Guest Opinion: Harnessing talent, technology, and community

Kathleen SegoEntrepreneurship is the leading force behind a healthy economic community. Entrepreneurs create new businesses and new businesses, in turn, create jobs, increase competition and enhance productivity through technological change.

During recessionary times, self-employment entrepreneurship increases out of necessity for those who face barriers in employment. Many of today’s leading businesses emerged from innovation developed during the Great Depression and later recessions in U.S. history. During good economic times, entrepreneurship increases out of opportunity when cash, creativity, and a competitive business model come together. Unfortunately, the majority of startups do not survive their first 10 years in business. Why is this? In my opinion, it is primarily due to the lack of mentorship and leadership for the new entrepreneurs. Many have felt that it was due to the lack of capital. While that is partially true, I would suggest that capital is available for the entrepreneurs who have the right combination of a good product or service and leadership team. As a community, we need to work together to assist those with creative ideas and bring the proper balance of resources – capital and leadership – which will grow their companies and our community at large.

It is difficult to ignore the fact that some of the largest employers in the state of Washington today are home-grown companies started by innovative entrepreneurs: Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Costco and Amazon.com, just to name a few. If done correctly, entrepreneurship can be a powerful vehicle for harnessing talent at the crossroads of higher education, business, finance and technology. Growing economies must foster an environment favorable for business growth, regardless of their stage in the business life cycle. It comes as no surprise that entrepreneurship development is called out in the Clark County Economic Development Plan, recently commissioned by the Columbia River Economic Development Council. Clark County has the opportunity to not only become a regional center for innovation in information technology, but a community known for helping its businesses grow. Entrepreneurship development is a necessary investment for long-term business vitality and economic growth. In order for entrepreneurship development to truly succeed, local economies must focus on three areas: demand, talent, and community.

At the heart of entrepreneurship is talent that can and should be redirected for higher and best use. While we don’t have a Stanford or M.I.T. in our region, our community should look to existing education partners and others to advance growth in our areas. Without community, an acute understanding of demand and an abundance of talent cannot be harnessed properly for entrepreneurship growth. Young and new talent needs mentorship, as well as capital to take ideas into reality.

For the last two years, I have been fortunate to be a part of an effort to build up and strengthen the entrepreneurship community in Southwest Washington. PubTalk networking events began in 2009 sponsored by the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council and the Columbia River Economic Development Council based on a model originated by the Oregon Entrepreneur Network. These networking events bring together entrepreneurs, investors and professional service providers interested in learning about the latest startup ideas and from the experience of local business leaders. The leadership team driving PubTalk is dedicated to building up a strong, diverse entrepreneurial community that fosters mentorship for scalable, traded sector startups. For more information on PubTalk, please visit www.swwdc.org.

Kathy Sego is the chief financial officer for Immix Law Group, a law practice focusing on providing leadership to emerging companies, the owner of Sego Herb Farm and contract CFO for start-ups such as Avatron Software and Redpoint International. She can be reached at kathy@segoherbfarm.com.

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