Economic development means different things to different people. It depends on their context. In my early work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa development meant bringing running water to villages. My town was the new recipient of a public water system from the Danish Aid Agency.
But broadly speaking, economic development initiatives are efforts to attract investment to a region. For most places, it’s not about running water but about creating jobs. And, some of the best jobs out there – in demand and high paying – are in technology or in software development more specifically. Software is the future. And, many cities, states and countries want to get in on the act. Yes, many of the software development jobs will go to product development shops but they need to hire from somewhere and government leadersare hoping to bring those jobs to their constituents.
A classic strategy for attracting investment to a region is to provide tax incentives. We’ll give you a break on your corporate taxes for a period of time if you bring your new headquarters or factory or research facility to our region. A quick search reveals many such programs. Apparently Texas is “wide open for business” and is willing to provide tax abatements and local incentives.
Most of them are US startups initially backed by venture capital (VC). Some of them are now worth more than $1 billion; others are planning for an IPO; and a couple of them have been acquired for a lot of money while generating little (if any) revenue. Most originated in social media, in the collaborative economy, and pretty much all of them depend on mobile as a significant and growing part of their business. They represent the typical attendees at the LeWeb conference in Paris, looking to become the next Facebook or Amazon in the next 10 years. Some other smaller and less well-known startups competing in LeWeb's startup competition this year may join this list: http://paris.leweb.co/programme/startup-competition
In fact, what they really have in common is that they are all digital disruptors leveraging digital platforms to create new experiences on top of connected devices. They are taking advantage of open development tools and free infrastructure resources to overhaul products, invert category economics, and redefine customer relationships. They are more agile than traditional companies. As my colleague James L. McQuivey stated recently, digital disruption requires an organizational fix if you don’t want your company to be disrupted.
It's that time of year again: Tomorrow, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs looking to raise funds, journalists, bloggers, geeks, and digital executives from all over the world will be gathering at LeWeb in Paris. For a couple of days, Paris will turn into the digital Mecca.
A lot of the media and investor attention will focus on the now-traditional startup competition, looking for the new Evernote, Instagram, Nest, or Withings. Here’s the list of the 16 semi-finalists. Emblematic of the entrepreneurial spirit of the conference, David Marcus, founder of startups like Punchd (acquired by Google) and Zong (acquired by eBay) and now CEO of PayPal, will be speaking at the event and will cross paths with a long list of digital visionaries and key executives, such as Pascal Cagni, former general manager and VP of Apple EMEA.
Here are some of my observations on this year's theme — The Internet of Things — as well as a summary of some of Forrester’s latest research on this quickly evolving space.