The Incredible Energy of Startup Cultures
Startup. It’s a word that has many different meanings to many different people. A word that is synonymous with other words like “entrepreneur”, “enterprising”, “co-working”, and “venture capital”, among others.
While all these other buzzwords are being thrown around, there’s one word interlaced among them all: energy. There is an energy surrounding those entrepreneurs, who share energy when they co-work with other entrepreneurs to create game-changing (yes, another buzzword) products and applications that will energize venture capital companies during a seed funding presentation.
That energy that encompasses these co-working spaces filled with entrepreneurs who put their entire lives on hold to create what they hope to be disruptive startup companies is the same energy that permeates out to the cities that play host to these entrepreneurs. We hear of the energy in Harvard dorm rooms, Silicon Valley, and new startup cultures in Austin and Seattle, along with international startup hubs like London and Tel Aviv.
But there’s one city experiencing it’s own startup revolution. One that doesn’t dominate the Mashable or TechCrunch airwaves.
That city is Detroit. The same city known for its innovation relating to the automobile industry at the turn of the 20th century is also one where that same blue-collar mentality is permeating itself in the downtown startup culture.
Detroit is not Silicon Valley, the “it” place built on the ever growing world of tech startups- some which produced an ungodly amount of success (re: Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard, Twitter, etc) and many that failed miserably. Detroit is an old Midwestern city that since 1960 has lost more than half of its population (according to the 2010 US Census) but has experienced a revival of sorts, with businessmen looking to revive the local downtown scene by moving their business from the suburbs, and non-profits engaging in creative outreach to areas such as civil rights, the environment, and young professional engagement.
Take one startup in particular: CommunityNext. It’s an organization sponsored by a longstanding Detroit institution, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and is designed as a way to keep young Jewish adults in Detroit. While the young adult vibe is present in Royal Oak and Huntington Woods, among other metro Detroit enclaves, CommunityNext works with budding entrepreneurs to offer them subsidized housing in downtown Detroit IF their company/product is one that is a grassroots initiative promoting social change for the city of Detroit.
Think of what a $500-$3,000 does for a budding entrepreneur. Think of what a housing subsidy does for someone who puts their life on hold to find a way to promote social innovation and change in the place that they grew up. Think of how that same housing subsidy could attract another socialpreneur, who might live in Silicon Valley, but desire to move to a place where he or she can have a greater hand in initiating social change.
This type of action creates that same community of energy present in Austin, Boston and Tel Aviv. However, the startup buzzword that epitomizes Detroit isn’t necessarily ‘growth’. It’s ‘revitalization’. Connecting the old and the new. Putting the “motor” back in “Motor City”.