Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, June 5, 2017
The key to the puzzle for the entrepreneur building his company is getting the right person in the right seat on the right bus with the right driver going in the right direction — and you, the investor, are standing on the corner waiting for a bus. This should work out well. But, mostly it doesn’t.
That’s because the bus driver does not know who is standing there, and the guy standing there does not know who or what is on the bus. And lastly, there is no formal bus stop. There isn’t even a crosswalk or a speed bump or a caution sign or a flashing yellow; there is nothing but blacktop for miles.
So the entrepreneur blasts ahead wondering when he is going to run out of gas, and the guy standing by the side of the road happens to have in his back pocket a large can of gas (do not write to tell me that his pants are too big) and a funnel.
In an ideal world, the guy on the side of the road would stop every bus and look inside. He has to stop EVERY bus because he wants to see everything. And the bus driver would like to know who has the can of gasoline, but he can’t stop for every guy on the side of the road, because he would never get where he is going — or thinks he is going.
OK — this should be a no-brainer. Why doesn’t San Diego have a transparent registry of all the investors and all the deals and all the emails and all the cellphones so that the efficiency factor would go from a negative number (the stories of making 128 pitches before finding pay dirt are legendary) to a positive number, sort of like Tinder for startups? I am not sure what I am looking for, but I will know it when I see it.
I had lunch recently with a man who is charged with trying to figure this out. The idea of a registry, of a clearinghouse seemed logical to me. Look, I am in the deal business, and I want to see every deal. And if I am an entrepreneur, I want to show my bus full of geniuses to a guy with a gas can — but I want the gas cans all lined up in a neat line so I do not waste too much time. After all, some cans will fit in my tank and some won’t.
So, my call to action is this. Let’s create a San Diego Innovation Registry. No more silos. Take the gangs from Evo, CONNECT, BioCom, EDC, SDVG, UCSD, SDSU, USD and every other alphabet soup group and seed incubator in this town — and make them play together.
Here is my thesis. If you did this, then the money — you know, the thing everyone complains about — the money would come because it is the money that is standing by the side of the road. They are not going to look inside every bus, but if they could see the entire bus schedule at a glance, then they could be more efficient and then they would bring the money — the money that is not here, the money that is in Silicon Valley, in Boston, in Los Angeles, in New York. They would bring that money because they would be efficient and only have to get on the bus going in the direction they want.
So, stop the madness. Make it easy. No more fiefdoms. No more hide the banana. No more pitchfest insanity. And here is how you make money. I will pay to see the bus schedule. It is a profit center. Remember, I want to see everything, so I will pay to get a leg up on my competitor. So simple.
I know all the reasons why this is stupid and will not work. I know about privacy, competition, importance (my number is unlisted and you cannot see me if you do not know someone who knows me), power (I have the key to the bathroom and you don’t) and greed (this one requires no explanation.)
But I know one reason that it will. It is a really good idea. All it takes is leadership.
Rule No. 523: You don’t need exact change.