For those of you that may have missed it, there was a remarkable event conducted this past weekend in Bradenton, Florida (a city experiencing its own economic renaissance). Riverwalk 2013 was a four day event, the middle two days of which were highlighted by the gathering of some of Florida’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and innovators. On Friday, the Spark Growth Economic Development Conference brought together leaders from several of Florida’s higher educational institutions’ technology transfer organizations, young entrepreneurs that are reshaping our region’s start-up incubators and business accelerators, representatives from every echelon of the private equity and funding continuum, and successful CEOs that are moving their enterprises into our region. The keynote speaker for the day was Jim Stikeleather, the Chief Innovation Officer of Dell, who brought his thought leadership to the forum through his insightful presentation entitled, “Disruptive Technologies and Disruptive Business Models: In a perfect economy where is growth and return?”
For those of us that have plied our professions in such high tech hotspots as Cambridge, Mass., the San Francisco Bay Area, Boulder, Colorado, Research Triangle Park, or other areas, Florida’s thin, sandy soil once felt a bit loose for our entrepreneurial aspirations. This is no longer the case. A new economic ecology is rapidly emerging, enriching the startup and innovative soil that lies between the beaches and the amusement parks. The elements that came together to spark the fore-mentioned innovation hubs are rapidly emerging in the Sunshine State. What was most impressive about the Economic Development Conference was the authentic intention displayed by all those that spoke and attended the meetings. We were all there at our own expense, seeking to share our knowledge openly.
On Saturday, I attended my second (and their seventh) BarCamp Sarasota Un-convention, along with more than 340 other difference-makers from the area. This is a self-organizing conference, bringing together entrepreneurs, technologists, and local business thought leaders to once again, share their knowledge openly. This spirit of open collaboration is at the heart of what is undoubtedly a unique and profound example of authentic community. Welcome to Leadership 2.0; leadership that emerges from all corners of our community and our organizations. Michael O’Donnell, founder of iCopyright, Inc. and Leaves.com, who spoke the day prior, commented, “Corporations lead from the top down. Entrepreneurs lead from the bottom up.”
BarCamp Sarasota is a refreshing forum in which anyone can sign up to speak (there were more than three dozen presentations offered) and the attending community is the only managing filter. They vote with their feet. There’s no controlling committee acting as a gatekeeper, screening submissions from their call for speakers submissions. This openness breaks the control of the status quo, unleashing the kind of exchange we see in social media environments. Creative, innovative, open.
What’s so striking for me is to contrast this past weekend’s events with a major HR conference, populated by senior executives from Fortune 500 companies, I recently spoke at in February. It is a contrast of motion versus inertia. Hungry, grass-roots entrepreneurs gathering to put forth answers to the challenges businesses and society faces today; listening, sharing, learning and acting. This is the seedbed of innovation and new value creation, where agility and open networks trump market share and capital reserves. It is from this soil that the next generation of purposeful, mindful leaders will emerge.
I wish to thank the community sponsors and countless volunteers that worked so diligently to make this past weekend a reality. Special thanks to the Spark Growth/BarCamp Sarasota leadership team; Sara Hand, Stan Schultes, Tracy Ingram, and Evie Totty.
If you missed this event, I highly recommend following the BarCamp Sarasota initiative for their next event!
© 2013, Terry Murray.