IMG_1444-Coffee-open-for-blog-300x225Today’s Open Coffee Lou was essentially a continuation of the #ThinkBig event at NowSourcing hosted by Brian Wallace just a few weeks ago. Stacy Griggs of El Toro moderated and asked the attendees to brainstorm actionable ideas about how to improve the startup community.

There’s a fundamental disagreement among the startup community. Some members think Louisville’s scene is bleak and needs to be improved; others believe it’s great for a city our size and want to see it get even better. The fooling-ourselves, “we could be the next Silicon Valley,” discussion seems to have died a (welcome) death more than a year ago.

But as Griggs said, we’ve had brainstorming sessions like this many times. Today we should consider “how do we move that ball down the field?”

Points discussed:

• Tomorrow Norton is holding an open house for entrepreneurs similar to the ones held by GE late last year and early this year. How do we get more of this kind of engagement with big business? UPS, Humana, YUM! could source more locally. How do we find out what their needs are and how do we introduce their key influencers to the entrepreneurial community in Louisville?

• STARTUP NY is an initiative by the state of New York to attract startups to enterprise zones in the state. The biggest incentive is that startups that meet certain qualifications can exist 10 years tax-free. That includes all taxes: business, real estate, etc. How can we get politicians on board for offering incentives like that in Kentucky or Louisville?

• Griggs says he believes this is a great time to seek to make a real push for entrepreneurship in Louisville because of the new leadership at GLI. Kent Oyler, the CEO, is an entrepreneur and very supportive of the community.

• Wouldn’t it be great if the top 30 CEOs in Louisville agreed to adopt one startup for mentorship? Louisvillians are friendly and often much more approachable than leadership in other cities.

• Griggs said that “If you don’t think you can find tech talent in Louisville, you just don’t know where to look.” This topic is up for a lot of debate. There are many people who say tech talent is pretty easy to come by; others blame their business’ struggle on not being able to find tech talent.

• One concern raised was how we can work to keep GE engineers and IT professionals in Louisville, should Electrolux come in and restructure.

• The startup community needs one directory, job board and business how-to and resource guide. (I reminded people that maintaining such a website would be a full time job.) People seeking resources were directed to ThinkKentucky.com, SCORE and the SBA.

• How can we get more Louisville and Kentucky politicians involved with the startup community? Invite them to Open Coffee? In an election year, it would be good to invite promising candidates.

• We should concentrate on building startups in already strong fields: logistics, spirits, food…

• Most Chrysalis investments are not in Louisville. Venture Capital firms will look at companies not in their city. So Louisville businesses should not just solicit interest from only local venture firms, though angel investors tend to seek hometown investments.

• A newcomer to Louisville pointed out that we really need to be educating other regions about how vibrant Louisville is, not just tourism outreach but relocation outreach.

• Many people complain about the scarcity of direct flights out of SDF, but we also need to address how expensive these flights are. It’s much cheaper to fly out of IND or CIN than it is to fly out of SDF.

• The University of Louisville is an excellent asset to the community, especially their internships, co-op and capstone programs. Get involved with job fairs at the university. The Speed School has a placement office for interns and co-ops (and jobs).

• The community still needs a “spokesperson” — this is a big void since Tendai Charasika stepped down as the director of EnterpriseCorp. While EnterpriseCorp is still functioning, it needs a director to be the ambassador that Charasika used to be.

For a calendar of upcoming startup and tech events, visit:  http://startuplouisville.com/

Thanks again to Heine Bros for the coffee, and to Nucleus for letting us use their iHub facility.

#OpenCoffeeLou is Monday at 8 a.m.
iHub, 204 S. Floyd St., Louisville
Free parking in the lot next to the building
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OpenCoffeeLou
Twitter: @startupLou #opencoffeelou