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Think local; act global 

Reflections on Boise Entrepreneur Week (BEW), Global Entrepreneurship Week and exciting new developments like the Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator program:

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Norris Krueger

My number one reflection: Wish I could do more to grow entrepreneurs! But how much of that is on me? 

A constant question I got during BEW was: “OK, how is Boise/Idaho doing entrepreneurially, really?” While that’s nominally a metrics question, in my mind, a more important (and painful?) question is: “How am I doing?” (hence “wish I could do more” and “how do I need to change?”) 

I wish more people listened to the realities of how ecosystems grow healthily (and to the realities of how to grow entrepreneurial learning and more), especially those who have a vested interest in not listening. I stopped blogging because I felt no impact locally. There is so much that Idaho could do with little cost and effort. But…what if a big part of the message problem is the…sender? Gulp. 

I don’t mind being blunt but do I go too far? I need to apologize for not trying harder to be more constructive. I’m pretty sure that my feedback hasn’t always been developmental.  

Example: How many entrepreneurship professors have even one hour of educator training? Heck, how many even really spend time in their ecosystems? Research is mounting that ecosystem builders are dismayed by their local universities’ entrepreneurship efforts, however, cheerfully pointing out that most universities are clueless at great education and hapless at engaging their ecosystems could be taken as abrasive…at best. Instead, I need to help our colleagues get better at something they’re passionate about. How do we teach them great education theory and practice? How do we help them serve their ecosystems effectively?* I am so grateful for the great educators who have guided me thus far and stand ready to help all of our colleagues (and Idaho). I am equally grateful for that group who globally are the connectors between town and gown…students. Good place to start, eh? Students are our future.

Gratitude is important — there is always one more person to thank. During the pandemic, I kept scribbling thank you notes, and it felt good.

So how ARE we doing: Grateful reflections on BEW 

Regarding BEW, I’m grateful for the Iron Mule/Killer Creamery affogatos. I was jazzed by the federal money panel. Karen, Carmen, Bam, et al. shared invaluable information on an area we could get a lot better at very fast (and another apology: I really do need to do more here). Watching Diane Bevan of Idaho Women’s Business Center (IWBC) dazzle Don Day was great to see. You want true bottom-up ecosystem building, she’s walking the walk. Finally, VentureCapital.org once again brought it (thank you, John Williamson!): A wonderful pitch contest (host David Meltzer couldn’t believe that every pitch was persuasive) and great Investors Choice panels. 

Like a good politician, when people asked, “How ARE we doing,” I answered a different question, didn’t I? OK, I owe you a longer reply about metrics — more than one! 

Start with: There are too many vanity metrics. Like with any venture, vanity metrics easily can be disastrously counterproductive. What does that mean for Idaho? Analytics need to be provably predictive whenever possible.  

Moreover, metrics need to be actionable. A surge of H1B (& H2) visas is a powerful predictor of entrepreneurship and gross domestic product, but where will those come from here? Startup Genome argues that global connectivity is a huge predictor and we can find ways to encourage exporting. And to connect with the world’s best and learn from them.  

Therefore, I happily promise to follow shortly with some very powerful recent insights we can act on! In the meantime, will you tell me how YOU think we’re doing? 

Think local; act global 

I seem to have inverted the well-tested maxim of “think global, act local” — and it has worked. What I am learning here in Idaho has paid off elsewhere. We are facing many issues that everyone else also wrestles with. “Idaho” and “Boise” are door-openers to the world.** However, acting global means not doing enough here.

In my work with so many great ecosystem builders via the Kauffman Foundation’s terrific ESHIP program, lesson one is that top-down, high-level bureaucratic mechanisms just don’t help (they can make a splash), but you need genuine grassroots champions who hear what entrepreneurs and small businesses actually say.  

The new Small Business Administration Community Navigator program picked Idaho Connect (Idaho Hispanic Foundation, IWBC) as a pilot! The model is a “hub” that gets resources to “spokes” that are underfunded — all but one Idaho spoke’ is a genuine grassroots bottom-up and grossly underfunded entity. We’re going to see very quickly just how well this bottom-up, entrepreneur-led model will work! 

Are you ready to join me in helping Idaho Connect? (And I hereby promise to be much more diplomatic!) 

— Norris Krueger, Ph.D., is an entrepreneurship expert and developer based in the Treasure Valley. 

Footnotes: 

After all, even the average entrepreneurship professor is still likely the best educator in the b-school. 

** My favorite: Two Dutch bureaucrats upon hearing “Boise,” yelled “Treefort!” (No clue about potatoes, blue turf or (thank God!) neo-Nazis.) Remember: The world’s best want to help us! 

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