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Mayor Kevin Faulconer brought together some of the most talented local CEOs this week for a roundtable discussion on startups. In other words, it was just a bunch of CEOs, preaching to the choir.
The people leading startup revolutions across the country tend to share similar job titles. In New York, there’s venture capitalist Fred Wilson. In Boulder, Colo., there’s entrepreneur Brad Feld. And in Los Angeles, there’s investor Mark Suster.
So when I was invited by Kris Michell from the Downtown Partnership to attend Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Downtown Startup Roundtable earlier this week, I wondered: Can a mayor even do much to invigorate a startup community? Faulconer even seemed aware of the question – he listened and, to his credit, seemed willing to help in any way possible, but he mostly let the startup CEOs in attendance lead and steer the meeting.
Here was the basic agenda:
But even if we set aside the question of which players at the meeting have the most power to transform San Diego’s startup landscape, another leadership question emerges: Who didn’t get a seat at the table?
Suster, a venture capitalist, investor and startup community-builder in L.A., wrote this week about what any city can do to kick-start a startup community:
The basic components are obvious: talented founders, great engineers, angel money, venture capital, access to larger corporates (for business, funding & talent), great education / research (for IP breakthroughs) and a sufficient ecosystem of mentors, advisors, executive coaches and mavens.”
As I looked around the mayor’s large meeting room on the 11th floor, I saw some of the most talented local CEOs, who are building strong companies downtown.
But there were some notable absences. The meeting was almost entirely one-sided – just a bunch of CEOs preaching to the choir. Those founders, engineers, financiers, large corporations, researchers and others Suster mentioned didn’t get a seat.
How do we help bring these groups together to create a network for startups that includes the universities, the large companies, the investors and the startups themselves?
Faulconer said that he would like to have this meeting once a month and seems determined to help. If San Diego is going to be a part of this innovation economy, it needs the help of the entire community to get it going. The next startup roundtable better have more of the necessary members of San Diego community in the discussion to actually accomplish it and not just discuss it.