Mark Your Calendars: SFC’s 2012-13 E.I. (i.e., Information Entropy) (Brad Bernthal)
As we enter year five of Silicon Flatirons Center’s 2012-13 Entrepreneurship Initiative (“E.I.”), the phrase information entropy, borrowed from Princeton sociologist Martin Ruef, evokes what the E.I. aims to accomplish.
Entropy is energy dispersal and, sometimes, is described as the presence of disorder in a system. Information entropy – the disorderly transfer of ideas at CU-Boulder among and between people in what has been dubbed America’s most creative city – gets to the essence of the E.I. It is my pleasure to announce our 2012-13 lineup below. With events like Rally’s Zach Nies (September 10), GetSatisfaction’s Wendy Lea (December 3), and TeleTech’s Ken Tuchman (March 7), I hope you’ll mark your calendars to join us for a year of entrepreneurial energy dispersal and the right kind of startup system disorder.
The E.I.’s information entropy highlights the importance of interaction within a scene. Providing a nerve center where the startup community connects with the CU-Boulder campus is among the E.I.’s most important contributions. Great startup communities share much in common with other creative neighborhoods. Like 52nd Street in New York Citywhich in the 1930′s and 40s produced bebop jazz, startup scenes facilitate networks that are marked by information spillovers, helpful competition among participants, and spontaneous interactions. In a continuation of last year’s efforts, the 2012-13 E.I. continues to emphasize congregations that combine a powerful research university with a world-class startup community. The ambition is to create a scene with high velocity campus/community interaction. Beyond the campus, through Startup Colorado – led by Executive Director Dave Mangum and Co-Chairs Phil Weiser, Brad Feld and Jan Horsfall — SFC is increasingly affecting entrepreneurship scenes throughout the Front Range. Now in its second year, Startup Colorado has done much to strengthen startup networks between Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Fort Collins.
SFC’s public facing events in turn inform our scholarly ambitions. Over the past year we examined angel investing as well as differences between venture capital and private equity. Our 2012-13 work will further examine angel finance, the JOBS Act, as well as explore dynamics around entrepreneurial communities. In August we held a terrific roundtable on what levers help support and hinder entrepreneurship with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and entrepreneurial leaders from Denver. Continuing this discussion thread, on October 15, we’ll explore the ingredients of great startup scenes with the release of Brad Feld’s new book, Startup Communities. And on March 21, our Annual Entrepreneurship Conference will explore The Future of Venture Capital.
E.I. information entropy works in direct and indirect ways. The Boulder Apps Privacy Summit with the Federal Trade Commission’s Julie Brill (October 2, http://devprivacysummit.com) will directly provide useful information to startups. Similarly, the Crash Course for Entrepreneurs series provides straightforward insights on startup topics ranging from Lean Startup methods (Zach Nies, September 10) to how to pitch (TechStars’ Nicole Glaros, October 24) to how to create effective startup board of directors (Grotech’s Joe Zell, November 15) to privacy (Bryan Cave’s Jason Haislmaier, December 5). The Venture Capital class, which I co-teach with Foundry’s Jason Mendelson, features a record student enrollment and continues to raise the transactional IQ of Colorado Law and MBA students. And our Entrepreneurs Unplugged series, co-sponsored by ATLAS, highlights entrepreneurial storytelling with a point. Unplugged kicks off on September 24 with BlogFrog co-founders Rusty Banks and Holly Hamman. Of course the direct content of these offerings are highly valuable. Over the years, however, I’m struck at how important the indirect effects are. Informative E.I. discussions are accompanied by networking where unplanned interactions occur laterally, as if arriving out of attendees’ peripheral vision. The indirect connections at E.I. events are often as powerful as the direct results we intend.
The disorder of the E.I.’s information entropy creates the context for messy, bottom-up innovation. Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum highlight Carlson’s Law, named for Curtis Carlson, CEO of SRI International, who observes that”[i]nnovation that happens from the top tends to be orderly but dumb. Innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart.” Nowhere is bottom up innovation and the power of connection more on stage than at the New Tech Meetup. On the first Tuesday of the month, the heart beat of the startup community convenes in the law school’s Courtroom. The Meetup, led by Robert Reich, evokes what Brian Eno calls “scenius” – viz., the communal form of genius. Such is the formula for innovation. Further support for innovation is found through the free legal help provided by Entrepreneurial Law Clinic. And students start ventures and meet mentors through the fifth annual cross-campus New Venture Challenge presented by SFC and many partners across the CU-Boulder campus.
As is E.I. tradition, the vast majority of SFC’s entrepreneurship offerings are free to the community. We last year led or co-sponsored 48 E.I. events with over 6600 attendees. We’re planning for a similar clip this year. It is important to say thank you to those whose generous support as SFC’s E.I. sponsors and E.I. Board members makes the program possible. Additionally, for those who would like to provide E.I. support, there are several avenues for involvement. You can directly contribute to the Entrepreneurship Initiative, hire a CU student as an intern, join the Startup Summer initiative, sponsor the 2012-13 New Venture Challenge, or contribute to the Entrepreneurial Law Professorship Fund (look for a Press Release coming soon). For more information on how to support the E.I.’s in any of these or other ways, please reach out to our incomparable Program Director, Anna Noschese (Anna.Noschese@colorado.edu).
Here’s to useful chaos and disorder in the 2012-13 E.I. lineup. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Brad Bernthal is the Director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Silicon Flatirons Center and is an Associate Professor of Law at CU Law School.