I presented the North Star Initiative to a number of MN DEED representatives. This initiative is focused on the development of innovation centers to bring government, corporations, academic, and entrepreneurial groups together to innovate at scale and create new services for start-ups in the ecosystem.
I attended the October event for the planning of the Minnesota World’s Fair. Of primary conversation was an update of the bid process as the MN delegation returned from the meeting with the International Bureau of Expos located in Paris France. Conversations with the IFB had gone well and Minnesota was now on the radar for entering the bid process along other global cities.
The biggest obstacle facing our bid process and for that of other US cities currently via for various fair years, is the US withdrawal from the IFB community during the Bush administration. Continued efforts at the Federal level to rejoin the international community has not been successful at this time and currently prevents the USA from hosting a World’s Fair. Given the USA leadership role is host world renown fairs that showcased the latest technology innovation, this is a curious place to find ourselves. There seems to be a strange amount of ambiguity around the reasons for withdrawal that centers on the miss appropriation of funds during that administration, but that seems to block any effort to investigate rejoining at this time.
Only time will tell if multiple US cities can band together to lobby Washington to reverse our position. Note: The US still participates in foreign fair’s, so it seems to be more of an internal problem in Washington vs. a issue of foreign policy.
I attended the 2014 Twin Cities Venture Capital Conference in downtown Minneapolis. The event brought in investors to listen to business pitches from prospective start-ups. The format included both on stage pitches to the attending audience and investors, as well as, 1:1 networking through the booths provided for the start-ups. This created an organic structure for networking and awareness of individual businesses.
This event is an example of regional assets that need to continue to be developed and become part of a large business lifecycle supporting economic development. Stand alone functions are interesting, but lack the maturity and follow on of fully developed systems. They tend to have their moment but lack sustainable momentum in the ecosystem.
Looking at other ecosystems around the world you can see where combinations of programs and events are linked together providing on going support and creating an established tempo of business development. The integration strengthens and multiplies the impact of the single event moment though programs that develop participants prior to the event. Big data supporting the activity and aligning investors. Ongoing programs that support the maturation of the start-ups along with integration to commercialization programs. Ongoing networking programs are often a key to keep business moving. Relying on only organic systems of “connecting” are rarely consistent or can be counted on to attract participation.
Some universities start to hint at broader business services that could be included in a ecosystem level economic development program. In many cases this falls short of the need given many of these systems are only inward looking to serve the university and not the community in which they serve. Funding is also poorly aligned around university systems that lack external governance. In most cases private businesses are best positioned to develop and manage the ecosystem development and integrate independent events and services into a more cohesive whole.