Not everything here on End of Work….we’re looking to get out of this mess we are in as both individuals and as a nation.
So we’re starting to see that the frustration with the current way things are is now leading to the rejection of the Old Ways and we begin to search for the new. This article in the Atlantic is one of several that are starting to point the way. Now, I’m as sure about how much these changes will come from any one geographic region, as this writer is stressing the South, but let me give you a nice quote from it I really liked.
Most places, he says, might as well be sprayed with “startupicide.” Startupicide is what damps down and repels startups and those who would build them. “I could see the average town was like a roach motel for startup ambitions,” he writes. “Smart, ambitious people went in, but no startups came out.”
Startups are fragile things by their very nature — few succeed even under the best of circumstances. What makes Silicon Valley and a very few other places different, he noted, was that their culture contained an antidote to Startupicide — such places embrace an ethos that encourages rather than crushes startups and the broader mentality from which they grow. “The problem is not that most towns kill startups. It’s that death is the default for startups, and most towns don’t save them,” Graham notes. “Instead of thinking of most places as being sprayed with startupicide, it’s more accurate to think of startups as all being poisoned, and a few places being sprayed with the antidote.”
Jane Jacobs identified almost exactly the same dynamic when I asked her some years ago why only a handful of places pioneer innovations and unleash the creativity of their residents, while most are content to sputter along, stagnate, and even die. “Each and every community,” she told me, “is filled with lots and lots of creative and innovative people.” The trouble is with a small core of people she dubbed “Squelchers,” who are instinctively opposed to doing anything new or different. Unfortunately, these people are often a town’s business and political leaders. You’ve probably seen them in action; maybe you’ve even bumped up against them yourself.
Only a handful of places are endowed not only with a great research university, but a culture that tolerates and actively encourages risk-taking. Most places prefer to play it safe. But doing more of the same is hardly an option when your prospects are as bleak as they are for so many cities these days. The economic crisis has brought us to a great tipping point, what I have elsewhere termed a Great Reset — an epoch when creative destruction spreads from technologies and industries to society, culture, and geography at large; when new business models, new institutional systems, and new geographic clusters of innovation and risk-taking come to the fore. A Great Reset is one of those rare occasions when “Squelchers” and their old squelching ways are transcended, when more and more people and places can get access to the antidote to startupicide.
Despite what the die-hard Squelchers might want you to believe, the Start-Up Nation is growing. Part of this growth pattern is borne of necessity. With the economy in tatters and government all but broke, there’s little choice but to go out and build something for yourself with your colleagues, fellow-travellers, and friends. Startups are much less capital-intensive than they once were. Partly because of the better tools we have at our disposal (the Internet, advanced software, etc.), partly because we live in a more modular economy that allows critical functions, from manufacturing and distribution to design and marketing, to be subcontracted out. Some of it is because others have done it, and we’ve seen what they can do. And a lot of it is from a cultural revolution: the fading of an old dream that saw a good job, a big house, and a big car as the goals by which success was measured, and the emergence of a new one that sees the challenge of building something novel and unique as the key to true fulfillment.
I’m working on a piece related to this that I’ll have up shortly.