Virginia is for active starters!

It is good to be in Virginia and talking startups these days.  Today I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Virginia Entrepreneur Summit and it caused me to reflect on all of the activity (and that is only the stuff I have been able to learn about) around building great companies and supporting entrepreneurs in and around Virginia.

  • Last week I had the pleasure of judging at WeMedia’s PitchIT day. I was the weak link in a stellar group of judges but tried to hold up my end of the mentoring bargain. The eight finalists ranged from collaborative visual storytelling to advocating for special needs individuals and ‘experteering’. I am always excited to see so many passionate founders!  Congrats to the winners Screen and Radmatter.  I wish everyone could have walked away with a little coin.
  • RVA Hackathon surface last weekend through the great team at Mobelux. While my hacking days are in the past it is nice to see the area cultivating and encouraging talent.  I know it was fantastic.
  • About a month ago Charlottesville VA saw a Startup Weekend event and a similar event is planned in the Norfolk area this weekend.
  • The leadership at We Are Titans is launching Hatch and planning an ambitious summer filled with acceleration. Applications close May 15 and if you have an idea that needs a boost I am a fanatical fan of acceleration!  Good luck to those hoping to be accepted.
  • On May 3rd in RVA entrepreneurs are gathering for a little networking (entrepreneurs only please) through StartRVA.
  • And I would be remiss if I did not shout out how supportive and encouraging Jonathon Perrelli and the team at Fortify has been in encouraging the ecosystem grow!  Particularly in DC of course but so willing to share lessons learned and work with leaders across the area.  Nice!
  • Even TechCrunch dropped by Richmond about two weeks ago.

Yes, it is certainly exciting to see all the activity.  So if you are in Virginia and you want to start something get out there and get plugged in!  If you don’t know where to start then find me and I will try to point you in the right direction.

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Swung too far (in the West)?

Jason Freedman has written an excellent commentary, Did everyone see what just happened.  The pendulum has swung., on recent investment fever around Y-Combinator out West.

“No business plans, not even pitch decks this time. One 2-1/2 minute pitch and a quick follow up meeting. Seven figure seed rounds that can be closed within days and oversubscribed 2x to 3x. Founders with no experience fundraising and no pre-existing networks, making connections with top tier guys. It was really a sight to see.”

Sight to see, no doubt!  And Jason’s own words about the pending “trough of sorrow” are well placed.  But what caught my eye was the close.

“And finally, a word to all the investors out there who are crazy-rushed right now with all of us. Thank you for your support. Thank you for putting your money into startups and not some other asset class. Thank you for spending your time on helping this new generation change the world. Thank you for your mentorship, both when we’re looking for it and when we have forgotten that we need it. Thank you for being there for us now when things are good, and thank you for being there for us later when things might not be.”

Let’s be clear.  I have not witnessed the same excited investment marketplace here in the good old conservative mid-Atlantic but I certainly connect with the final paragraph.  For us to collectively move the ball forward in innovation then we must invest in the entrepreneur-class.   We are talking about rapid scale, big dreams and a desire to “change the world.”  That comes with a swagger and unfortunately cost.  And while we observe the fever in certain areas of the world and potentially shake our heads at how could they do that?  That does not seem like a wise play?  (And in some cases that is exactly right)  We cannot overlook the long term impact of systems that capture belief and passion and attempt to nurture it forward.

A belief that I find well supported in concepts like Y-Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups, and the Global Accelerator Network.  So, while I may write from time to time with my own healthy skepticism of deals like the billion dollar Instagram purchase by FaceBook, I never want that to dampen the spirit the lies behind the rush to fund mentioned by Jason.  Sure, it is a rush to maybe get even richer for many but I am choosing to believe it is a rush to believe that we can change the world.  In short, I will grab and alter a line from Rumpelstiltskin on  ABC’s “Once Upon a Time”:  “All innovation comes at a price, deary