So the BDQ is still trying to hone in on a specific, relevant, energizing mission…and that’s tough! Any time you work in a group that you want to achieve something with, or a startup, there’s a risk of growing fast and losing focus. I thought I’d post a little about what’s going on in Philly’s startup community as an example.
There’s a group called Philly Startup Leaders that was founded in 2007 by a few young entrepreneurs that were bothered by a fortune article that called Philly a technological backwater (you can read about it on PSL’s home page.) Today it’s a very large and active group, with almost 1000 people on its mailing list. But that’s the problem, and PSL is struggling to figure out what to do with so many people, and the inevitable fragmentation, as Alex Hillman of IndyHall wrote. Technically Philly also covered PSL’s recent fishbowl event where members suggested ways to steer and/or limit future membership. In that article they mention that this “identity crisis” was amplified by the departure of PSL’s president Jameson Detweiler, who left because a business he started at Philly Startup Weekend got funding, and is now based in Mountain View, CA. In his “exit interview” with TP, Detweiler talks about how much talent there is in Philly, and how Startup Weekend was a great way to launch his idea, but how there is a lack of capital and mentorship in Philly that’s killing prospects for startups like his (which is exactly what PSL was trying to create).
I got to work with Jameson a little last summer when I was a design intern for Good Company Venture’s incubator and he was launching a business called Green Konnect (I’m assuming that business didn’t take off for him). Seems like he fits the mold of a serial entrepreneur that’s doing whatever it takes to make his business work, after trying and failing at others, and he says something similar in the interview.
So this raises interesting questions for the BDQ:
Do we want to someday have 1000 members/participants? If so, what would they be doing? If not, how do we limit it/what do we want the flavor of our membership to be?
Do we want people to start businesses that would be more at home in Silicon Valley? PSL definitely did, the first of their Core Values is that their niche is tech startups.
Personally I think BDQ isn’t about getting people to stay in Philly, but it’s not trying to launch startups that move to Silicon Valley, either. I think I would like to work on businesses that break the Silicon Valley tech mold, but I can’t say what I would do if I had an opportunity like Detweiler’s. I think it would be awesome if people who participated in the BDQ eventually spread out around the country, leading businesses that used design to create innovative products and internal processes, businesses where people really like to work and meaningful stuff is made. I would also hope BDQ people, wherever they are, could foster more and better communication and collaboration between professional business and design groups and individuals. I’m sure I will have more to add as this group continues to grow and we get feedback from the outside. Feel free to leave a comment!