Syracuse’s Progress Towards Becoming a Successful Startup Community, Part 2

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Last week I explored the first series of Mark Suster’s tips to creating a Successful Startup Community and how Syracuse has progressed using these as measurements. Today I will continue with the second third of the article.

5. Motivated Champions/Brand Ambassadors

Five years ago I never heard people say good things about Syracuse. Locals talked about leaving and those here for school or work talked about how long they had to stay before they were out. This has changed. I am now seeing people who love the weather, love the size of this city, and love the fact that they, as individuals, are able to have a true impact on the city around them.

We need to work on some things. Driving up 81 North into the city isn’t welcoming. The University should focus on the logistics of the drive to and from the University and make that more visibly appealing.

But getting people to talk about what potential is already here and being harnessed? That is happening, and in exciting ways. No Excuses Syracuse is a company built on providing both visitors and locals interesting tours of the city. Recently my Facebook newsfeed was saturated with two separate videos celebrating Syracuse. We have the history and the amenities to make this a great place to visit and enjoy; I think one of our largest issues here is the ability to collaborate between our tourism offices and private companies.

So when it comes to brand ambassadors, we have them. It is elevating them and collaborating with them that needs to happen.

6. Local Press/Websites/Organizational Tools

This needs work, and a lot of it. The closest thing that Syracuse has to a database of startups is the Syracuse University IDEA website, which catalogues very early stage startups in order to enroll them in the Panasci Business Plan Awards and the RvD awards. Unfortunately, since this is exclusively a student database, it is focused on extremely early stage startups, primarily in the idea phase. This makes it, by its very nature, inaccurate since these startups have such high turnover.

The Syracuse Student Sandbox has a collection of past participants on their website. By clicking through each year you can find out who the participants were and a one line description of their company, but there is no contact information or updates on progress, leaving this as another source that is inaccurate.

When it comes to news coverage, there is, unfortunately very little. The Central New York Business Journal often attends and sponsors events, but I rarely see articles written on startups. The Syracuse Post Standard has covered major events in entrepreneurship, but again, this isn’t comprehensive or regular. Most of my information on startups comes from the newsletters from local entrepreneurship groups that send alerts and information.

We need a database and network for these startups, and someone whose role it is to catalogue, keep up and connect those involved. I would love to see something like Built in Colorado for Syracuse, and I think Ignite Upstate is on the right track with this, but we need to get there faster. We have a number of startups who have taken what was the hard road of staying in the area. Others now need to see that the community is here instead of having to hunt for it.

7. Alumni Outreach This is one of the major benefits of having so many large universities in a concentrated area. I think Central New York is very good at finding its alumni and using them. I think those alumni are, overall, very open and generous with their time, coming back to participate in the local entrepreneurship events as needed. We are just at a point where we need more of them.
8. Wins We have had a few medium wins and we’ve had some startups with staying power. Now we need one that becomes a household name, and we need that startup to stay in Syracuse rather than move to New York City when it finishes a funding round. We are getting close; you can feel it. Apprenda raised quite a bit of funding and has no intention of leaving anytime soon. The support networks have been built; we just need that team and product that will be prolific enough to be the Central New York win.