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Papy: Innovation must be part of community culture

“So…Creative Coast…that’s tech stuff right?”

I get this question a lot. If I had a nickel for every time I heard this question, I’d have a bag of nickels I could hold over my head menacingly, while my eyes go dark when I make my usual counter of “It’s all of it.” Terrible advocacy tactic aside, the truth of the matter is that while Creative Coast is “tech stuff,” it’s also not “tech stuff.” It’s all of it.

Now, “It’s all of it” is a terrible marketing strategy and doesn’t describe the parallel universes that exist in Savannah and how their interconnection is part of a greater ecosystem that feeds into a thriving creative economy. But it’s a start.

Savannah is many things, even though sometimes from the outside looking in, you’d swear it might just be ghosts and pralines. But the city is a gravitational center for entrepreneurial efforts, with a quality of life preferable to cooler yet busier urban enclaves and a relatively inexpensive cost of living. Savannah is a natural incubator for creative and innovative efforts, whether it’s media, tech or the arts.

But like anything worthy or successful, all this good stuff can’t happen in a vacuum. The people at Tech SAV who are passionate about building better products and a better tech community here in Savannah? They need the arts people at Sulfur Studios, the visual thinkers who can also help imagine those things into existence. The arts people? They need the people at Savannah PR who can help tell the story in the way that is most authentic to Savannah.

The “all of it” is just a way to talk about the collaboration it takes to do this.

All of it? Yes, All of it.

As much as I’d like to lay claim to the “all of it” principal, it’s a version of “The Boulder Thesis” from Brad Feld’s book, “Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.” With the phrase “startup community” popping up everywhere, Feld carefully dissects the hot slogan and reminds readers that if we are invested in building communities of entrepreneurs, we have to create a strategy where it is easy peasy-lemon squeezy for individuals to be with each other and feed off of each other’s talent, creativity and support. So what does that entail?

1. Entrepreneurs should be leading the entrepreneurial community

2. Leaders should have a long-term commitment

3. The community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate

4. There should always be enough activities to engage everyone who finds themselves within the community

Easy enough, right? It’s a little bit easier said than done, but the good news is that unlike defined places such as Silicon Valley or Denver, Savannah is still shaping the culture we want to see, the successes we want to reward and who we want to be.

“Savannah’s innovation culture is being shaped by the idea that a community can thrive outside the “usual suspect” innovation hubs” says Codebase’s Aleshia Howell. Recently profiled in SMN, Howell and her team left the perceived holy grail of innovation central — Silicon Valley — to come to Savannah where they felt they could have a stake in building what it was they wanted to see, rather than stepping into a pre-built mold. “Innovators are natural collaborators, and culture is a byproduct of coming together to learn and grow. It’s planting the seeds of inquiry, opportunity and action, then tending it together. If we’re doing it right, the harvest — the culture — has potential to become something we never imagined.”

“We are encouraging self-definition,” says Patrick Bentley, SEDA Emerging Industries Project Manager and Startup Grind chapter director. “You have to give people space and opportunity for anybody to be a part of something. You don’t have a model that you have to fit.”

Bentley not only offers this open space with Startup Grind, but also recently featured Smoke Cartel founders Sean Geng and Darby Cox, two entrepreneurs who have created a wildly successful business in Savannah by creating a business model that worked for them and collaborating with those already in the community.

To paraphrase Feld, we can’t look at it as a zero-sum game in which there are losers and winners. If everyone engages, they and the whole community can all be winners. And while “all of it” might seem to be a lofty goal, it’s one that with enough gumption, which Savannah has plenty of, is totally attainable.

Coco Papy is the community manager at Bull Street Labs and The Creative Coast, a non-profit organization supporting local innovators which is made possible by the City of Savannah and the SEDA. Connect with Coco at coco@thecreativecoast.org.

More Info

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HELPFUL LINKS

• Tech SAV

https://techsav.co/

• Sulfur Studios

http://sulfurstudios.org/

• Savannah PR

https://www.facebook.com/savannahprllc/

• Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/book/10.1002/9781119204459

• Codebase

http://codebasesav.com/

• Codebase offers chance to grow new mobile apps

http://savannahnow.com/news/2017-08-25/codebase-offers-chance-grow-new-m...

Savannahnow.com, August 25, 2017

• The Creative Coast

www.thecreativecoast.org

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