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New map looks to track startups in the city

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Many cities around the world are attempting to attract tech companies in response to the economic downturn.  London is arguably at the forefront of such moves, with its Tech City development in east London aiming to be a hub for high tech ventures in the city.

Gaining an understanding of where these start-ups are, how quickly they’re growing, whether they’re hiring and so on is therefore a big issue for policy makers.  Step forward the Startup Genome project.

The project will see a global network of volunteer curators craft up to date maps of start-up communities in the areas in which they both live and work.  They have recently secured additional funding from the Kauffman Foundation to expand the project.

“Mapping local startup ecosystems not only provides an important tool to communities, but it will create a treasure trove of rare data on local startups,” said Dane Stangler, director of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “Our plans include studying how startup communities develop and identify action steps that cities can take to grow their entrepreneurial community and measure their progress.”

“Startup Genome enables entrepreneurs and investors to plug into their city’s startup scene, which has untold benefits to them and their local economies,” said Thom Ruhe, vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “So everyone wins when communities gain a better understanding of their city’s entrepreneurial climate.”

In order to achieve this, the project needs to triple the number of curators currently working on maps for their area from 332 to 1,000.  The existing maps have data on around 84,000 start-ups.

“Working with the Kauffman Foundation will help us toward our long-term vision to build the deepest, most accurate database of startup companies and entrepreneurs in the world,” said Shane Reiser, founder of Startup Genome. “Kauffman’s research team will enable us to leverage that data to help organizations and cities measure their impact and identify ways to grow, and to share the data openly so that anyone can use it to build useful tools for entrepreneurs.”

I wrote about some research earlier this year looking at the benefits of clustering to collaboration between firms.  They found that the important network affects for a start-up were not where they were physically located, but the virtual network of contacts they could call upon to help them.  Actual location was not at all important, with the benefits of a good network proving portable to other locations.

“You would think that staying in the financial center would help, because you would remain close to the industry, to other people,” said researcher Evan Rawley. “But we found that in the context of hedge funds inherited agglomeration effects are derived not from social capital but from knowledge, which for portfolio managers includes trading strategies, and operational knowledge.”
So being able to track the employment history of the investors and founders of start-ups could be particularly valuable in fostering the kind of collaborative environment that so enables clusters to work effectively.  Startup Genome is therefore an interesting project and worth keeping an eye on.
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