Startup Genome Merger

tl;dr: In this post I reflect on Startup Genome’s past, announce a recent acquisition (hooray!) and discuss what’s next for the website, data and community of curators around the world.

Startup Genome started as a passion project of mine and Dave’s. It grew quickly from the beginning and we decided along the way that Startup Genome should be a non-profit. We were grateful that the Kauffman Foundation took note. With their financial generosity, we were able to grow from 300 curators to 3,000 curators in a matter of months. We had struck a chord with startup community leaders around the world.

For many small to medium-sized cities that had yet to construct a reliable inventory of local startups, our first feature (maps) made a big impact. The map visualization had a kind of legitimizing effect, giving shape to communities that had never been seen before, only talked about.

Our mission was and is to help ecosystem leaders make better decisions about how to grow their local startup communities. To that end, we realized that the maps were just the beginning. So we kept going – we built an API, imported new datasets, and launched a city dashboard page that helped curators sort and filter their local dataset in new ways, visualize things like growth, and compare their city or region to others. We had more planned, like an automatic “dead company identifier,” a tool for tech journalists, a job board that would help our curators earn revenue locally, and an events calendar to end all events calendars.

But we didn’t get there. As a non-profit, we are beholden to the generosity of our benefactors. As many of you know, the Kauffman Foundation went through a leadership change recently and as a result, funding was drying up. In retrospect, we ought to have anticipated this possibility and prioritized monetizable features and a more robust grant writing process.

It was around this same time we were approached by JF Gauthier from Compass research. I flew out to their offices in San Francisco and got to know them. We admire the work they’ve done including their annual Global Ecosystem Report, their report on Premature Scaling and their detailed reports on the Hong Kong and Waterloo startup ecosystems. JF spun the ecosystem research out of Compass into a new entity (Compass research) and had a vision for merging it with Startup Genome. We also realized that, unlike us part-time missionaries, these guys can give all their time and resources to monetize Startup Genome and take it to the next level.

With that, we’re excited to announce that Startup Genome will be joining forces with Compass research. Together we are going to build and curate the largest body of knowledge on startup ecosystems ever produced. I’m confident this acquisition is the right thing to do for everyone: for cities around the world, for our curators, for JF and for Kauffman and all the other organizations that have supported Startup Genome along our journey.

For that matter, I encourage you to continue supporting Startup Genome.

The road ahead:

Not much will change immediately. You’ll notice some changes to the homepage, blog and social media sites. The maps and other visuals will stay live. For the rest of 2016, JF and the rest of his team will focus on putting out the next Global Startup Ecosystem Report. They have a new model in which they sign up one member in each city (usually the city government, a chamber of commerce or a VC association). Members pay a membership fee and help distribute a standardized survey in their city. The data gathered from that survey along with data from sources like CrunchBase and Startup Genome serve as the foundational dataset used to create the final report. Members can also order in-depth reports for their city like those created for Hong Kong and Waterloo. The community (all the local organizations, companies, founders and investors) doesn’t pay a thing but gets free access to the anonymized data.

Early next year, they will build an online dashboard with detailed visualizations and tools for members, some of which will be available for free to the community in an anonymized fashion – much like the maps, charts and graphs on Startup Genome now. The Startup Genome we built will serve as the foundation of that.

What will not change:

  • The name. The new entity will use the Startup Genome name and branding
  • All city maps will remain live, including embedded maps
  • The API will remain live
  • All curators will be able to do everything they could do before
  • Our data will continue to be open and free

What will change:

  • The dataset will be improved!
  • Development will start again in 2017 (which means bugs will be fixed!)
  • The blog and social media channels will become more active
  • I will no longer serve as Startup Genome’s CEO. JF will be CEO. I am currently assisting with on-boarding new members in the US. A future role for me is TBD.

We’re excited to see our vision for Startup Genome continued. Startup Genome needs to exist so that community leaders – myself included – can benefit and do what they do better. And what they do is important.


P.S. I’d like to take this opportunity to give shout outs. First my cofounder Dave Lerner who took a risk on a passion project of his by investing his time and money in me (and for being a sort of personal life coach at times). Stefan Negritoiu for being an early contributor. Chris Taulborg, who built Startup Genome v1.0 and made it real for us. Daft Labs of Burlington, VT & GoodTwin of Omaha, NE, the agencies that took us to the next level. Geoff Wood for being our COO and always an unofficial advisor. Personal friends who helped me make decisions: Nick Seguin, Adam Haun, Marc Nager, Greg Isenberg, Carie Davis, others I’m forgetting. Dane Stangler for being the first to back us in our infancy, as well as the other folks at Kauffman – Yas Motoyama, Jared Konczal, E.J. Reedy, Deb McKown and others who touched the project in various ways. The folks at Endeavor for being an early partner. And of course all the Startup Genome curators around the world that gave their feedback, time and other resources and pushed us to do better.

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