Thursday, April 16, 2009

Drag on Ann Arbor Innovation

Ann Arbor could be the next Madison, WI. The college town has the potential to join the ranks of Austin, TX. At least, Michigan is betting that it can. What's holding Ann Arbor back?

Ann Arbor has not yet achieved the status of entrepreneurial hotbeds like Austin, Texas, and Madison, Wis. The city lags far behind Madison in attracting young professionals, said Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future Inc., an Ann Arbor think tank. ...

... Longer-term, [Ann Arbor SPARK (the local economic development organization)] hopes to provide small firms in the area with resources that could enable them to grow more quickly into larger companies. Like other cities in Michigan, Ann Arbor suffers from a shortage of experienced executive-level talent and its start-ups need more capital.

Ann Arbor's shortcomings remind me of one of Pittsburgh's problems. There are plenty of ideas coming out of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. But small startups often need to relocate in search of more funding and experienced entrepreneurial talent.

Where are these companies going? Primarily, to the coasts: Boston and Silicon Valley. If Rust Belt cities could collaborate more effectively, more companies might be able to grow in the mega-region. Instead, each state and each shrinking city is going after the brass ring. This dilutes the talent pool and helps to prop up the comparative advantage of established entrepreneurial centers.


Unknown said...

CMU CS recently launched Project Olympus: They run a lot of sessions on campus and have become pretty omnipresent over the past couple years. I'm not sure how effective they are, but it's got to be a step in the right direction.

This is a possible coincidence, but Olympus was started right after the last grad-student CMU startup, Buxfer, left for CA.

I only know the CS perspective, but the talent level coming out of CMU is extraordinarily high. I honestly think the undergrads coming out of CMU with CS degrees are the best anywhere, because the program is just so relentless. If CS startups are leaving, it's not because of a lack of local talent.

Jim Russell said...

If CS startups are leaving, it's not because of a lack of local talent.There is plenty of local talent, when it comes to ideas. What's lacking is entrepreneurial executive talent (e.g. CEOs, CIOs, CFOs, etc...). There isn't enough to go around to support all the potential later-stage company development.

At least, that's what the Pittsburgh-based VC firms are stating.