“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
- Brad Bernthal
Associate Professor, University of Colorado Law School
Entrepreneurial Impact Award
- Julie Penner
Founder, Soul of Startups