Startup Week 2018: This kid, I've seen him before

This kid, I've seen him before.

Now I remember where I know him from. One time I was his entrepreneurship coach for about two hours. He came up with the "efficient pizza carrier" thing. I recall being shell shocked by his enthusiasm (and no, I still don't really understand the product he's trying to sell).

But I know this: Seeing him now, this kid has a new binder he's put together on it. It holds sketches, designs, cost analyses.

And tonight, he's out in public, with that giant binder. Talking to two older people. Why?

He's tearing through a customer interview, just as he was trained to do as a new entrepreneur. He's asking questions about consumer pizza purchases, ordering and delivery patterns.

The interviewees look a little stunned. He's diving in, punching through: Trying to identify how often these people order pizza, whether their habits will help make his product a likely seller.

Now he's moved on to his next customer interview. He's talking to someone in a wheelchair. He just walks up to people and asks to interview them, immune to the looks. To be fair, after a moment of two of hesitation, people are generally happy to talk. After all, Alaska is both a community of independent thinkers and warm people. We also know what really matters when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Interview nine.

What matters is this kid, the one putting his head down. What matters is that he's working to get it done. What matters may not be what he builds today, but what he builds tomorrow. And what really matters? As a community, we support him.

My hope is that we enable and support the people willing to take risks to create value for both themselves and Alaska, the people who forge their own path. We can only benefit from people trying and working hard to build new companies in our state.

Entrepreneurship is a team sport and the most difficult of challenges, and as a community it's my hope we support entrepreneurs of all kinds, regardless of the size of the firm they're trying to build: From African restaurants to beverage distributors, hot dog carts to oil service companies, breweries to the next GCI — all of this private enterprise matters, every single little bit of it. It creates dynamism, energy, wealth. Alaska needs all of that.

Thinking back to the first time I met this kid, here's what I remember: I sat down with him, asked him questions, and was taken aback by his confidence. This is just my first business, he told me. Win or lose, this is an affordable risk I can take, a small step.

I can do this.

Alaska and entrepreneurship

It's Alaska Startup Week from Nov. 9 to 18. From Bethel to Juneau to communities in between, events are stretching across our state that both celebrate and train entrepreneurs. These events also offer opportunities for people to connect.

At the 49th State Angel Fund, after six years of working away to build Alaska's entrepreneurial ecosystem, we're starting to see results: According to a 10-year rolling Kauffman Foundation data set analyzed by the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, the state is now second in the nation per capita at producing startups, third at producing new entrepreneurs.

If we make Alaska one of the most entrepreneurial places in the nation, we'll all benefit. We need you to be part of this discussion. So come out, join us, we welcome you: Find the list of events for Alaska Startup Week online at

Alaska Startup Week is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to connect across the state and is a collaborative effort by multiple organizations to diversify Alaska’s economy, largely led by entrepreneurs. This year, Alaska Startup Week has grown from three communities to ten, with over 70 events in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka, Kenai, Soldotna, Palmer, Bethel, Homer, and Seward. Alaska Startup Week is on Facebook.

Joe Morrison is Director of the 49th State Angel Fund.

11/16/2018 - 1:43pm