June 30, 2017

The Boulder Thesis in Adelaide

Startup-communities
 
It used to be believed that if you wanted to start a tech company, you had to move to Silicon Valley, especially if you were going to need to raise money to fund your startup.  Now you can start a tech company anywhere with a decent internet connection and startup communities are growing almost everywhere in the world.
 
I’ve heard Brad Feld say many times that he believes a startup community can be built in any city and that the future of cities depends on these startup communities.   He’s even written a book on the idea called Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.
 
I was living in Boulder when Brad moved to town from Boston, and I’ve seen his commitment to this idea first hand.  As the startup community grew in Boulder and became known beyond Colorado, he began getting questions from other communities about how they could duplicate Boulder’s success.  Here’s the thing though - no one can duplicate Boulder, any more than Boulder could duplicate Silicon Valley.  A community has to create their own version of success -  but there are lessons to be learned from Boulder.  
 
Brad developed what he calls the Boulder Thesis and you’ll find it explained in Chapter Three of the book, but here is the latest version that I could find online as Brad has evolved it over the years.
 
The Boulder Thesis by Brad Feld
 
  • Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community.
  • The leaders must have a long-term commitment.
  • The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.
  • The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.
 
I moved to Adelaide, South Australia just over a year ago, and one of the many surprises I discovered was how many people knew about Boulder, and not just because of Mork and Mindy.  Startup people especially knew that Boulder was supposed to be a great place to create a company but they were usually surprised to hear that Boulder’s population is only about a 100,000 people and that’s counting the students at the University of Colorado.
 
So if Boulder, a city 1/10 the size of Adelaide can do it, why not Adelaide?  Well, of course, Adelaide can do it!  In fact, Adelaide has been doing it for years, but another thing Brad likes to say is you have to take a twenty-year view of the future, and that’s starting today.
 
I’ve found Adelaide to be a wonderful place to live and I can see startup founders not only growing up here, but people moving here to start their company.  We can certainly support the founders we already have so they don’t feel the need to go to Sydney, or Boulder or Silicon Valley.  That’s not a knock on any of those places, but if you have limited startup capital and a limited network of people, why spend any of that moving somewhere else?
 
The first two points of the Boulder Thesis are pretty easy really.  Entrepreneurs invest a little time outside of their own bubble giving back to the community and helping others.  Of course, the lawyers, accountants and government people are going to be working alongside, but the leaders have to be the founders themselves.  And you can’t just think about the next six months like we often do in a startup; you have to take the long view.
 
Being inclusive is harder, because not only do you have to go against stereotypes about what a startup founder looks like, you also have to work to include people who by definition are new, inexperienced and not connected to the network.  It can’t become a club of just the most successful or oldest community members.  Growing networks always beat exclusive networks.
 
The last point about having continual activities seems to be happening here in Adelaide too.  According to Josh Garratt, the Chairman of the Coworking South Australia Association, Adelaide has 28 coworking spaces.  That’s  the highest number per capita in Asia.  That right there is going to guarantee that something is happening for startups every day of the week, but there can always be more.  When I was involved in Startup Longmont, a town just up the road from Boulder, I encouraged anyone who wanted to create an event to just do it.  No permission required, and no worries about competing with someone else’s event, even mine.  The most interesting and helpful events will thrive and the rest will evolve or die after they’ve served their purpose, and that’s OK.
 
A lesson I learned in Longmont was that we, the startup community, had to always be reminding people about how great the community really was because some people both inside and outside the community just wanted to complain about what wasn't right.  If we complained about the lack of angels and VCs or that Boulder was farther along than we were, it just hurt our community.  We changed the language from saying we were “just a little country town” to being proud of where we lived while working hard to make it even better.  That’s happening here in Adelaide, and I’m very happy to be a small part of the movement.

June 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments

Why high-speed internet matters to the startup community

Gigabit_tram

In another post, I wrote about Brad Feld’s Boulder Thesis and how it relates to Adelaide.  In that post, I said that “Now you can start a tech company anywhere with a decent internet connection . . .”


I moved to Adelaide just over a year ago, and the first week I was here I was happy to see that Adelaide had declared it would become the first “Gig City” in Australia.  I moved here from Longmont, Colorado which was completing the installation of their gigabit fibre network to businesses and homes.  (Longmont is just up the road from Boulder and Denver).  As I was locking up the house to go the airport, the installer walked up the driveway to say they were ready to install my connection.  It was going to be fibre to the house, with 1 Gigabit speeds up and down, and it was going to cost $49 (US) per month.  I gladly gave that up for the chance to live in Adelaide.


Many people I’ve talked to either don’t know what it means to have a high-speed internet connection, or they just don’t think it’s needed.  The rest are pretty frustrated with the general state of the internet here and can’t wait for Adelaide to get the gigabit network going for all who need it.


Let’s start with how fast a gigabit really is.  I love this video because it graphically shows the difference between what many people in Australia and the US have and what’s possible with a gigabit network.


Usually though, when I’m talking to people about internet speeds I don’t have access to YouTube, so I’ve come up with an analogy.


I only have access to ADSL2+ at my home and I get about 2Mbs per second.  That’s 2 Million bits per second - sounds pretty fast right?  In Longmont, I was going to get 1,000 Million bits per second, so my speed here is 2% of what you can get in Longmont for about half the price.


I recently flew to Melbourne, and that took about two hours gate to gate.  If my plane had flown at 2% of that speed, it would have taken me 500 hours or almost three weeks to get to Melbourne!   It’s ironic that one of the local internet providers here is selling what they call high-speed internet with an image of a guy wearing an astronaut helmet in a lawn chair with balloons tied to it.  He’s no more going to space than they are selling actual high-speed internet connections.  (Google "limitless data plans have landed" if you want to see the image yourself - oh, and the gigabit in Longmont is for unlimited data as well.)


Some would say you don’t need a gigabit or even a fraction of that.  I know that plenty of people said that the aeroplane was a waste of time and money in the early days of flight and that the car was good enough and before that, the horse was good enough.  I’m sure some thought the expense of running power lines all over Australia and the USA was a waste of time and money because candles were “good enough.”


I am certain that one day we’ll feel the same way about the investments being made in the internet infrastructure.  High-speed internet isn’t just about being able to watch Netflix at home or reducing the time for a Facebook page to load.  The companies of the future and many of the present require actual high-speed internet.  If they don’t get it here, they will go somewhere else.  The US and Australia need to keep investing in the future, and that means gigabit and beyond.  I’m proud that Longmont did it, and that Adelaide is doing it now.

June 30, 2017 in Australia, Entrepreneur Essays, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

March 08, 2017

Wow, I'm the Managing Director for the new Techstars Adelaide

File 9-3-17, 12 27 47 am

Adelaide Oval and the River Torrens Karra wirra-parri

 

I'm going to keep this short because it's after midnight here in Adelaide, Australia and it's been a busy but fun day. By the time you read this it will have been announced that I am now the Managing Director of Techstars Adelaide.  I can hardly believe it myself, and there will be a blogpost on the techstars.com website soon about how this came to be.

I'll then come back here in the next day or two and fill in the details and add links to this post.  This will be the first Techstars accelerator in Australia and the Asia Pacific region and I'm feeling incredibly lucky to have this opportunity in this wonderful city.

More to come . . .

Terry

(Thank you Jana)

March 8, 2017 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

January 05, 2017

Help me help you

A former salesperson from Gold Systems emailed me recently to comment on an article I had written and to say that he was starting his own company.  David Colliver is his name and his new company is Colliver Technology Group. He's helping companies get a handle on their sales support technology.

Years ago David was a sales person at my company.  I remember he heard me speak at the University of Colorado and he made it his business to get a job with us.  I liked his attitude and we hired him to be our newest sales person.  Besides being a likable person, the thing that stood out about David was how effectively he would ask for assistance.  Many sales people were too afraid to ask the CEO to help them with a deal.  I don't think I was that unapproachable unless I was starting to suspect that they couldn't sell.  I did my best to help without stepping on their toes and I always believed that if I went on a sales call, they were the leader and I was supporting them.  Dave got that and we had many enjoyable and profitable sales trips together.

The idea of "help me help you" came from me noticing that many of the salespeople (not Dave) would ask for help by sending me an email saying "Can you help me with a client?"  I would answer, "Sure, who's the client."  They would answer "Big Insurance Company."  I would respond, "Great, I would love to work with you to get the sale, what do you need me to do?"  They would answer, "Can you send an email to their VP of Whatever saying how much we want their business?  Me - "Sure, who are they"  Them - "Jayne Smith."  Me - "Ok, what's their email address?"  If it was tedious to read that, it was really tough for me and each of my responses would get slower.

Dave was different.  He would send me an email more like this:

Hey Terry, I'd like your help with a deal I'm working on with Big Insurance Company. I'm to the point where I would like to ask them for a meeting where we will go out together and try to close the sale, and I'd like you to send an email to Jayne Smith at Jayne@BigInsuranceCompany.com.  I want you to send something like this if you would please.  Feel free to put it in your own words.

    Hi Jayne,

    David Colliver who is your account representative at Gold Systems has told me that he is trying to set up a meeting at your headquarters to discuss our proposal.  I would love to join David on that trip so that I can meet you and answer any questions about how we'll take care of you as our customer.  I'm sure David has done a great job and I would like to now introduce myself and accompany him on his next visit with you at Big Insurance Company headquarters.  If that's OK, I'll ask my assistant Angela to help us coordinate schedules.

    Thank you and I look forward to meeting you!

    Regards,

    Terry Gold

(Back to Dave's voice here)  If that looks good to you Terry, just send the email, copy me and I'll work with Angela to make it happen.  I've also attached a copy of our latest proposal to this email in case you want to take a look.

Thanks!  -- Dave

Do you see the difference?  Rather than me having to drag every detail out of the salesperson over multiple emails, Dave made it extremely easy for me to help him.  He anticipated everything I would need to know, and in fact gave me more than I needed.  I could have looked in our CRM system for the contact's email and our proposal database for the document, but that would have taken me more time and might have delayed my response to Dave.  You see he was making it so easy to help him so that I just did it as soon as I read his email and gave him what he needed.  Dave was and is a nice guy but he did this to improve the odds of getting my help and making the sale.  I've always appreciated him for that, and I've told this story in many mentoring sessions.

So before you ask someone for help, take a lesson from Dave.  Anticipate what they need to know to help you, and give it to them clearly and concisely in a way that makes it easy for them to help you.

Dave, all the best with the new company!  I'm sure you will do a great job of anticipating your customer's needs and making it easy for them to buy from you.  

 

 

January 5, 2017 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

December 18, 2016

How fast is a gigabit Internet connection

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Click here for more info on Longmont's Gigabit network

 

I've moved to Australia to help entrepreneurs grow their companies at The Centre for Business Growth at the University of South Australia, and I'm having a great time.  Last week I was asked to get involved in a movement to bring faster internet to Adelaide and South Australia.  I'm sure my name came up because I've talked so much about how Longmont, Colorado was able to bring gigabit internet to the city.  The day I was leaving to go to the airport back in May, a Longmont NextlLight installer showed up and said they were ready to install it at my house, so I missed out on it.  I was just days away from having a gigabit up, and down, for $49 a month USD.  And to be clear, that's how fast the connection is, not how much data you get per month.  Here in Australia many plans are capped so they advertise the cap and rarely talk about how fast the connection actually is.  Because so many people are still on ADSL2+, it varies from a single megibit, to maybe 10 megabits.

Now here's the problem.  If you've never had high-speed internet, you don't know what you're missing.  When Longmont was still in the process of building out the network, my friend Scott Converse showed a bunch of us at Startup Longmont this video to help us understand just how fast a gigabit really is.

This video starts out showing how fast a slow ADSL2+ connection is here in Australia, and moves on to a full gigabit.

In future posts I'll talk about why it is vital for a city to have high-speed internet if they want to have a startup ecosystem and participate in the next wave of business growth.  Adelaide is a wonderful city and I don't want to see it get left behind, so I'm really happy to be here and have a chance to help.  In future posts I'll talk about why fast internet is important, and why it's about so much more than just being able to stream NetFlix without pauses.  It's about building new kinds of businesses and creating jobs, and fostering innovation.  Australia is all about fostering innovation, so we have to have faster internet here.

 

 

December 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments

November 03, 2016

Sidebar in UniSA Business Magazine

This month's UniSA Business magazine asked me to write a sidebar piece for an article on entrepreneurship.  I answer the question, "What three things do you need to start a business?"  You can check it out here if you want.  http://ow.ly/1W4e305m3fa  You can find the sidebar by looking at the top of the article for the "Further Reading" tab.

UniSA magazine

 

 

November 3, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

October 28, 2016

The latest news, not from Australia

The latest news is not from Australia, though things are going great here and Spring is finally springing, but rather from Appleton, Wisconsin in the USA.

My son Christopher is a professional musician and I'm very proud of him, and a big fan.  He was named Wisconsin Singer-Songwriter of the year last year and he's a hardworking guy who is out there every weekend and a lot of week nights, while still being a great husband and father.  Yes, I am very proud.  Christopher and his wife Tori have done such a great job of raising a bright, fun, thoughtful young man and now my grandson Oliver is starting to get up on stage himself.  Here is a video of Christopher and Oliver together in the studio.  

If you want to sing along yourself, here's a version with the lyrics.  I had not thought about it until this morning, but this could be a good anthem for entrepreneurs.

Finally, because I can't get enough of watching my boy playing, here is a video from his latest album release party at the Rock Garden Studio with his band The New Old Things.

Christopher does a lot of benefit concerts, and his big Toy Drive is coming up soon.  He's also helping to raise money for musicforautism.org and you can support them by buying the audio track from the Roll On video above at http://christophergold.bandcamp.com/track/roll-on-feat-oliver-gold.  For more about Christopher Gold, check him out at www.christophergold.com where you'll find links to more videos, tracks and his blog.

Not to leave her out, but my daughter Amanda is doing great too.  More on her another time . . .

 

 

 

October 28, 2016 in Australia, Music | Permalink | Comments

September 20, 2016

Fail Good video with Brad Feld

This is one of many videos recorded of Brad Feld while he was visiting us at the Centre for Business Growth in Adelaide, Australia.  My Australian friends tell me that people here are much less tolerant of "failure" than in the US.  They say that you may not get to try again if something doesn't work here.  I'm not sure that's true, but it wouldn't be a healthy attitude for entrepreneurship if it was true.  I heard Brad say multiple times that he would invest in people who had "failed" as long as they were honest and learned from their experience.  We also talked quite a bit about what failure even is, or what a success is, and it's not just measured by return on investment.  That certainly is an important measure, but not the only measure.

 

Brad is being interviewed by Felicia Trewin from ANZ, who is one of our sponsors at the Centre for Business Growth.  They are great supporters of businesses and entrepreneurs!

If you would like to see more videos of Brad, check out his blog here at feld.com.  It was fun to spend a week with him here in Adelaide!  Thanks Brad!

September 20, 2016 in Blogging, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

August 24, 2016

Living in Australia, Part 1

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost three months since we moved to Australia - and our furniture should be here “any day now.”  Cindy and I were lucky to find a townhouse by the ocean where the owner was willing to let us move in with it furnished, and then they will take away the furniture when ours arrives.  It turns out that most of the appartments we looked at were on the market furnished, and no one wanted to remove their furniture, so we are fortunate to have found this place.  But it means I do about a 45 minute commute each way.  Don’t feel sorry for me . .
 
For me it is a dream location because almost every room has a view of the ocean so I feel like I’m on a boat, except without the expense and maintenance of actually owning a boat.  I just hit 600 days straight of running, and most days I get to run on the beach.  I’m putting in a lot of hours at the University so on the days when I’m running before the sun comes up, or late at night, I run on the esplanade.  It’s still winter here, but the days are getting longer and Spring starts September 1.  It seems very safe here, so I just put on a headlamp and go.  
 
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Going to work is an adventure too - I walk up a nature trail, often in the dark, through a neighbourhood, up to the train station.  My sister taught me when I was a kid that I didn’t need a flashlight most of the time if there is just a little bit of moonlight, so I think of her when I walk the trail in the dark.  I’ll admit it was a little scary the first few times, but I enjoy it now.  Walking down from the train with the sun setting into the ocean makes it all worth it.
 
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The reason I’m running and walking so much is we’ve decided to try to do without owning a car here.  That seemed really easy the first month when we were staying in the Central Business District (Thanks again Jana!).  Adelaide’s CBD is beautiful, clean and safe and it was nice to just be able to take the elevator down, walk a few hundred meters and be at the grocery or a restaurant.  
 
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We gave that up when we moved to the ocean, so now we own grocery trollies and we walk or take public transportation everywhere we go, except for the occasional weekend where we rent a car for a few days to either see the sights or do a big shopping run.  Most weekends we drag our trollies up the hill, get on the train and go to the grocery store four or five stops down the line.  It’s fun really, and I’m not missing having a car.  Adelaide has declared that it will be the first carbon neutral city in the world, and I feel like I’m helping a bit and staying healthier in the process, and it is so much less stressful to just hop on the train or tram.
 
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I expected that there would be some challenges in moving around the world.  In fact I’ve learned that figuring out all the little differences in culture and society is a big part of the fun.  Some of the challenges are amusing - learning that french fries are chips, and ketchup is tomato sauce here for instance.  I still don’t know what to ask for if I actually want tomato sauce to use in our spaghetti sauce recipe.  
 
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Here they say “How are you going?” rather than “How are you doing?”  I'm quick to tell people that I am the one with the accent.
 
Other things are not so amusing, like having to work with companies in the US who simply do not have a way to deal with people who’ve moved to another country.  Here in Australia phone numbers look different, and zip codes are four digits, not five.  More than one place where I had an account couldn’t deal with that, but luckily a very good friend is allowing me to have what little paper mail I get to be sent to his address in Colorado, and I can use that address when they won’t accept an Australian address.
 
Just today I found out that the US Post Office sent change of address notices to everyone, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, who now has sent me a letter saying I could be fined if I don’t update my vehicle registration to match my new address.  The problem is, they won’t let me do it online, or even by mail - they expect me to actually go in person to the DMV in Longmont to make the change.  For a car that is in storage and not being driven.  
 
Adelaide is a great multicultural city.  Every day I hear languages that I don’t understand and can’t even identify.  And it turns out that Americans are not that common here.  In Sydney yes, but not Adelaide, so I’m often asked if I’m Canadian.  I think they are playing it safe - if you ask a Canadian if they are American, they might be insulted.  (That’s a joke, sort of)  In any case, often total strangers will ask me where I’m from and what brought me here.  And if they talk to me more than a few minutes, and they often do because everyone here is so friendly, they will usually ask me “what’s up with Trump?”  I won’t get into to politics too much here, but the rest of the world seems to be making contingency plans in case he gets elected and they wonder how it is he got this far.  They just don't understand it, and they are worried.  I actually saw “Trump” listed as a risk in a PowerPoint presentation for a startup that is bringing a product to market in the US.  I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for private conversations.  And yes, I am registered to vote in November, which was another little challenge.  It’s not like they make it super easy for US Citizens to vote when they happen to be out of the country during an election.
 
The point is that all of these little challenges, that happen almost daily, do add up to a bit of fatigue at times.  I had not expected it, and I was feeling like I was always behind in the tasks I had to get done.  I certainly wasn’t regretting making the move, but I was getting a bit tired.  (Australian’s love to say “a bit” as in, “A crocodile took off my leg, and now I have a bit of trouble walking very far.”)  Lucky for me the Uni assigned me a buddy to look after me and help me get settled into the job.  I believe she had been in the Peace Corp, so she saw the signs and told me that it was normal for people who make big moves to go through a cycle of ups and downs.  Euphoria when you arrive, then a down bit when you start missing family and friends and “normal” life, and then you come back up again when you start to get settled.  Just knowing that it was normal helped get me back on track, and I’ll always appreciate that she told me about the phenomena.  That was a turning point for me.  (Thanks Alicia!)
 
Before I stop whinging, I’ll say that staying in touch with family and friends has been more difficult than I expected, but I’m working on getting better at it.  Given that I am 19 AND A HALF hours in the future, that means there is only a window in the morning, or after midnight, when I can call people.  I never was very good at making phone calls, and now I’m worse.  I’ve actually considered posting to Facebook just to make sure people know I’m alive, and I’m doing this blog post because several good friends cared enough to poke me.  Thank you.  I do not intend to disappear here.
 
Here’s part of the problem - most days are fabulous.  I mean living the dream, amazing, can’t believe I’m here, happy days.  I think to myself, “Oh, I should post on Facebook that a dolphin just swam by” or “A flock of parrots just flew over.”  But then I think, “I don’t want to be that guy who only posts “Look at me!” posts."  So, to avoid that, I have to commit to posting frequently and to writing about the normal, trivial and even annoying stuff, and that’s not my nature either.  So I haven’t figured it out, and that means it may be another three months before I do an update.  But I am thinking of all my family and friends.  I wish you could be here, I wish we could talk and have a coffee or a beer, and I wish you all the happiness that I am experiencing right now.  I’d love to hear from you too, and though it may take me a bit to answer, I am thinking of you.  If you are up for a 24 hour plane ride, we have a spare bedroom.
 
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To my new friends in Australia - I love it here, and I appreciate you inviting me into the country!  Sometimes I think you don't realise what a great place this is, and that's the only negative thing I can say. Oh, and the slow Internet, but that's another post.  :-)
 
 

August 24, 2016 in Australia | Permalink | Comments

August 20, 2016

Waiting for the train

My good friend Marty emailed to say it is time to update my blog. Life in Australia is great, but very busy. I'm taking a minute while waiting for the train to explore mobile access to Typepad, where my blog is hosted.

If this works, I'll be better about doing updates. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to allow photos to be uploaded. Maybe it is time to think about a new provider.

August 20, 2016 in Australia | Permalink | Comments (0)