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Entrepreneurs: You can make your hometown great

Anna O'Hare
Published on March 16, 2016
Chris Schultz is co-hosting Collision in his adopted hometown of New Orleans in April 2016. He’s Co-Founder and CEO of Launch Pad, a community for entrepreneurs that provides workspace, a network of mentors and educational programming and events. In this guest post, he tells us about a new initiative at Collision, Launch Pad Pitch, and how he thinks overlooked communities can thrive.

A consequence of technological advancement is that automation enables companies to do more with less and requires that people move up the ladder to find a role in the economy. It’s been reported that nearly half of the total US employment is at high risk of becoming automated in the coming years, “perhaps a decade or two”.

Yet, according to research by the Kauffman Foundation, over the last twenty years most private sector jobs have been created by businesses less than five years old.

“When it comes to job-creating power, it is not the size of the business that matters as much as it is the age. New and young companies are the primary source of job creation in the American economy.”

Traditional employment structures are shifting.

Heard the one about the programmer who couldn’t find a job?

With the economy being transformed, education has never been more important in helping people to develop the skills needed to compete for jobs. We are in a brave new world of program or be programmed.

Have you heard the one about the programmer who couldn’t find a job?

Yeah, me neither.

Programmers are this generation’s skilled auto workers — eminently employable with pricing power in the market.

Technical education has been transformed. Access isn’t perfect, but there is no excuse to not to be able to learn.

People can learn online at programmes like Treehouse, develop skills in code schools like the Operation Spark, be inspired early in charter schools like Bricolage, enter the technology workforce in apprenticeship programmes like Revelry.

1--Operation Spark is opening a new door to prosperity for disconnected youth by presenting the fastest route to a career in software development – Photo: 52 Businesses

Every company will be a tech company

Steve Case says in the Third Wave that we’ve entered the next phase of the internet. The first wave was connecting people to the internet through services like his company, AOL. The second wave was building the services on the internet like Google and Facebook. The third wave will be about the transformation of “real world” industries like transportation, energy, and food.

Every company will be a tech company  – or it won’t be around.

The deep technology piece of starting a company has been solved. Building a product has never been easier, reductions in the capital necessary to get off the ground and the ubiquity of software infrastructure and tools allow entrepreneurs to create tech-enabled businesses across every industry.

I believe this presents the greatest opportunity and hope for our country of my lifetime.

But it does not mean solving our economic problems will be simple. The only way cities and communities can solve the real problems they face is to do it themselves.

The cavalry is not coming (we learned that in New Orleans in 2005). I’m not betting on our politicians either. Silicon Valley won’t do this for us. They aren’t thinking about our problems, they don’t understand them, and they don’t know how to fund them.

The people who have problems that we need to solve do not live in San Francisco and New York . They live in New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Charleston, San Antonio, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham and Birmingham.

It’s up to us to solve the problems facing our communities ourselves. There is no silver bullet, but I’ll bet on business owners creating profitable solutions to these challenges versus politicians any day.

pitch-The 2015 PITCH group stages – the winner of Launch Pad PITCH will make it straight to the semi final in 2016

Solving Problems through Entrepreneurship

You don’t have to found a startup to be an entrepreneur, we all need to become more entrepreneurial. Our unfair advantage is our hometown — the traditional industries, natural and cultural assets, and quality of life. Each great American city participating in the Launch Pad PITCH has unique challenges that only someone living in that market will understand. Each city has unique historical context – what have the economic drivers been? How can technology impact the industry, and who will be the first to innovate?

We can’t afford to have people in this country who are being left behind. Entrepreneurship solves real problems for real people. Identifying a problem and creating the solution is how creating a company has always been done.

In this time of upheaval and unrest, the way we will continue to be great as a nation is to unleash the power of entrepreneurship on the problems facing our neighbours.

I invite you see the 24 startups from these eight cities pitching at the Launch Pad PITCH during the Collision Conference on April 26th in New Orleans. It also happens to be during the greatest music festival in the world, Jazz Fest.