Last month, my friend Nicolas Colin, a Director at The Family, described Europe’s tech IPOs as “boring” in a newsletter. Among other points, Colin argues the need for a deeper ecosystem that links Europe’s entrepreneurs with capital markets. Large IPOs are a big part of this:

We may have IPOs of companies with a European footprint such as Spotify and Farfetch-and the resulting liquidity. But when a European company goes public in the US we miss out on the positive feedback loop that nurtures an ecosystem of investment bankers, analysts, and institutional investors, which in turn will help more European…


One of the drawbacks of venture capital databases is that they are dynamic. Information trickles in, often with significant time lags. This is especially true at the earliest stages, where rounds are often unannounced and many startups are too small for anyone to notice. It’s a structural challenge that I’m not sure will ever be fully solved.

The underreporting and time lags associated with very early deals has become further compounded in recent years. Many startups in Silicon Valley and other leading startup hubs have increasingly relied on unpriced rounds (SAFEs or convertible notes) for their first or even second…


This morning a friend reminds of a Paul Graham article from 2008 titled Cities and Ambition. It’s excellent. For those of you who don’t know, Paul is the outspoken founder of Y Combinator -a prominent early-stage startup investor in Silicon Valley/

The general thesis of Paul’s article is simple yet elegant. Cities speak to us. They influence our behavior. They shape who we are. It matters where you live. A lot I would argue. The essay leads with this:

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. …


Last year, I wrote about Elinor Ostrom, an American political economist, who was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for her work on cooperation and collective action. Ostrom studied how rural communities self-organized to sustainably share scarce natural resources in the absence of formalized governance structures. In her Nobel acceptance speech, she described her work in the following way:

“Carefully designed experimental studies in the lab have enabled us to test precise combinations of structural variables to find that isolated, anonymous individuals overharvest from common-pool resources. …


One of the biggest challenges facing startup communities (or ecosystems if you prefer) is the inability of “feeder” organizations — such as governments, economic development authorities, corporations, and universities — to engage with an entrepreneurial mindset. The reason is simple: startups and startup communities are organized through networks. Feeders are structured around hierarchies.

Hierarchical organizations exist in a “complicated systems” paradigm, where input-output relationships are linear, outcomes are relatively stable and predictable, and the path to success is illuminated by rigorous planning, tight control, and flawless execution.

Feeders like control. They like plans. They like programs. They like clear lines…


In 1957, a group of eight Silicon Valley executives lead by Robert Noyce resigned from famed Shockley Semiconductor to start a rival in Fairchild Semiconductor. This sort of thing happens all the time in Silicon Valley today, but at the time, it was a watershed moment that sent reverberations throughout the industry. The Traitorous Eight, as they became known, changed the course of innovation forever by injecting the region with an entrepreneurial ethos that continues to this day and has made Silicon Valley the envy of the world.

Around the same time, nearly 6,000 miles (~10,000 kilometers) away, a very…


In The Startup Community Way, my upcoming book with Brad Feld, we explain that startup communities must be viewed through the lens of complex adaptive systems. Such systems are characterized as having many elements (people and things), interdependencies (connections between them), feedback loops (actions lead to reactions), and as being in a constant state of evolution (never at rest).

We make the effort to explain the complex systems framework and tie it to startup communities because the nature of these systems requires a very different type of engagement than we are used to in most of our professional and civic…


Recently, Brad Feld and I have been working hard on The Startup Community Way, a book on how to harness the complexity in the entrepreneurial age. It’s a follow-up to Brad’s, 2012 classic: Startup Communities. We completed a chapter that documents the growth of startup activity globally over the last decade — from startup deals to investors to startup programs — but recently decided to scrap it from the book. But, we wanted to put those data points to use, so I’ll publish some of them here.

(Note: if you want a comprehensive look at trends of venture deals, see…


I’ve often heard people say “building startup communities (or startup ecosystems) is not about the ingredients, it’s about the recipe.” What they mean is that a focus on the individual people, institutions, and resources will provide only limited insight or success, and that what matters most is how these things all come together. Integration is the right concept, but a recipe is the wrong analogy.

Recipes, like chicken noodle soup or chocolate chip cookies, are simple systems. These recipes require some understanding of techniques and tools, but once learned, they are replicable with a high degree of certainty. …


Last week, Endeavor Insight (the research arm of Endeavor Global) teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to publish a new report on fostering productive startup communities. The report was authored by Rhett Morris and Lili Török of Endeavor, and I think it is one of the best pieces of empirical work I’ve ever seen on startup communities.

Why such a strong endorsement? Because it presents some much-needed, rigorous empirical evidence that supports two of the most important principles for building startup communities — networks over hierarchies and entrepreneur-lead. At present, the evidence-base is thin, due to the…

Ian Hathaway

Economist, advisor, writer | interested in tech, innovation, startups, and their impact. www.ianhathaway.org

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