Fireside Chat gives dreamers ideas

START-UP: Philip Weiser is a go-to man for start-up circes, he's even been innovation advisor to the White House, and he's coming to Launceston.
START-UP: Philip Weiser is a go-to man for start-up circes, he's even been innovation advisor to the White House, and he's coming to Launceston.

Have you ever had that daydream you’ll quit your job and start a cafe? Well, a collective of passionate Launceston locals have made the dream so much more realistic. 

Enterprize is a place for anyone that’s ever had a brainwave and thought, ‘Someone should do that it’s a great idea’. 

Well, the someone is you and Enterprize can help. 

On December 9, Enterprize is hosting what it calls a “fireside chat” with Philip Weiser, an innovation and start-up expert from the United States. 

Mr Wesier has an impressive resume, including as technology and innovation advisor to the White House. But it is his experience in Boulder, Colorado that is really poignant. 

“Boulder is a town a little over 100,00 people but they have a thriving start-up eco system … they've really figured out the different components that make a startup ecosystem in a regional area work,” Startup Tasmania president James Riggall said. 

“Boulder’s actually been a really important inspiration for what we’re doing here.”

Mr Weiser is someone whose enthusiasm is sure to energise those attending the event.

“I am convinced that the future of our world will be driven by entrepreneurship. Today, it is easier than ever to start a company anywhere, and all of us will need to be entrepreneurs in our own careers,” Mr Weiser said. 

The Fireside Chat is a chance to tease out the knowledge that comes only from experience, and share it in a constructive way with those on the start-up journey, or even those just pondering starting. 

On a per capita basis we are among the highest density of startups per capita in Australia.

John Perry

Tasmanian co-ordinator general John Perry will be conducting the interview with Mr Weiser. 

“He’s (Mr Weiser) got a much broader perspective around innovation, startups and technology which has application anywhere,” Mr Perry said. 

There are high hopes for a future economy for Launceston to be founded in innovation and enterprise, and it is an increasingly active space. 

“Tasmania traditionally has not even been on the register … but interestingly [more recently] in Launceston, on a per capita basis, we are among the highest density of start-ups per capita in Australia,” Mr Perry said. 

“It’s quite small but it’s exciting.”

The event is on December 9 at 6pm at Enterprize in Paterson Street, entry is free.

Q & A with Philip Weiser

What is the key to a successful start-up community?

Let me start with two key ingredients—you need to take a long-term view and build a critical mass of leaders committed to building a great entrepreneurial community.  With respect to the long term view, the acceleration of activities and the growth of companies will take time.  So don’t expect overnight results, focus on wins along the way, and keep your aspirations in perspective.  With respect to building a community, that effort needs to be led by a group of entrepreneurs who are committed to building a collaborative, inclusive, and “give first” culture.  One of the foundations of a successful startup community is a commitment to mentoring entrepreneurs and emerging growth companies, helping those companies make important connections (to talent, customers, funders), and rooting for and celebrating successes as well as accepting and understanding failures as a learning opportunity when things don’t work out.  My friend Brad Feld develops both points in his book, Startup Communities.

What have you learnt from your journey in the start-up space?

I have learned that there are a range of opportunities to engage entrepreneurs and support entrepreneurs, and this work is incredibly energizing and interesting.  In Colorado, we continue to build the infrastructure to support entrepreneurs and emerging growth companies, including Startup Colorado, which hosts a successful Startup Summer program that provides internships to college students at entrepreneurial companies, and the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, which provides mentoring to emerging growth companies.  On campus (at the University of Colorado), we have developed a New Venture Challenge, which provides students a chance to develop and pitch their businesses.   In all cases, we were not afraid to try things, see what worked, and build from there.

If there was someone just starting on the entrepreneurial journey what would your advice be?

There are a few pieces of advice I would offer.  First, she should view her work as an experiment, be intellectually stimulated and interested in it, and be open to whatever data points come back—whether from mentors, customers, would-be funders, etc.  A great opportunity around entrepreneurship is that it requires one to be constantly learning.  Second, she should take a “network” view of the world, recognizing that people she interacts with are part of her network and she should be intentional about how she builds her own network.  Third, she should appreciate the importance of mentorship—for those starting out, there are always those who have done before what you are only starting now; it’s important to take the time to learn from their experience and test your ideas against them.

Why are you passionate about start-up communities?

First, I am convinced that the future of our world will be driven by entrepreneurship.  Today, it is easier than ever to start a company anywhere, and all of us will need to be entrepreneurs in our own careers.  Second, the mindsets and methodologies of entrepreneurs are about learning, testing, and solving problems.  I find this toolkit incredibly powerful and suitable to solving a range of challenges other than building companies, including enabling government to function better, creating social enterprises, and living better lives.  Finally, I enjoy being around passionate, interesting, and dedicated people—and entrepreneurs have those qualities in spades.

What are the challenges to overcome in establishing a start-up community?

One big challenge is the critical mass issue.  Entrepreneurship is very hard to do alone, so building the infrastructure to support entrepreneurs, including the availability of mentors, talented professionals able to join companies, and access to capital can take time.  This all takes time and thus requires patience.  If people want to judge success by a year or two, they are not going to see transformational results.  Finally, it is important to build the community and engagement beyond just those building companies.  In Colorado, for example, we have developed “Startup Weeks” in the major cities and have developed a huge ranges of programs that captures how entrepreneurship relates to government, academia, philanthropy, and is relevant to a wide range of individuals.