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4 Things We Learned at Innovation Economy Day

On the final full day of Challenge Festival, we released Innovation That Matters, an in-depth report that aims to provide new perspective around a single question: What can cities do to unleash the power of startups in entrenched industry.

The panels throughout the day addressed particular challenges and solutions identified in the report, taking our conclusions off the page and into real life.

Let’s dive into what we learned on Friday:

1. The answer to the question, “Disrupt or partner?” isn’t an either-or. It’s both-and.

Attendees keyed in quickly to what has become a particular theme throughout the entire week: Startups should aim to sell not just products, but real solutions for industry needs.

Panelist Rob Ruyak also offered keen insight, explaining that entrepreneurs who want to partner with industry leaders or with government need to ask, “Who should I talk to in order to make something happen?” Once that connection is made, they need to do two things: 1) execute and 2) find advocates within the organization.

2. The startup movement has incredible momentum among Millennials.

The latest shift toward entrepreneurship is social in nature, said Jonathan Ortmans, Global Entrepreneurship Network President. In his fireside chat with 1776 Co-CEO Donna Harris, Ortmans emphasized that entrepreneurs around the world don’t just want their companies to do “well”; they also want to do good.

That’s a very Millennial mindset, Ortmans said, highlighting the importance of entrepreneurs on a global stage. When GEN hosted its annual conference in Moscow, Russa, more than 150 countries sent a delegate; by contrast, only around 90 countries were represented at the Sochi Olympics. And when you break it down, the collective community of entrepreneurs has more impact globally than many presidents and heads of state do. His final piece of advice?

3. Cities need to “unlock hidden capital” in order to spur ecosystem growth.

Building on the theme of the previous chat—the momentum of entrepreneurship—this panel focused on how entrepreneurs can find new ways to access a region’s capital, outside of traditional VC firms.

And the discussion wasn’t limited to just startups either. Panelists also offered ideas for cities and local governments to get involved.

What in particular are investors looking for? High-growth companies.

And although they don’t have to be tech companies per se, Burfield says, it’s rare that high-growth businesses aren’t leveraging tech in some way.

4. Government can support entrepreneurship, but entrepreneurs themselves must lead.

The key takeaway from the day’s final panel, which focused on international entrepreneurship, was that a global entrepreneurial ecosystem is possible—if communities around the world can connect and change perceptions of what it meals to “fail” culturally. In countries—like Japan and Mexico—a “failure-is-not-an-option” mindset still prevails.

How will that mindset change occur? When entrepreneurs try and fail—and then try again, and succeed. Moreover, it will occur when governments provide space for innovators from within.

Panelists also highlighted the need for a global startup network, like 1776’s Startup Federation, that helps entrepreneurs identify opportunities to parter and collaborate, or even make an exit.

Melissa Steffan Headshot

Melissa Steffan

Melissa is the former assistant editor for 1776, where she worked on the media team to create compelling, idea-driven content and reporting. A Seattle native, she graduated from Seattle Pacific…