It has been a great summer of events and programs focused on entrepreneurship and startup companies. It’s a very exciting time to be in Maine and be involved, but we need to continue to nurture our growing ecosystem carefully.
In trying to support these companies, some become myopically focused on which are the “right” companies to be helping for job creation. Additionally, when advocates say, “we can only help high-growth technology or innovative companies, because that’s where the jobs come from.” Or “we only help start-ups or the ‘growth industries’”, make me so exasperated I have to laugh out loud.
If someone claimed they could correctly predict, without any connection to what’s currently happening in Maine, the industries that will create the most jobs in the next 20 years in Maine, I would immediately ask that person to take a minute and help me pick my Powerball numbers. The success rate has about the same odds.
Let’s take a few examples of where growth has come from, unpredictably.
First, don’t believe anyone who says they would have been an early investor in Facebook, if they had just had the opportunity. Sure.
You think folks who, at the farmer’s market in 1991, walked up to the folding table that Jim Stott and Jonathan King were at and selling jam, knew that they would grow their effort into Stonewall Kitchen today?
Or what about the first time former White Rock Distilleries CEO Paul Coulombe told someone about “whip cream vodka”? Think these fancy-pants predictors knew it was going to be such a huge success?
Maybe the prognosticators saw the opportunities in the gift card industry like CashStar or the market that WEX has been crushing?
The answer to all of these is, of course, no. These companies grew, and were successful, because their leaders brought an attitude of growth to their idea.
Growth comes from the attitude of the entrepreneur. Nurturing that attitude is critically important.
To grow the economy and to grow Maine jobs, we must focus on building a growing the culture of entrepreneurship throughout Maine. This will help nurture this attitude. More people with this attitude will create more companies, which will, in turn, create more growth, and thus create more jobs.
We should focus on the conditions of growth, strengthening the elements of the start-up ecosystem, our attitude toward risk and failure.
These are all the things you see in the success stories of Maine’s largest and most successful job creators. Growth comes from the attitude of the entrepreneur. How we, as a state, welcome and encourage that attitude is the key to our economic future.