by Max Brantley
To understand why Arkansas hasn't flourished, Andersen offers a formula successful tech cultures share.
"There's a recipe that no successful start-up ecosystem has ever deviated from: You need capital, you need talent, you need a corporate patron and you need a culture of risk."
What he DID NOT say:
The way you encourage technology development is rip down a residential neighborhood, throw up a taxpayer-financed office building and wait for the entrepreneurs to flock in. If necessary, increase the government subsidy. Business hates risk.
Now back to other good things Kristian Andersen DID say:
"There's no shortage of really wealthy investors in Arkansas, but they're not predisposed to invest in high-risk tech start-ups. If you want to go start a community bank or a new subdivision, I've got a list a mile long who you could go talk to. But rarely is the wealthy commercial developer or banker writing checks to high-risk, early-stage firms."
See Bruce Burrow, whose idea for success was taxpayer handouts to help him build shopping centers. How could you lose?
Great stuff in this story, like Benton native John James, who's built on-line retail sites, starting with an outfit that sold Quiz Bowl questions, and uses robotic fulfillment systems in Fayetteville. He gave up a medical career to build businesses — and persuaded Dillard's to be an investor along the way.
Lots here, too, about the entrepreneurial culture and the like-minded people you can attract from that vibe. Andersen again:
"Why do people move to Portland? Why does a young entrepreneur go to Silicon Valley? Is it because they've got a new tech park? No way, man. If you're in San Francisco in the Mission District, all those start-ups, they're just in old ratty buildings shoved off the street somewhere. Even the big ones.
"The most vibrant start-up communities I've been in look like communities. Within two square blocks, there are 30 start-ups and 16 restaurants and four bars. That being said, I'm not saying [the tech park] can't work or is even a bad idea, I'm just saying there are better ideas."