provides individual rankings for venture capital investment, deal share and venture investment per capita. According to their findings, “No matter how you slice it, venture capital-backed high technology remains spiky, and if anything, it may be getting spikier.”

The Martin Prosperity Institute’s 2015 ranking, The Rise of the Global Startup City, finds that the U.S. accounts for nearly 70% of total venture capital worldwide, followed by Asia (14.4%) and Europe (13.5 %). Both the 2016 and 2015 rankings rely on venture capital investment in absolute numbers and percentage as their key measure for startup activity.

Startup Genome: Global Focus with Eight Success Factors

Startup Genome has identified eight factors that drive the growth of high-technology firms: funding, market reach, global connectedness, technical talent, startup experience, resource attraction, corporate involvement, founder ambition and strategy. Startup Genome’s ranking assesses 55 startup ecosystems across 28 countries and ranks the top 20 for 2017. Analyzing roughly 100 metrics that measure the eight external and internal factors, Startup Genome measures startup performance by growth over the first years of operation.

The top five regions in the 2017 ranking are Silicon Valley, New York City, London, Beijing and Boston. Startup Genome finds that greater global connectedness leads to higher ecosystem performance. Startups’ ability to reach out outside their own ecosystems highly correlates with attracting global customers.

McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Measuring U.S. Venture Capital

Our research paper analyzes startup activity based on three venture capital metrics: the dollars invested, which measures the total amount of growth-oriented venture capital invested into startup firms in a city; the number of new deals, which looks at the number of startups that received their first-ever round of venture capital financing; and the number of startups backed by venture capital, which gauges the overall scale of a city’s ecosystem.

We ranked cities on each of these three measures for 2016 and then assigned them an overall rank by equally weighting the component metric rankings. Our methodology is similar to the global ranking produced by City Lab/Martin Prosperity Institute, but we create a composite ranking of U.S. cities based on the weighted average of each measure, while City Lab/Martin Prosperity Institute publishes individual rankings for each metric.

Common Trends

The top 20 cities for each ranking is compiled in Figure 1. Across all the rankings, startup activity is highly concentrated in a handful of U.S. cities. The global assessment done by Startup Genome shows that the U.S. leads the world in high-technology entrepreneurship.

Other trends include:

San Francisco ranks number one for McNair and City Lab/Martin Prosperity
New York City takes the second spot for McNair, City Lab/Martin Prosperity and Startup Genome
Boston-Cambridge, San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley, Austin, Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles are consistently the U.S. cities with the highest rankings across the four studies
• California cities are spread all over the rankings, confirming the spillover effect in the San Francisco Bay Area
• San Francisco and Silicon Valley are at the top of all of the rankings except for the Kauffman Foundation. The Kauffman Foundation ranking measures entrepreneurship by new business creations, which combines small businesses and startups. For example, the Houston metropolitan area has the 9th spot on the Kauffman Foundation ranking, yet it is not shown as part of the top 20 in any other of the rankings. This result reflects a high rate of small business creation in Houston, not its startup ecosystem.

Figure 1. Top 20 Cities across 4 Rankings

Conclusion: Why Is Venture Capital Our Preferred Measure?

Venture capital provides comparable and systematic information on investment that can be directly linked to specific geographical locations. The amount of venture capital invested in an area shows the supply of financial capital available in the ecosystem.

Venture capitalists invest in high-tech, high-growth startups, not small businesses. This difference is key to assessing the innovation taking place in any given area. High levels of venture capital indicate that there is a healthy demand for this kind of financial capital. This increased competition creates the virtuous cycle that feeds a top ecosystem.

 

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McNair Center Startup Ecosystems

Manufacturing Incubators

In the past few decades, there has been a decline in manufacturing jobs in the United States. Companies have been able to produce goods abroad at a cheaper price due to lower labor costs in developing countries.

Incubators are crucial to the revitalization of U.S. manufacturing. The Fulton-Carroll Center Incubator in Chicago is one of the largest and first manufacturing incubators in the nation. It was established in 1980 with $2.6 million in grants from the federal government. In 2015, the city of Seattle awarded the Industry Space Seattle, a manufacturing incubator started by Johnny Bianchi in 2015, a grant of $100,000.

Importance

Traditional startup incubators provide office space, network access and business advice for tech companies developing things like software and apps. Startups usually pay a monthly/annual membership fee, or pay monthly rent at a rate determined by the incubator. The rent is usually slightly more expensive than what companies need to pay to get a similar office in the same area. However, extra value comes from access to the incubator’s resources. Costs are shared among multiple startup companies, as well as by the incubator sponsor. Sponsors can be nonprofit or for-profit entities.

Incubators are perhaps even more important to the manufacturing industry than to the tech industry. Manufacturing firms require more expensive machines and tools, in addition to basic resources. Incubators that provide those technologies are especially important for manufacturing startups that aren’t ready to invest in their own infrastructure yet.

Providing Equipment

Chicago’s mHub, opened in March 2017, is an innovation center for physical product development and manufacturing. mHub is equipped with ten labs, including a 3D-printing lab, fabrication labs, electronics labs, plastic molding, textiles, welding and grinding, wood shop and wet lab. Overall, they provide a total of more than $2.5 million of prototyping and manufacturing equipment.

Industry Space Seattle gives its tenants the use of 10 overhead crane systems, which can cost up to $80,000 each, along with a $30,000 compressed-air system, a $20,000 forklift and an industrial paint booth.

MHub in Chicago

Other Resources

In addition to the machinery and tools, incubators provide manufacturing startups with general business resources. The Industry Space Seattle partners with Impact Washington. Impact Washington is a nonprofit that provides consulting services and business mentoring to fledgling manufacturers.

The Advance Business & Manufacturing Center Incubator, a program provided by the Greater Green Bay Chamber in Wisconsin since 1987, partners with local universities, who connect college students to startups when extra manpower is needed. When multiple firms work in close proximity, they share knowledge and inspire each other with ideas. The business networking at incubators can also foster collaboration and expansion.

Structures of Manufacturing Incubators

The sizes of manufacturing incubators can range from less than 100,000 square-foot to the size of a city block. On the smaller side, the Industry Space Seattle provides up the ten industrial working spaces, while mHub can serve  hundreds of startups at one time.

Although these incubators provide machinery for manufacturing, not all of their client companies are in the manufacturing industry. Startups service companies, ranging from non-profits to law firms to consulting firms, can rent out only the office space at a cheaper price.

Incubator Sponsors

The up-front investment in a manufacturing incubator is expensive. Although most are sponsored by the government, there are individuals who started an incubator because they believe that incubators offer talented minds chances to succeed. Bianchi bought  and renewed a building into Industry Space Seattle because “there’s a whole bunch of people operating out of garages trying to legitimize their business [and] it’s financially infeasible to grow them.” Elissa Bloom started a fashion incubator because “there’s so much talent in the city, but they’re not getting the know-how to run and launch a business.”

Trends and Barriers

The long-term trend in U.S. manufacturing is of more automation to increase productivity with fewer workers. This trend favors larger manufacturers who can afford the capital investment needed to remain competitive. In recent years though, technologies like 3D printing, CNC laser cutters and other CAD/CAM equipment, have reduced the price and time needed for prototyping and development.  There are therefore now lower barriers to entry to new product development in manufacturing, providing firms have access to the necessary technologies.

Conclusion

Manufacturing incubators take advantage of economies of scope and scale by providing capital equipment to manufacturing startups. This works because a typical piece of equipment will be mostly idle even at a fairly large single firm. Manufacturing incubators have also borrowed some best practices from startup incubators. In particular, they often provide broader business services and access to networks.

However, manufacturing incubators are a recent phenomenon. They are still on their first evolutionary cycle and their funding is largely not tied to their performance. Startup ecosystem participants, by comparison, have now faced almost a decade of competitive pressures. Competitive pressures  select  business models and niches that are aligned with market needs. Manufacturing incubators will likely become more successful when they partner with industry incumbents. A first step towards this is to sponsored by local for-profit firms.

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McNair Center Startup Ecosystems

Silicon Valley: A Powerhouse for Innovation

Silicon Valley’s economy is a powerhouse. Representing 14% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, if California were a country, it would have the sixth biggest economy in the world. Although it has remained successful for decades, California was not always the leader that it is today. What about California led it to become a high-tech phenomena?

The Growth of Silicon Valley

Semiconductor Expertise

Although Silicon Valley is well-known among the American public today, this area was not always known for its tech development. In the first half of the twentieth century, San Francisco began to become a hub for the radio and telegraph industries. The first steps towards becoming modern-day “Silicon Valley” occurred in the 1940s, with the founding of Hewlett-Packard and Bell Labs. Engineers at HP made oscilloscopes, radar and artillery technology to aid the US in World War II. The first ever transistor was also invented at Bell Labs during this time period. The transistor later went on to become the computer processor, and its inventor created Shockley Semiconductor Labs, the first company to create transistors out of silicon.

In the ‘50-60s, employees with knowledge of semiconductors at Shockley Semiconductor Labs left and started their own enterprises. From there, the area became a hub for technology, known for expertise in semiconductors.

University Collaboration

Another milestone, occurring simultaneously with the region’s growth in semiconductor production, was the creation of the Stanford Research Park (SRP) in the early 1950s. Stanford University’s Dean of Engineering developed SRP as a hub for entrepreneurs and researchers to collaborate. Soon after SRP’s creation, the city of Palo Alto annexed SRP’s lands to generate tax revenue; this created a mutually beneficial relationship between Palo Alto’s residents and the researchers at SRP.

In 1951, Stanford Research Park’s first company, Varian Associates, broke ground. Varian went on to develop the microwave tube, which served as underlying technology for satellites technology and particle accelerators. Since then, SRP has been the home to many technological breakthroughs, from developing components of the international space station to being the home to Facebook as it was in its earlier stages of growth.

University presence in the area gave Silicon Valley the advantage of having a steady stream of innovators. Lawrence Livermore Labs‘ establishment at the University of California at Berkeley in 1952 also brought a wave of innovators to the area. Their development of breakthrough defense technology began many years of innovations. Their work in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory later enabled the launch of the Human Genome Initiative in the 1980s.

Over the following decades, more companies located themselves in the area. The 1970s brought Apple, Atari, and Oracle. The location of these large companies in the area brought talent and prestige.

Two decades later, after the area was well-established as the leader for the computer industry, companies like eBay, Yahoo, and Google all joined the ranks of Silicon Valley’s residents.

High Tech High Growth Enterprises and Changes Over Time

Graphic 1: Bay Area Startup Firms, 1980-2016

Graphic 1 shows changes in the amount of high tech high growth enterprises since 1986 in the Bay Area. We can draw a few insights from this information. First, the Bay Area’s concentration of these types of enterprises has clearly grown. The cities of San Francisco and San Mateo also became significantly more crowded than 30 years ago. However, concentration is not the only thing that has increased. Enterprises span the entire bay perimeter, whereas they used to mostly exist in small clusters.

A small cluster of enterprises has been growing to the East of the Bay Area, in Pleasanton. This could be a sign of even further sprawl in future years as the more popular areas become overcrowded.

Home to Venture Capitalism

Silicon Valley also houses the street that features some of the most prominent VC firms in the world: Sand Hill Road. Sand Hill Road, a 5.6-mile strip in Menlo Park, is famous for its high concentration of VC firms. The biggest names in tech – like Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter – all received funding from Sand Hill firms.

Although the success has been relatively steady, many sources are hypothesizing that Sand Hill Road’s reign may not last much longer. Tech Crunch attributes Sand Hill Road’s potential demise to VC firms’ desire to be closer to entrepreneurs along with the understanding that location isn’t as important as it used to be due to increased technology and on-site visits to founders. Sand Hill also has some of the highest space rental prices in the United States, which doesn’t incentivize firms to stay. Nonetheless, even as firms leave Sand Hill Road, they tend to stay in the Silicon Valley area. This means that Silicon Valley’s reputation as a VC leader is not truly in danger.

Broadening Success to California

With the success of Silicon Valley in Northern California and the long-standing success of Southern California as a center for pop culture and media, it is no surprise that the state experiences economic prosperity.

The Milken Institute cites the diversity of high-tech firms as what allows Silicon Valley and the rest of California to thrive. This diversity serves as a protection in the event that a specific tech industry crashes. Through sharing of resources and ideas, new firms are frequently popping up as well.

Nonetheless, California’s success is not unstoppable. According to the Milken Institute, California’s human capital capacity has been decreasing. Its rank in the Human Capital Investment Composite has dropped from second in 2002 to seventeenth in 2014. With this, California must recruit human capital from other states and countries in order to satisfy demand. If this human capital pipeline ever stutters, it could create issues for California’s continued growth. California is also only mid-tier when it comes to per capita academic R&D investment; this may not bode well for maintaining innovative competitiveness in the future.

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Government and Policy McNair Center Small Business Startup Ecosystems

Capitalizing on Competencies: Augusta, GA’s Innovation Path

Cities around the country constantly aim to increase their innovative competitiveness. The city of Augusta, Georgia, continues to emphasize this goal to boost the local economy. After thorough research, the McNair Center generated suggestions to help Augusta’s leaders drive this growth.

The Ideal Situation for Growth

Although there are more than 28 million firms in the U.S., economic growth comes disproportionately from only a tiny fraction. More than half of growth in the American economy comes from these “High-Growth, High-Tech” (HGHT) enterprises. HGHT firms grow from nothing to IPO in a very short period, about 5-6 years.

HGHT firms desire areas with abundant funding. This includes venture capital (VC) funding, angel investors and crowd funding, government grants and contracts, and research and development (R&D) opportunities.

To support HGHT firms, certain systems and mechanisms must also be in place. Factors like accelerators, incubators and collaboration hubs all attract firms by creating innovation communities.

Evaluation of Current Situation

Augusta does not have a strong entrepreneurship record. With only one VC deal in the last few decades, it seems clear that entrepreneurs are not flocking to Augusta. The city’s lack of resident corporations with big R&D expenditure also indicates that innovation culture isn’t strong.

In terms of mentorship and support, there are no accelerators in Augusta, and only one incubator. The lone incubator, The Clubhou.se, was founded in 2012. They have 80 members, and boast that they “have helped 60 entrepreneurs grow 32 companies that create 90 jobs and a $7,000,000 annual economic impact in our community.” The Clubhou.se is yet to have a venture-backed success.

New or higher performing accelerators and incubators are necessary to attract large amounts of innovative firms. Right now, some of Augusta’s strongest innovation advocates are spearheading another entrepreneurship resource, the Augusta Innovation Zone. The Innovation Zone hopes to act as a physical hub for Augusta’s entrepreneurs.

Government grants and contracts, however, have a relatively strong presence in Augusta. With over 1,000 contracts and 200 grants from agencies like the Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services in the last ten years, Augusta has a clear ability to attract government work and win government grants.

Local Competition

Atlanta, the closest large city to Augusta, is currently ranked 26th for HGHT entrepreneurship among U.S. cities. Boasting $117 million VC invested, 6 new deals and 100 active startups in 2016, Atlanta is performing well. However, this is not performance that labels it as a leader in innovation. Atlanta’s ranking for startup density has dropped nine places relative to its rank in 2015. Although Atlanta is not a top performer, Augusta can expect a difficult relationship with Atlanta. Entrepreneurs tend to prefer strong entrepreneurship ecosystems, and Atlanta will be stronger than Augusta for the foreseeable future.

The Path Forward

The upcoming relocation of U.S. Cyber Command to Augusta, and the existing partnerships with local Fort Gordon, offer strong opportunities for growth in Augusta.

Perhaps the clearest path forward will be for Augusta to build off its current competency in receiving government contracts and grants. It could put together resources to make it easier for startups to apply for grants and provide government contract work. This strategy should attract new startups.

Working with the government often requires security clearances. In Augusta, this may create issues for startups who cannot obtain clearances. But there are many established firms whose employees already have clearances – Booz Allen for example has a large presence in Augusta. If these firms had incentives to partner with startups to jointly win grants and contracts, then an accelerator or an  incubator could act as a hubs to bring everyone together. Some famous ecosystem institutions elsewhere, like 1776 in Washington, D.C., owe much of their success to their roles as middlemen, running competitions, brokering joint contracts and enabling startup research.

Cooperation is Key

For this all to work, everyone – Augusta University, US Cyber Command, local government, established firms, ecosystem organizations and the startups themselves – all need to be in close proximity. The startups will also need help to allow them to focus on exclusively on fast-paced development.

Augusta’ Broad Street is their hub of business and tourism.

McNair Center Director Ed Egan sees potential in the future developments of Augusta. A new $60 million building named the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center (GCITC), built in partnership with the State of Georgia, Augusta University, and others, is currently under construction. It is located on the waterfront, just blocks away from the Broad Street strip. Egan posits that this is the best location for Augusta to try to create a startup scene.

Egan explains, “The GCITC could house much more than just cyber-related innovation. It could be the home to The Clubhou.se and The Innovation Zone, host drop-in offices for incumbents like Booz Allen, and be a place for U.S. Cyber Command and government agencies like the National Security Agency to host competitions and workshops.” Augusta has its own unique challenges, but, with the right approach and leveraging the GCITC, it could build its own unique ecosystem.

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McNair Center Startup Ecosystems

Houston’s Next Step: The Role of Funds of Funds in Venture Capital

Recently, Houston Exponential announced plans to create a venture capital Fund of Funds (VC FOF) to support the local entrepreneurship ecosystem. This strategy has been used by other cities and regions, such as Michigan and Cincinnati, to spur local startup growth. Private firms also offer VC Fund of Funds. What does this type of fund look like, and how has it played out in other locations?

The Basics

FOFs are funds that invest in multiple smaller funds. The increased diversification that they offer investors makes them attractive. However, there is a risk of overlap with FOFs; the many funds that make up the FOF may invest in the same entities. FOFs also may carry additional fees over a traditional fund because the the investor also has to pay the fees for the funds that constitute the larger FOF.

A VC FOF specifically invests in multiple venture capital funds. These venture capital funds then invest in local startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses investment. FOFs diversify investors’ portfolios by ensuring investment in a wide variety of companies. Many venture capital funds make up VC FOFs,  so their success depends on what investments the constituent VC funds make. In the private sector, the advertised appeal of  VC FOFs is diversification, early liquidity, and enhanced fund returns.

FOFs can also exist through firms that typically invest in mature companies and buy all of each company’s equity, known as “Buyout FOFs.” The Chicago Booth Review claims that VC FOFs offer more diversification than Buyout FOFs, with an average of 7 more individual funds in each VC FOF. The research also indicates that VC FOFs are “more likely, through fund selection and/or access, to overcome their additional layer of fees” than buyout FOFs. This suggests that VC FOFs may bring investors higher value than buyout FOFs.

Impact on Cities

The trend towards creating VC FOFs to boost local innovation began about a decade ago. In 2008, Michigan created the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund. The premise behind the fund was simple: “Venture capital is important for economic growth and [Michigan is] underserved in the amount of venture capital available to fund exciting new ideas and technologies.” By investing specifically in VC funds that are active in Michigan, the Renaissance VC Fund provides the necessary capital for Michigan startups to grow and thrive.

Currently, the fund claims to receive a 21:1 return on every dollar they invest. With this success, they have grown; the fund has offices in both Ann Arbor and Detroit. Figure 1 shows the spike in investment and deals following the introduction of the Renaissance Fund. However, investment and deals seemed to have tapered off in recent years. Nonetheless, the new plateau does seem to be slightly higher than the average values before the fund was introduced.

Figure 1: Michigan saw large increases in investment in 2010 and 2011. Deals then peaked in 2013. Michigan introduced the Renaissance Fund in 2008.

In 2012, Cincinnati created a fund modeled on Michigan’s Renaissance Fund. Cincinnati-based corporations, like Kroger and Proctor & Gamble, created the Cintrifuse Early Stage Capital Fund I, LLC, which exclusively makes seed and early-stage investments in local startups.

According to Cintrifuse, the fund has resulted in a net increase of $24 million in value to the city. Figure 2 shows the spike in deals in both 2012 and 2014. Investment also peaked in 2014, relatively soon after the fund’s introduction. Nonetheless, the introduction of this program seemed to have no noticeable impact on Cincinnati’s overall GDP in 2012 and afterwards. The number of deals and amount invested have also declined substantially since 2014.

Figure 2: Cincinnati’s VC deals spiked in 2012 and 2014. The city created Centrifuse in 2012.

What Will This Mean for Houston?

VC Fund of Funds seem to carry benefits for both investors and local VC/startup culture. However, no plan to boost growth is a guaranteed success. Michigan and Cincinnati have demonstrated that it is difficult to maintain momentum with these funds. These cities’ experiences teach us that the fund needs to place a sustained emphasis on providing capital to the local region. McNair Center research indicates there are about 50 VC firms in Houston. This means that there are firms for which the FOF can provide capital. These VC firms can then disburse funds to local businesses.

On the other side of the equation, Houston will need local entrepreneurs and startups in which VC can invest. According to McNair Center research, there are approximately 20 startups active within the 610 loop. However, looking outside the loop to the greater Houston area, there is an abundance of startups. Nonetheless, the industries in which these startups focus may not be as desirable for investors as others. Houston’s startups do not tend to focus on one specific industry, although medicine and energy are popular. Since tech is one of the most desirable fields for investment right now, Houston’s tech startup scene may need to develop further if a VC FOF is to succeed.

Both sides of this equation need to be present in order for VC FOF to successfully boost the city’s innovation scene. If this is the case, there is hope that a VC FOF could provide a welcome boost to Houston’s ecosystem.

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Accelerators McNair Center Startup Ecosystems

Social Capital Wins over Financial and Human Capital

Entrepreneurship can spur economic growth and job creation. As a result, state and local governments are seeking ways to establish entrepreneurial ecosystems. One way to strengthen an ecosystem is to increase its social capital. Social capital is the networks of relationships among people who work in a particular field.

Lack of social capital is among the top reasons that nine out of ten startups fail. Money and skills are not enough for success in entrepreneurship. Aspiring entrepreneurs also need social capital, which along with financial and human capital, is essential to grow a business.

Human, Financial and Social Capital

It is useful to differentiate between human, financial and social capital. Human capital comprises the knowledge and skill sets that enable people to successfully create new enterprises (Davidsson and Honig 2003; Snell and Dean 1992). Financial capital is the funding needed to get a business off the ground, sustain growth and develop operations.

Human capital is further classified into general and specific capital. General capital is associated with education, which provides the knowledge and the skills to solve problems. Specific human capital refers to the know-how for entrepreneurial activities, which has few applications outside of this context (Becker 1975; Gimeno et al. 1997). An example of specific human capital is the previous startup experience demonstrated by serial entrepreneurs.

Financial capital is key for early-stage startups to fund their ventures. Personal funding, debt, equity, crowdfunding and grants are among the funding sources available for entrepreneurs.

In entrepreneurship, social capital refers to all the interpersonal and interorganizational relationships through which entrepreneurs have access to the resources needed to discover and exploit business opportunities and succeed (Davidsson and Honig 2003; Wiklund and Shepherd 2008).

Social capital is, in simple terms, equivalent to individual and community networks. Networks can have strong or weak ties. Strong ties occur between people or firms with a family, working or professional history. Through these ties, people tend to develop high levels of trust, and therefore, are willing to share more detailed information and are more apt to collaborate. Weak ties occur between people or firms working within different contexts or economic clusters where contact is sporadic. These ties provide access to new information and new contacts outside of existing networks.

Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between the three kinds of capital.

Source: Patricia H. Thornton

Why Is Social Capital the Key to Entrepreneurship?

The obstacles entrepreneurs encountered due to a lack of knowledge or skill and a lack of funding can be solved through social capital. Networks connect entrepreneurs to the right people who will provide information, collaboration and partnerships as well as access to financial resources.

Entrepreneurs with higher social capital have greater chances of getting funding for their ventures.

Fried and Hisrich (1994) noted that since investors receive multiple funding requests, social connections play a significant role in determining the allocation of capital. The findings show investors tend to finance the entrepreneurs and ventures they have heard about as part of their network.

Based on a study of 202 venture capitalists in the priming phase, Shane and Cable (2002) observed that direct and indirect links between entrepreneurs and investors have a positive impact on the selection of projects financed. Shane and Stuart (2002) also noted that social capital of company founders represents an important endowment for early-stage organizations.

Social capital can also increase the human capital of a venture since the network can further advance innovation by merging ideas from different individuals. Investment in social relationships leads to the creation of socially embedded resources that can be mobilized by individuals (Lin 1999). Assuming that the social resources of entrepreneurs are more important than the possession of personal resources, social capital assists in achieving financial and human capital objectives that would be otherwise difficult to obtain (Lin 1999).

Social Capital in Nascent versus Mature Ecosystems

The genesis of startup communities is fueled by entrepreneurs’ individual attributes, their human capital. A high-impact startup can find traditional financing, such as personal funds, loans or investment by friends and family, yet social capital may remain as a challenge. Startups founded in regions with poor infrastructure lack the agglomeration needed to transition their ideas into successful companies.

In the absence of a cohesive startup network, incubators and accelerators can serve as a substitute for entrepreneurs from regions with less social capital. Local stakeholders who sponsor and support these programs have an interest in strengthening entrepreneurship in their communities.

The presence of accelerators or incubators can bring the community together as a destination for entrepreneurship and bolster local social capital. A study by the University of South Wales notes accelerators’ direct impact on entrepreneurial skills for the start-ups supported by accelerators and their positive indirect impact on the broader ecosystem. Acs (2001) recognized that entrepreneurship can be more challenging in underdeveloped areas, given their remoteness, which limits their access to skilled labor, technology, capital and networks. The alliances built by accelerators and incubators are the strongest assets in ensuring sustainability and building an ecosystem.

Cities with mature ecosystems reflect strong social capital, which plays a major role in fostering entrepreneurship. Kwon et al. (2013) sees a community’s social context as a public good. In high-social capital communities, entrepreneurs are able to take advantage of high levels of community trust and well-being, as well as more robust social networks. Individuals who feel support from cohesive communities will experiment with innovative ideas.

Conclusion

Social capital theory explains the value of networks as an integral part of a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurs need to increase social capital to increase funding and improve the human capital in their ventures.

As ecosystem actors come together to strengthen startup culture, communities should foster social capital through strong and weak ties. The Harvard Kennedy School’s Social Capital Building Toolkit is a valuable tool for understanding and creating social networks.

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McNair Center Startup Ecosystems

Entrepreneurship for All: Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C. is known for its politicians and bureaucrats, but it’s also where the top-20 U.S. government contractors are based. In recent decades, high-tech, high-growth entrepreneurship has been on the rise in the U.S. capital. Startup ventures, coupled with a diverse economy, largely fueled by the federal government, have led D.C. to emerge as a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem.

History of Entrepreneurship

The diversified needs of the federal government have led to a varied ecosystem. Feldman 2001 concludes that two unique conditions impacted the development of D.C.’s entrepreneurial culture: underemployed skilled labor caused by federal job cuts and the commercial exploitation of intellectual property rights from publicly funded research.

Changes in federal employment policy through the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 led the federal government to outsource goods and services in an effort to reduce civil service jobs.

The Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 created the Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) as a mechanism whereby nonfederal entities can collaborate with federal laboratories on research and development projects. CRADAs aim to promote technological competitiveness and technology transfer to marketable products.

Biotech found a partner in the federal government through CRADAs. Proximity to federal labs has created an important biotechnology cluster attracting Merck and Pfizer among others, as well as startups MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences, later acquired by GlaxoSmithKline.

Other notable startups that emerged under the public-private sector collaboration include Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, Inc. (SGT), who provides scientific and IT service solutions to a wide array of federal government agencies nationwide including NASA and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Government outsourcing opportunities benefitted the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. The earliest ITC entrepreneurs were government contractors, who began working on ARPANET, the predecessor of the internet.

When the federal government removed the commercial restriction on the use of internet in 1989, former contractors became tech startups with ample opportunities to grow their ventures.

Resources in D.C.

AOL is a prominent ICT company launched in the D.C. metropolitan area during the 1990s dot-com boom. AOL is also credited for shaping the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Prior to its relocation to Manhattan, AOL funded Fishbowl Labs, a business incubator located at its Dulles campus. Fishbowl Labs provides resources to startups at no cost and a mentorship program through its employee network.

The company also invested in firms such as the D.C.-based tech hub incubator 1776. The incubator is modeled after 1871 in Chicago and the General Assembly incubator in New York. Notable companies currently working with 1776 include Babyscripts, Cowlar and MUrgency. 1776 organizes networking events for the government innovator community to promote the interconnectivity of startups and D.C.’s main consumer, the federal government.

Washington D.C. boasts four top universities in the immediate area with entrepreneurship programs: The Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative at American University, Startup Hoyas at Georgetown University, Mason Innovation Lab at George Mason University and The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at George Washington University.

Current D.C. Startups

Washington D.C.’s economy is stable and diverse. As of February 2017, the area had an unemployment rate of 2.5% and the gross product of the area was $471 billion in 2014, making it the sixth-largest U.S. metropolitan economy.

D.C.’s ecosystem has historically been linked to government agencies, but more recently, the startup community has had greater diversity. Notable startups out of D.C. include LivingSocial, iStrategyLabs and CoFoundersLab. Advertising company iStrategyLabs has created devices and advertising campaigns for 21 Fortune 500 companies. CoFoundersLab connects entrepreneurs via an online network.

The success of LivingSocial has invigorated the D.C. ecosystem with a new generation of startups. Borrowing Magnolia, a wedding dress rental business, Galley, a freshly prepared food delivery service, and online custom framing business, Framebridge, are among the ventures founded by LivingSocial alumni.

Venture Capital in Washington, D.C.

The D.C. startup scene is home to a number of influential venture capital firms that help invigorate the ecosystem. Venture Capital investment in D.C. has reached around $350 million in investment for years 2014 and 2016, with investment lower than $200 million in 2015.

According to a report from the Martin Prosperity Institute detailing worldwide VC investment in high-tech startups, D.C. is ranked eighth in the world with a total cumulative venture capital investment of $835 million until year 2012 (the most recent year these detailed data are available).

Data indicating the number of first-round deals in D.C. illustrate a stable ecosystem with an average of 36 first-round deals per year in the last five years.

One of the largest venture capital firms in the world, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), calls both D.C. and Silicon Valley home. In 2015, NEA’s fourteenth investment fund closed with $3.1 billion in investor capital, making it the largest venture capital fund ever raised. NEA invests in technology and health care companies around the world, but continues to support companies in D.C. such as online movie player SnagFilms and software producer Cvent

A diverse portfolio of venture capital firms are settled in the ecosystem to guarantee funding sustainability. Fortify Ventures, an early stage technology investment fund, nurtures investors and entrepreneurs. Fortify has received $100,000 in funding from the D.C. mayor’s office. D.C. startup, Social Tables, recently raised $13 million in Series B funding from Fortify Ventures and other investors.

Other notable venture capital firms in the D.C. area include Groundwork VC, a fund for minority founders, New Atlantic Ventures, a firm that invests in early stage startups and NextGen Venture Partners, which transitioned from an angel network into a venture capital firm this year.

D.C. venture capital investment is strong, but compared to areas such as San Francisco, which posted over six billion dollars in venture capital investment, San Jose (approximately $4 billion) and Boston (approximately $3 billion), VC investment in D.C. still has room to grow.

Startup-Friendly Government Policy

Local government policy incentivizes companies to move to or remain in D.C. The District waives corporate income taxes for the first five years and provides new-hire wage reimbursements for startups. However, D.C.’s regulatory environment still implies high costs for obtaining business licenses and permits.

Washington’s venture capital firms, angel networks and private investors cannot compete with the extensive network and resources in established ecosystems like Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle in North Carolina. According to Dow Jones VentureSource, about 50% of all venture capital invested in the United States goes to companies in Silicon Valley.

Despite Silicon Valley’s dominance, D.C.’s location, culture and resources position it as a strong ecosystem. D.C. will continue to take advantage of the resources and opportunities presented by the federal government.

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Accelerators McNair Center

MassChallenge: Connecting Startups and Big Business

Corporations and startups are moving toward early stage interactions. MassChallenge, a highly successful nonprofit accelerator, has been connecting corporations and startups since its 2010  launch in Boston. MC has several US and international locations, which accelerated 372 startups in 2016.

MC delivers positive results and has been listed among the Best Startup Accelerators by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, led by Baker Institute Rice faculty scholar Yael Hochberg.  There are over 1,000 MC alumni, who have collectively raised more than $1.8B in outside funding, generated $700M in revenue and created over 60,000 jobs. According to a 2016 MIT study, MC startups are 2.5 times more likely than non-MC startups to hire at least 15 employees and three times more likely to raise $500,000 in funding.

With seven years of history, notable MC alumni includes Ginkgo Bioworks, which designs custom microbes to produce chemicals, ingredients and industrial enzymes. As a startup, Gingko Bioworks raised $154M in funding and signed a deal for 700 million base pairs of designed DNA — the largest such agreement ever made — with Twist Bioscience. Other remarkable graduates of the program include Ksplice, Turo, Sproxil and LiquiGlide.

An Attractive Alternative for Startups

MC is similar to other startup institutions such as Techstars and Y-Combinator. However, the nonprofit differentiates itself by not taking equity. Entrants to the accelerator must be early stage startups, defined as companies with no more than $500K of investment and $1M in annual revenue. As part of the four-month program, selected startups receive mentoring, co-working space, access to a network of corporate partners, tailored workshops and the chance to win a portion of $2M in zero-equity funding. Additional prizes are provided by partners such as The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center.

For entrepreneurs in regions with mature ecosystems like Silicon Valley and Boston, MC is one option among an array of accelerators and informal networks. This  density of resources is called  agglomeration, a geographic concentration of interconnected entities increases interactions and the productivity. The MIT study suggests MC acts as a complement to the prior advantages of startups in established ecosystems by providing key resources and access to social capital  and also found evidence that startups founded in regions with higher access to early stage investors had on average higher quality ideas, but that their chances of success were not higher conditional on the quality of their idea.

For startups in nascent ecosystems the resources provided by MC can become the only option to pitch their ideas to investors and advance their company at no cost other than the time invested on the program. Of equal value is the endorsement received as a MC graduate inferring the quality of the startup venture.

A Model Built on Strategic Partnerships

As a nonprofit, MC depends on the support of a network of public, private and philanthropic partners, with the vast majority of their funding coming from corporations. Governments and philanthropic foundations fund MC with the goal to foster regional economic growth. Founders John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam, former consultants at Bain & Company, garnered early support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, successful entrepreneurs and large corporations such as Blackstone, Microsoft and the nonprofit Kauffman Foundation.

MC could have faced financial challenges by providing accelerator programs at no cost and with no equity commitment. However, MC was able to become a bridge between large companies’ need for innovation and startups’ need for capital. Large companies have the scale of resources, customer information and market experience, but may lag in innovation. Startups, on the other hand, lack the resources but innovate with sometimes disruptive and successful ventures, frequently taking incumbents by surprise (Airbnb, Uber).

MC serves as a channel between startups and established companies to meet the need for fast-paced innovation. Companies like Bühler and PTC partner with MC to source high-potential startups for the development of advanced technology. Companies can also source tailored programs or tracks for specific needs.

A study done jointly by MC and innovation firm Imaginatik looked at how startups and corporations interact in new collaborative ways. The research team surveyed 112 corporations and 233 startups from various industries. 82 percent of the corporations considered startup interactions important, and 23% stated that these interactions are “mission critical.” Startups have a high interest in working with corporations with 99% stating it is important for them to interact with potential corporate customers, marketing channels and strategic partners.

Expansion

MassChallenge was located at One Marina Park Drive until 2014.

MC communicates its impact and vision to donors by demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of alliances between startups and corporations. A solid accelerator program, global vision, robust network and a sustainable funding strategy have set up MC for success. As stated in the MC Impact Report 2016, the accelerator is committed to running 12 locations annually by 2020, including at least one on each populated continent.

Before establishing an MC accelerator, the metropolitan area is evaluated for the quality of its research universities, urban setting, level of entrepreneurship opportunity and investment capability. As government and private stakeholders partner, a sense of shared ownership becomes crucial to consolidating efforts. This engagement guarantees that the resulting ecosystems are seen as a shared legacy.

The next MC sites are yet to be announced. Currently in five locations with global impact, MC’s 2020 vision is on a path to become a tangible reality.

The author and editor would like to thank Tay Jacobe for assistance with researching and drafting this post.

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McNair Center Startup Ecosystems

Mile-High Entrepreneurship

Boulder has long been considered Colorado’s startup hub, but Denver is emerging as a strong contender. Mentoring and venture capital support have helped Denver’s ecosystem expand rapidly so that it is well on its way to becoming self-sustaining.

Denver has garnered a reputation as one of the best places for high-tech, high-growth ventures.The total number of tech startups located in downtown Denver has increased by 13% in the last two years; 4% above the national average in new startup growth. Denver has collected accolades that ranging from the Best Place for Business and Careers by Forbes to the third Best Place in the Country to Launch a Startup according to Washington D.C.-based accelerator, 1776.

History

Colorado has a history of high-growth entrepreneurship ranging from telecommunications (Dish Cable) to restaurant chains (Chipotle and Quiznos). The state’s venture capital-backed startup activity began in the 1980’s when national venture funds such as Access Ventures, Vista Ventures, Sequel Ventures and Heritage Group invested in local Denver startups. By 2000, Denver was supporting a startup ecosystem, but successful companies left the state or were sold to out-of-state purchasers. VC funding collapsed after the tech bubble burst.

In 2006 Jared Polis, Brad Feld, David Cohen and David Brown established Boulder-based Techstars, which brought the nascent startup ecosystems of Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs together. Accepting only 1% of applicants, Techstars is extremely competitive. Graduates of this three-month program average approximately $1.8 million in outside financing. In exchange for 7-10% equity, Techstars provides $18,000 in seed funding, a $100,000 convertible debt and mentorship opportunities. Denver alumni include UsingMiles, FullContact, Revolar and MeetMindful.

Techstars is not the only catalyst for the entrepreneurial community in the region. Former Denver mayor and current Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, himself an entrepreneur before entering politics, implemented policies that made supporting startups a central focus for economic recovery and growth.

Colorado’s Entrepreneur Friendly Policies

Colorado policymakers has made entrepreneurship a central focus. The state legislature has lowered tax rates and lifted regulatory burdens for the business community. Colorado taxes business at a flat rate of 4.63%, one of the lowest business income tax levels in the country.

Governor Hickenlooper has championed programs such as the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN), which works to connect the 29 Colorado research facilities with entrepreneurs. In 2014, the Colorado Impact Fund was launched, a public-private fund that estimates making 10-15 investments through 2020.

Home-Grown Resources

Since 2010, downtown Denver has added an average of almost 16,000 residents per year, resulting in a population increase of over 13% in the past five years. This remarkable growth has been accompanied with an increase in the number of homegrown startups. As a result, there is a significant number of resources available for Denver entrepreneurs.

Established in 2012, Denver Startup Week draws entrepreneurs from across the country. In 2016, Denver Startup Week attracted 12,500 people from across the country with 300 events, making it the biggest free entrepreneurial event in North America. Entrepreneurs participate in an elevator pitch competition and interact with VC fund representatives.

The Commons on Champa is a high-tech co-working space that brands itself as “Denver’s public campus for entrepreneurship.” Entrepreneurs have access to networking events, panels, workshop and onsite mentors.

The Rockies Venture Club (RVC) helps to bridge the gap between Denver entrepreneurs and investors. RVC is a Denver angel group that provides educational programs. In addition, RVC hosts events where entrepreneurs and investors can meet and make deals.

The University of Denver’s entrepreneurship initiative, Project X-ITE, brings a number of resources to students. Ranked as one of the top 30 entrepreneurial universities in the United States by Forbes, Project X-ITE is a cross-disciplinary initiative focused on the intersection of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

The second quarter of 2018 will mark the opening of Catalyst HTI, which will serve a dual role as incubator and accelerator. Catalyst HTI will bring together entrepreneurs in technology and health care to create state-of-the art incubator and accelerator in downtown Denver. Companies such as CirrusMD and Revolar have already committed to joining the community.

Entrepreneurship for Women

In 2013, Denver was named one of the best places for women to start a business as by Nerdwallet. There are several female-focused resources in the city. Denver’s female entrepreneurs have found support from startup accelerator program MergeLane, which specifically invests in female-led companies. Recently, the Commons on Champa also launched Women on the Rise, an initiative aimed to support and celebrate the success of female entrepreneurs.

Other notable resources include The Coterie, Denver’s first women co-working community, and Women Who Startup, which hosts monthly meetings. SheSays, an international trade organization based in the UK, launched in SheSaysDenver in 2014 and counts over 1,000 women as members. SheSaysDenver provides free mentoring and events to women working in technology and business.

Venture Capital

Overall, Denver VC investment is reflective of nationwide trends, with investment decreasing after the Great Recession, and recovering around 2010. Denver firms such as the Foundry Group, Grotech Ventures and Access Ventures are anchoring investment in the ecosystem.
Local VC received a significant increase in 2015 after Welltok raised a massive $45 million round of investment. VC investment has stabilized around $500 million in investments each year since 2014. However, the 2016 Colorado Startup Report notes that the total funding raised in 2016 was distributed across more than 129 different technology companies, indicating a greater distribution of capital. The Downtown Denver Startup Report indicates that in 2015 alone, more than 165 tech startups were founded in Denver in 2015.

Data indicating the number of first round deals in Denver illustrate a stable ecosystem with an average of around 50 first-round deals per year.

Looking to the Future

Denver entrepreneurs have noted that there is a significantly lower amount of early stage fundraising in the ecosystem. However, this is a reflection of a nationwide trend of cautious investing in early-stage investment.

Denver does have early stage VC investors, but in many cases, does rely on angel investors to supply funding. The University of Colorado’s Silicon Flatiron recommends the continued support of Colorado and Denver super-angel funds, also known as Micro-VCs, which are about $2-$10 million in size and specialize in early stage investing.

In the coming years, it is likely that Denver’s ecosystem will reach critical mass and consolidate as an attractive option for local and out-of-state entrepreneurs. With a strong and growing infrastructure for entrepreneurship, Denver’s startup growth and success is likely to continue.

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McNair Center Startup Ecosystems

Development of Research Parks and Innovation Districts in Houston

On May 4, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner stated his support for building a data science center. The next day, he endorsed plans for an Innovation District. How would these types of development promote entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth in Houston?

The Basics

What are Research Parks, like the proposed data science center, and Innovation Districts?

Research Parks promote research, technological development and commercialization by creating a high density of universities and research institutions within a small area. By placing many innovative researchers and developers in close proximity, Research Parks encourage growth of new companies and collaboration across fields, driving technology-based economic development.

The Brookings Institution defines Innovation Districts as dense areas that bring together research institutions, high-growth firms and startups through thoughtfully designed and resource-rich commercial and residential spaces.

Research Parks and Innovation Districts slightly differ in their implementation, but both spaces aim to accomplish similar goals; they want to create physical hubs for innovation and entrepreneurial development. Typically, developers build Research Parks on new land, cultivating previously undeveloped space. Innovation Districts, however, use old land. This land was previously developed but is no longer in use.

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Silicon Valley is a well-known Innovation District.

Both Research Parks and Innovation Districts are generative and can be helpful in stimulating local economies. Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto and Research Triangle Park in Raleigh-Durham are some of the most well-known examples in the United States. Research Triangle Park is the largest in the country and one of the largest in the world. Stanford Research Park played a key role in the creation of Silicon Valley.

Successful Innovation Districts include Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, South Lake Union in Seattle and Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati.

What Makes These Areas Special?

Research Parks and Innovation Districts are highly productive areas. Innovation leads to new ideas and job creation. According to the Association of University Research Parks, each job in a Research Park generates approximately 2.57 additional jobs. Thus, the more than 300,000 Research Park employees in the United States lead to 700,000 additional jobs.

Innovation Districts can also produce strong results. By placing many innovators in close proximity to one another, they facilitate collaborative interactions. As Innovation Districts vary greatly in size and productivity, an accurate estimate for job creation is unavailable.

Key Factors: The Capital Stack

Layered financial tools known as a “capital stack” are necessary to promote the development Research Parks and Innovation Districts. For a capital stack that attracts investors, an area must have access to multiple types of equity, incentives and debt to provide flexibility to developers and innovators.

Developers may be able to secure planning grants through the U.S. Economic Development Administration to create the Research Park or Innovation District. These are “designed to leverage existing regional assets and support the implementation of economic development strategies that advance new ideas and creative approaches to advance economic prosperity in distressed communities.” Even though Innovation Districts are built on previously developed land, the government still issues planning grants because they “advance new ideas and creative approaches to advance economic prosperity in distressed communities.”

Tax credit bonds are also common debt instruments. Instead of taking on loans, municipal governments sell bonds, which provide tax credits in lieu of interest payments. Some examples are Build America Bonds, Recovery Zone Economic Bonds and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds.

Equity is also an important necessity. Investment can be incentivized from a variety of sources, like New Market Tax Credits. These give tax credits to investors who make equity investments in Community Development Entities in developing and low-income communities. Housing and Urban Development community development grants and state or federal tax relief programs can also incentivize investment.

Key Factors: Social Factors

The final piece of the puzzle to create a Research Park or Innovation District is social organization. In order to facilitate collaboration and innovation, physical, intellectual and social resources need to be readily accessible.

Networking assets—“the relationships between actors—such as individuals, firms and institutions—that have the potential to generate, sharpen and accelerate the advancement of ideas”—are essential for the development of Innovation Districts. The lines of communication between developers, researchers and sources of funding must be open and easily accessible. This synergy is enhanced in Innovation Districts through the close proximity of ecosystem participants and access to shared meeting and collaboration spaces.

The Potential for Research Parks and Innovation Districts in Houston

Many cities have developed Innovation Districts in effort to grow local entrepreneurship and innovation. Turner’s announcement of the planned Innovation District earlier this month mentioned the 40,000 jobs created by Chicago’s efforts to spur innovation. Turner noted, “It is now time for us to be more competitive, to further diversify and expand our economy. What Chicago can do, Houston can do better.”

In 2015, the University of Texas bought 332 acres of land in southwest Houston with the hopes of developing it into a small Research Park. However, in March 2017, UT Chancellor William McRaven canceled the site’s plans for development. The Houston Chronicle cites timing and lack of transparency as the main causes for the cancellation.

However, there may still be potential for a Research Park in Houston. Mayor Turner also expressed support for the proposed data science center, urging the University of Houston to take the lead. The Chairman of the University of Houston Board of Regents, Tilman Fertitta, has spoken positively about this idea, mentioning excitement about the prospect of collaborating with Rice University, Texas Southern University, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas through the development of a data hub.

Bill Gropp, the acting director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, recently stated that there is far more demand for Research Parks than there is supply. It is clear that the development of a Research Park or Innovation District would stimulate the economy and create jobs. If Houston wants to take advantage of these opportunities, the time to act is now.