Necessity: The Mother of Invention (and Entrepreneurship) 

 

There’s little doubt that we’re in the early days of understanding the economic impacts of COVID-19, with many questions about how deep, how long, or how dramatic the economic recession may be left unanswered. Uncertainty seems to be the oft-used word in many business settings today. 

If we look to history, however, it is in these times of uncertainty that innovation, creativity and powerful new ideas find a foothold and thrive. 

Walt and Roy Disney started their media and entertainment company at the beginning of the Great Depression. Leaning into the need to provide joy and smiles to the struggling American population, the brothers navigated the four-year depression and turned their startup into a worldwide phenomenon. Trip Hawkins left his job at Apple in the midst of the 1981-1982 recession to launch a software startup, Electronic Arts. Recognizing the changing landscape in the home computing and entertainment market, Electronic Arts grew into one of the biggest software game development companies in the world, with more than $5 billion in revenues today. More recently, the Great Recession in 2008 saw a plethora of startups grow and thrive. Companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft brought the sharing economy into the mainstream. Fintech and mobile payment companies Venmo and Square were also launched in those troubled times, seizing an opportunity to build a product that better suited changing consumer demands in the financial services industry. 

These examples are just the tip of the spear, but in moments of uncertainty and change, opportunities abound.

We often think that the key to unlocking these opportunities rests solely upon the entrepreneurs shoulders, believing it is their keen ability to spot the possibility, their genius skills used to build a product, and their unflappable persistence to push through every challenge presented to them. Make no mistake, these attributes are paramount and the entrepreneur is the key actor behind the world-beating companies that change our societal landscape and drive our economies toward prosperity. Entrepreneurs must be celebrated. 

To paraphrase an old adage, however, it takes a village. 

Behind every entrepreneur and startup is an ecosystem. Every ecosystem is different, but every one shares key attributes. Talent, resources, mentors, capital and culture all play pivotal roles in the founding and growth of successful companies. The more robust and developed ecosystems attract better talent and have the depth of knowledge and capital to support top tier entrepreneurs. These ecosystems are usually the first to rebound from a downturn and often reap the benefits of a speedy recovery to the tune of an exponential factor. 

Consider the quintessential example of San Francisco in 2008. The ecosystem of the region had been built over decades and the depth of knowledge, talent and capital was great when the economy began its downward spiral. The entrepreneurial spirit in the community was undeterred, however, with entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, accelerators, incubators, and a talented workforce coming together to create more than 1,000 new companies between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009. These companies were a driving force behind the economic bounce back and prosperity that the region has now benefited from over the past 10 years. 

Denver South launched Project Nexus in March of this year to coordinate, convene and connect the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. We have proudly supported a variety of entrepreneurs for decades and Colorado has become widely recognized as a startup haven in recent years. In Denver South, we have unique talent, service providers, resources, capital and entrepreneurs necessary to continue to support and build a world-class startup ecosystem that supports entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds. 

As we begin to understand both the fallout and new opportunities associated with COVID-19 and its economic impacts; a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in our region will be foundational to our recovery. Our ability to provide leadership and support will be critical as new technologies and new companies rise from the aftermath of these challenging moments. 

Our goal with Project Nexus is simple: Grow and sustain a world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are fortunate to be a part of the incredible startup ecosystem more broadly in Colorado,and the communities of Denver South have a unique set of offerings to contribute to this startup landscape. 

We all have a role to play in building this ecosystem community and we hope you’ll join us on this journey to put Denver South on the entrepreneurial map.  

To learn more about Project Nexus and how entrepreneurship is impacting our local economy, contact Eric Byington, Director of Innovation, at eric@denversouthedp.org.