Silicon Flatirons' Annual Mile High Tech Entrepreneurship Conference The Role of Place: Entrepreneurial Immigration, Iteration and Innovation

Thursday, March 18, 2010, 2:30-6:30PM
@ Wittemyer Courtroom, Wolf Law Building, University of Colorado

Post-Event Coverage

For a report summarizing the conference written by Silicon Flatirons Research Fellow Kaleb Sieh, click here.

"Paradoxically, the enduring competitive advantages in a global economy lie increasingly in local things - knowledge, relationships, and motivation - that distant rivals cannot match." - Michael E. Porter

Thomas Friedman's "world is flat" theory suggests that globalization levels the economic playing field. As Friedman contends, "you can innovate without having to emigrate."

In some tension with the notion that a high speed Internet world untethers what you do from where you are, however, geographic location still seems to influence innovation. Transnational migration impacts global economic development. An entire industry flourishes in a single regional cluster. And location and spatial organization fosters region-specific innovation. Geography, rather than an economic afterthought, remains an essential component which affects emerging companies' decisions and outcomes.

A critical question is how much place matters and whether this will continue for the foreseeable future. Will faster connections and more familiarity with virtual spaces radically alter the importance of physical location? Or is the persistence of localized, regional economic clusters - places like Silicon Valley, Route 128, and the Front Range's Mile High Tech ecosystem - an indication that the world is not flat, but spiky? Understanding how geographic location impacts economic development - including whether the proposal of the Obama administration to allocate $75 million to support regional innovation clusters is a sound policy - is crucial in today's economy. The Role of Place: Entrepreneurial Immigration, Iteration and Innovation, will explore the relationship between location, start-ups, and innovation.

The conference's first panel, Entrepreneurial Immigration Policy, will focus on place and immigration. Recent research underscores the economic impact of immigrant entrepreneurs. One study concluded that immigrants founded one-fourth of U.S. venture-backed companies that went public over the past 15 years; another credited immigrants for founding over half of Silicon Valley's start ups from 1995 - 2005. Yet immigration is a complicated and charged issue in the United States, particularly against the backdrop of terrorism concerns and a fragile economic environment. This panel will consider the role immigrants play within an entrepreneurial ecosystem. It specifically will consider whether existing visa rules should be altered in order to boost innovation and, if so, what changes are warranted.

The conference's second panel, Place and Iteration: Lessons from Storage, will focus on location and sector-specific entrepreneurial iteration. Certain industry sectors in the Front Range - e.g., storage, telecommunications, natural foods and products, software, and biotechnology - boast lengthy family trees with shared roots. Our second panel will consider a then-and-now case study of the storage industry. It will examine why companies such as StorageTek and LeftHand Networks emerged within the Mile High Tech ecosystem. The panel will further consider innovation resulting from the cycle of spin-offs, reconfigurations of founders and talent, and investors and service providers with repeat activity in the industry. Finally, this panel will consider whether there are lessons from the storage industry that can be learned for the Mile High Tech scene today.

The conference's third panel, Innovation and the Architecture of Geography, will then turn to broader lessons and insight concerning the role of place, regional architecture, and innovation. It will focus upon how entrepreneurial creativity occurs in companies situated within creative communities. The panel will focus on whether and how the architecture of an entrepreneurial cluster facilitates insights and breakthroughs from which individuals and companies benefit. It also will examine whether economic geography will persist as a driver of innovation in a broadband world.

Welcome and Overview
2:30pm - 2:45pm
  • Brad Bernthal
    Associate Professor of Law
    University of Colorado
    Entrepreneurship Initiative Director
    Silicon Flatirons
Entrepreneurial Immigration Policy
2:45pm - 3:55pm
  • Brad Feld
    Managing Director
    Foundry Group
  • Lance Nagel
    Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
  • Vivek Wadhwa
    Senior Research Associate, Labor & Worklife Program
    Harvard Law School
    Adjunct Professor, Pratt School of Engineering
    Duke University
3:55pm - 4:10pm
Entrepreneurial Impact Award
4:10pm - 4:15pm
  • Julie Penner
    Leeds School of Business
    School of Law
    University of Colorado
Place and Iteration: Lessons From Storage
4:15pm - 5:25pm
  • Brad Bernthal
    Associate Professor of Law
    University of Colorado
    Entrepreneurship Initiative Director
    Silicon Flatirons
Innovation and The Architecture of Geography
5:25pm - 6:30pm
  • Meredith Banasiak
    Instructor, Architecture
    University of Colorado
  • Sharon Matusik
    Leeds School of Business
    University of Colorado
  • Bill Mooz
    Scholar in Residence & Strategy Officer
    University of Colorado Law School
    Senior Fellow
    Silicon Flatirons
  • Joe Zell
    General Partner
    Grotech Ventures
  • John Barbour
    Aeaea Corporation
    Senior Instructor, Planning & Design Architecture
    University of Colorado
6:30pm - 7:30pm


Maryann Feldman, "Place Matters: Innovation Springs from Many Seeds, but Soil Is Equally Important." Science Progress, Center for American Progress, January 20, 2009.

Richard Florida,"How the Crash Will Reshape America." The Atlantic, March 2009.

Richard Florida, "The World Is Spiky." The Atlantic, October 2005.

Karen G. Mills, et al, "Clusters and Competitiveness: A New Federal Role for Stimulating Regional Economies." (Washington: Brookings Institution).

Michael E. Porter, "Clusters and the New Economics of Competition." Harvard Business Review, Nov.-Dec. 1998.

Michael E. Porter, "Why America Needs an Economic Strategy." BusinessWeek, October 30, 2008.

Jonathan Sallet, Ed Paisley, and Justin Masterman, "The Geography of Innovation: The Federal Government and the Growth of Regional Innovation Clusters." Science Progress, Center for American Progress, September 2009.

AnnaLee Saxenian, "Inside-Out: Regional Networks and Industrial Adaptation in Silicon Valley and Route 128." Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research. Volume 2, Number 2. May 1996.

AnnaLee Saxenian, "Venture Capital in the 'Periphery': The New Argonauts, Global Search, and Local Institution Building." Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography. Vol. 84, No. 4 2008.

Vivek Wadhwa, "America's Loss is the World's Gain: America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Part IV."