Education Innovation

Remake-LearningI think that few among our readers would argue that fostering an innovative K-12 education ecosystem plays a critical role in economic development. Employers and economic development officials from any industry will tell you that the critical skills for a modern workforce begin at the K-12 level. They will also tell you that attracting and retaining their current workforce means creating a community in which employees want to live, and education is a major factor in creating livable communities. However, influencing K-12 education to ensure that it’s creating an intelligent and creative next generation workforce often feels like an overwhelming challenge given the systemic barriers. Continue reading “Education Innovation”

Innovation Networks and Economic Growth

Here at Fourth Economy, we’re always looking for opportunities to identify and build upon local assets. This often takes the form of bringing together various stakeholders to advance specific technologies and sectors. We’re currently working on building more robust sectors around both energy and water here in the greater Pittsburgh region and beyond. Even though this work is challenging, a dense network of universities, technology intermediaries, economic development partners, and private sector businesses aids our work. But what happens when you leave the “big city” and those players are spread further across a region?

Continue reading “Innovation Networks and Economic Growth”

An Investable Story: The EntrepreneurCenter, Nashville

StartUp America Partnership and communities throughout the country work to reinvent their economies there are some models that should be noted.

In this post I would like to highlight the great work of Michael Burcham and his team at the Entrepreneur Center. Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of meeting Michael and have developed an understanding of their approach to supporting entrepreneurship in Nashville. As Michael likes to tell people he is working to support entrepreneurs as they seek to create an Investable Story.

The work of the EntrepreneurCenter is showing very promising early results and generating a lot of interest and awareness in the Nashville community and beyond. The Fourth Economy team has seen lots of entrepreneurial models over the years but there is something special about the work going on at the EntrepreneurCenter.

Some of the factors critical to their success:

  • Private Sector leadership – the business skills and entrepreneurial experience of Michael and others on the team provides a ‘do by example’ process and is generating involvement by other private sector leaders.
  • Public-private partnership – as many folks are calling for these partnerships, few know how to structure them. The EntrepreneurCenter has struck a balance of each partner playing to his or her strengths and supporting the entrepreneurs.
  • Robust network mentors – business people with broad industry experience. It is an honor to be an EntrepreneurCenter mentor. There is an application process, with fee, and training that must be conducted before you begin to advise an entrepreneur. This set up has created a committed group of mentors that are often invaluable resources to the community’s entrepreneurs.
  • Tough love – Contrary to what you’ve been told there are bad ideas and often someone with an entrepreneurial spirit has one and starts a company around that idea. The EntrepreneurCenter process for support entrepreneurs allows people to come to recognize when their idea turns sour and if needed the team sounds prepared to give the tough love message.
  • Open access – the goal of the EntrepreneurCenter is to support high growth potential entrepreneurs, which are often technology driven. They provide tools and supports for all types including lifestyle entrepreneurs and are aggressively using technology tools i.e. Skype and online to make their education and guidance available to anyone who needs it.
  • People First, Space Second (or fourth) – The EntrepreneurCenter has an incubator component with their space already full after only a few months. They are not however focused on creating a larger real estate holding and would rather partner with other incubators and real estate developments in the city. Too often the real estate come to control the behavior of entrapper initiatives as you become more worried on the rent or mortgage payment and less on the quality of the services your are providing the companies themselves.
  • Art meets Entrepreneurial Science – while no one can predict the success of any particular entrepreneur’s idea there are tools, training and technique that can mitigate some of the risks. The team is working in the heart of Nashville after all so there is still an art form to what they do, but more than I have seen with many similar programs around the country, the EntrepreneurCenter team is implementing a set of services that is showing significant early success and if the trend line continues will be a model that many others should be replicating.

2011 Tennessee NEXT Conference on May 5-6, 2011.