Entrepreneurs Can Solve Problems Outside of Silicon Valley

(p. A15) Zionsville, Ind., a town of about 30,000, is a few hours south of Flint, Mich., by car. So when evidence emerged in 2014 that Flint’s water supply was dangerously contaminated, a Zionsville business executive, Megan Glover, began looking into ways to test the water coming from her own family’s tap. What she uncovered surprised her—not that the local supply was contaminated, but that a testing kit typically cost $3,000, an exorbitant amount most families in her neighborhood would never consider. So Ms. Glover did the most American thing possible: She researched the issue, developed a more affordable alternative, founded a company, sought out investors (my venture firm among them) and emerged as CEO of 120Water, a successful enterprise that now helps monitor the quality of the nation’s water supply. (Zionsville’s water turned out to be clean.)

The basic arc of Ms. Glover’s story—identifying a pain point, then creating a venture to provide a solution—is common in the nation’s premier tech hubs. That is largely because the talent and capital required to build a successful venture are widely available to entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, New York and Boston.

What makes Ms. Glover’s story remarkable is that she, like a burgeoning community of other tech entrepreneurs around the country, managed to build a successful venture without those ready-made advantages.

. . .

Entrepreneurs are innately curious, looking to bump into ideas and people that can unearth problems to solve and opportunities to seize. But founders are unlikely to stumble into problems in sectors to which they have no exposure. And that is why the geographic diffusion of tech will change the industry at its very core. It is much harder to understand what bedevils the lives of people living in, say, Fayetteville, Ark., if your life rarely exposes you to people living outside the social and commercial networks of places like San Francisco or Cambridge, Mass.

For the full commentary, see:

Steve Case. “Innovation Moves to Middle America.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, July 14, 2021): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 13, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

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