Federated Entrepreneurship 3: Play Your Own Game

Federated entrepreneurship groups in different cities should following their own paths that leverage unique local strengths and advantages.

Federated Entrepreneurship 3: Play Your Own Game

Blake Jennelle, one of the prime movers behind Philly Startup Leaders (PSL), was recently interviewed by Technically Philly as a part of their “Exit Interview” series. The focus of the series is entrepreneurs who have left Philadelphia:

We hear a lot of chatter about Philadelphia’s brain drain, particularly from our technology community. We’ve read the reports and heard the studies, but we wanted to hear from the people who have actually left. Why’d they go, would they stay, will they come back?

Jennelle has just left Philadelphia to move to New York and he offered several reasons for doing so. But I found one paragraph in the interview to be the least useful for entrepreneurs, whether they are in New York, Philadelphia,  or Silicon Valley.

I feel like we’re in our sophomore year as a city [Philadelphia]. By comparison, I think Boston is in its junior year and New York is a senior strutting around campus and getting all the attention (for good reason). Silicon Valley graduated a while ago and is starting to get tired of the working world.

Putting Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley in a continuum ignores the fact that each will follow it’s own path, leveraging unique local strengths and advantages. Silicon Valley is perhaps 100 years old if you date it’s founding to Federal Radio. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are easily three times as old, each with their own traditions and accomplishments.

I made this observation on the e-mail list for PSL and it lead to a private e-mail communication with Jim Stogdill that he has given me permission to share:

Stogdill: If each region does the same thing one would expect the relative strengths of each (as measured by number of startups, revenues, etc…) to follow a free scaling distribution.  So, I agree, seeing it is a continuum is a dead end. That battle ended in the 1960’s after the transistor was invented. Another way to look at it though is how each ecosystem has tended to develop different strengths based at least in part on their backgrounds.  NYC has deep roots in publishing for example that tends to inform some of the stuff happening there on the web.  Rather than thinking about competing with Silicon Valley on its own terms I think it makes more sense for Philly to understand its unique strengths and grow on them.

Murphy: That’s my problem with the premise behind the “exit interview” series, it promotes a model that Philadelphia needs to listen to people who are leaving to learn how to be more like some place else. It would be much more useful, following a “amplify positive deviance model” to look at entrepreneurs who are succeeding in Philadelphia and the reasons why.

Stogdill: Yep. Can’t win playing a game someone else already won.  Want to replace Wall Street as banking center?  Nope, can’t.  Gotta do what they ain’t.

Jim Stogdill (@jstogdill) also blogs at Limn This and O’Reilly Radar (jims).  As he notes for both “everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily, or even probably, represent the views of my employer or clients.”


  1. In my original “Federated Entrepreneurship” post I noted that
    1. Many regions  aspire to improve the level of innovation and dynamism in their local economy. But the Silicon Valley model of technology entrepreneurship combined with risk capital is more than 100 years old: it can be traced to the founding of Federal Telegraph in 1909 (it’s noted by California Historical marker 836). Today’s efforts build on prior practices and institutions.
    1. I think this means that each region needs to leverage its unique strengths new industries and local entrepreneurial activities. Put another way, Silicon Valley has already been invented, now we need to invent the regional models that will replace it.
  2. Federated entrepreneurship is a core principle of the Philly Startup Leaders, here are some key points from their manifesto:
    • To survive this journey, startup entrepreneurs need many things. They need access to funding and talent.  They need support from their government and their community.  They need opportunities to educate themselves and their team.
    • But more than anything else, startup entrepreneurs need each other.
    • No one can truly understand the life of an entrepreneur but another entrepreneur—no matter how much time they might spend investing, teaching, consulting, servicing, or legislating in the world of startups.
    • Philly Startup Leaders is a community of startup entrepreneurs dedicated to helping each other on their entrepreneurial journeys.
  3. Federated entrepreneurship is also one of the principles behind the Bootstrappers Breakfast which now operate in Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, San Francisco, Silicon Valley (Mountain View, Milpitas, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale), and Walnut Creek, CA.
  4. Federated Entrepreneurship 2” explores efforts to evangelize better entrepreneurial practices by Eric Ries and Sramana Mitra.

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