A City is a Startup

For more of my commentary on life in Richmond, Indiana check out RichmondMatters.com.
This post is more than 3 years old.

biodiversity jengaOver the weekend Jon Bischke made the interesting comparison of a start-up company to city government in A City Is A Startup: The Rise Of The Mayor-Entrepreneur.  Bischke notes that the factors that go into a successful entrepreneurial effort are similar to the ones that make for a successful city:

  1. Build stuff people want, offer products and services people want to buy
  2. Attract and retain quality talent
  3. Raise capital to get fledgling ideas to the point of sustainability, create a density of "investors"
  4. Create a world class culture that encourages people to stick around even when times get tough

These may not be comprehensive factors, but they could be useful metrics to view your city with.

If I had to rate my own city of Richmond, Indiana, I'd say we have plenty of room to grow in each area:

  1. We have a lot of great infrastructure and a variety of desirable products/services but we're pretty scattered on how to sell them in the global marketplace
  2. We think we know a lot about what kind of talent we're looking for, but there's often a disconnect between that knowledge and our level of investment in actual attraction efforts
  3. We don't always make efficient use of the limited capital that's available to us, but we have a lot of generous and heavily invested people living here
  4. We're often short-sighted when it comes to building an attractive culture, but there are pockets of people who see the big picture and are working for change

How does your city do when you look at it as a start-up company?

Perhaps the most striking point for me in Bischke's piece is the question of leadership.  He says we need more than just strong or experienced leaders, we need people who can think like entrepreneurs:

As we roll into an election year, many cities are in a state of crisis. Budgets are a mess and job growth has been minimal for a good swath of the country. Cities in need don’t just need strong leadership, they require transformational leadership. It’s no easy feat but it’s likely that the more that mayors view their cities through an entrepreneurial lens, the better they will be able to adapt to a rapidly-changing world.

Almost any city across the country could adopt the slogan "Adapt or Die" and it wouldn't be an understatement of the predicament they're in and the approach needed to get out of it.  Many traditional businesses are in the same boat.  The businesses/cities that will not only just survive but flourish are the ones willing to use non-traditional methods to make ground-shaking changes in the way they operate.

2 thoughts on “A City is a Startup

  1. Totally agree with your 4 point assessment of Richmond, Chris. I have two particular areas of interest on which to comment: 1. Richmond, perhaps more than any other city in the region, is blessed with a treasure trove of historic buildings and architecture. As an Indiana native who grew up in another state, I see and understand the value and economic potential in way that others do not. Projects like the Depot restoration, the Firehouse Blues&BBQ, and Arden Hearth are just the tip of the iceberg when I think of what "Old Richmond" could be. 2. Nanotechnology---Richmond has a great technology park as well as the Uptown Innovation Center on main street. I would like to see a group of business people committed to bringing nanotechology companies and research to Richmond. In the next ten years nanotech will be at the forefront of all manufacturing, so much so that phrases like "well, that was pre-nano" will be commonplace. The seeds are here in places like Reid hospital, Ivy Tech, IU East, and Purdue CoTech, but there is so much room for further development.

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