Startup accelerators are the direct result of three inputs—people, program, and place—which combine to produce an environment that allows entrepreneurs to create highly scalable companies. People refer to the entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors present within the accelerator. Program denotes the educational and social events which make the accelerator both a fun and instructive experience. And place refers to the co-working space where entrepreneurs collaboratively execute their business models.
Accelerators are typically finite institutions which operate at the discretion of a few investors and successful entrepreneurs. However, after spending the past week in Silicon Valley and San Francisco visiting 25 companies, I came to realize that the entire Valley region is one big accelerator. While there are a number of private, institutionalized accelerators in the Valley; the critical mass of people, program, and place necessary for an entire region to fast-track growth is glaringly obvious.
Entrepreneurs attend accelerators to catalyze their growth, however, I felt wholly invigorated by walking down the streets of San Francisco or grabbing a cup of coffee at Coupa Café. I couldn’t walk ten feet without overhearing some eager entrepreneurs discussing their next product launch or an investor preparing a founder for the next raise. The entire ecosystem was abuzz with activity which any entrepreneur would find beneficial to his or her company’s trajectory.
Returning to Syracuse though, I realized that StartFast in conjunction with other local entrepreneurship organizations like the Student Sandbox, Armory Square Ventures, and CenterState is hatching an equally vibrant ecosystem for startups. While Syracuse’s entrepreneurship ecosystem can hardly be compared in breadth or depth to that of Silicon Valley, there are important pieces which make the area an attractive place for budding entrepreneurs.
The People of Syracuse or rather, access to community networks and skilled talent is a major benefit to local startup founders. Central New York is home to 35 colleges with a total student body population of 138,000 students; imagine the internship and hiring possibilities with such a talent pool. The local universities also play host to incredibly advanced researchers with the six largest schools spending roughly $1.2 billion annually on research and development. The area also has a large concentration of passionate startup founders and experienced entrepreneurs willing to pitch in and help other owners at any phase of development. The Syracuse Student Sandbox and StartFast accelerators collectively give founders access to over 250 enthusiastic mentors.
Finding a startup centric programmatic event in Syracuse or Central New York on any given night is as easy at popping on Meetup.com or visiting UVC.org. The energy which the local entrepreneurs have poured into hosting social and educational events is inspiring by all accounts. At present, upcoming events include discussions on the future of Bitcoin, marketing through blogging, and how to be a leader in manufacturing. Syracuse is an amalgamation of high-tech and low-tech, new economy and old economy, and product and service specialists. There are events for any flavor of entrepreneurship; all it takes is a little looking and a desire to meet some passionate innovators.
In a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) of more than 650,000 people, one is bound to find plenty of places for entrepreneurs to host their events, build their products, and grow their workforce. The city of Syracuse offers a wide array of attractive working/living opportunities for urban entrepreneurs including the Armory Square and Franklin Square areas. The region is also home to 19 high-tech development centers housing among them several advanced bio-tech, nano-tech, and green-tech laboratories. Office space is incredibly affordable in both the city districts and suburban areas, making growth for entrepreneurs a seamless activity as space requirements change.
All told, Syracuse may not be Silicon Valley, nor should it want to be, but it is its own microcosm for high-growth entrepreneurship. The pieces have been falling into place over the past decade and will continue to do so for years to come. Entrepreneurs will find themselves irresistibly attracted to Syracuse because of the area’s access to three powerful resources—people, program, and place.