Tough Times Call for New Entrepreneurship Efforts

Conventional wisdom says now is a great time to start a business, but the economic reality makes such a prospect a daunting one. Funding — be it in the form of credit-card debt, personal loans or venture capital — is scarce, and leaving any sort of steady job, especially one with benefits, is risky. But that won’t stop a true entrepreneur from going out there and creating something, which is why Alexander Muse of the Texas Startup Blog and David Cohen, a founder of TechStars, have launched SpringStage.

SpringStage is a program aimed at getting entrepreneurs connected through local blogs, happy hours, bar camps and other efforts designed to mimic the atmosphere for startups found in Silicon Valley. Someone interested in bringing the program to his or her city would apply to be a SpringStage “catalyst,” which includes access to IT and other SpringStage resources, as well as a monthly stipend to host events. Once a month, catalysts attend a conference call to talk about progress.

The program was inspired by TechStars and other efforts to get entrepreneurs together and in front of capital sources. The threat of an competing angel network in Dallas forced two of the area’s four angel groups to lower their pitch fees from $2,000 per pitch to something more reasonable, according to Muse. He also says Austin Ventures regularly sends a team member to the happy hour he puts on for Dallas entrepreneurs.

At their best, such efforts will work much the way TechStars does, galvanizing an existing community while drawing the attention of the technology world — and venture capital. But not every area has the existing talent of Boulder, Colo., and Muse acknowledges that some catalysts will see less success — already there’s a big difference among the city blogs on the SpringStage web site. Regardless, I think giving entrepreneurs a local outlet is always a good thing.