Fargo is one of ten cities that will be featured in an upcoming book by the Kauffman Foundation, exploring a nationwide resurgence of startup activity.

The book, titled Startup Fever, will gather research and interviews within entrepreneurial ecosystems across the United States, taking a closer look at how startup activity is happening in cities of all shapes and sizes.

“Over the past ten years, through the work of the Kauffman Foundation, we’ve really started to notice that there’s been an emergence and explosion of entrepreneurial support,” said Colin Tomkins-Bergh, research analyst for Kauffman.

“We want to get a more ground-level view of why, how, and where these types of initiatives and support are sprouting out from different cities, with different ecosystems,” he said.

Startup Weekend 2015

Upcoming Startup Weekend events across the globe.

Tomkins-Bergh is currently doing what he calls the “leg work” for the book – visiting cities and interviewing the key people – before bringing it back to co-authors Dane Stangler, Vice President of Research and Policy, and Robert Litan, previous Director of Research and Policy.

The book is slotted to release next summer.

Why Fargo?

Fargo is the seventh city for Tomkins-Bergh, who has already stopped in St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Madison, New York City, and Washington D.C.

Colin Tomkins-Bergh

The ten cities chosen were purposefully a bit unexpected; they wanted to stay away from heavy-hitters like Silicon Valley, Austin and Boulder, and focus more on the “non-obvious” startup ecosystems, Tomkins-Bergh said.

“We were looking for cities that could help tell the story and build the full picture,” he said. “Ones that have different backgrounds, different sizes, and a geographical diversity.”

Many of the cities chosen also have a connection to the Kauffman Foundation in some form, he said. For instance, they were drawn to Fargo partially because of the success of the 1 Million Cups event, which is a Kauffman Foundation initiative.

“We continue to hear about the strong presence [1 Million Cups] has in this community from attendants and other collaborators,” Tomkins-Bergh said.

But they were also attracted to how Fargo is a bit of a misfit city. Located in the upper Midwest with a population of about 200,000 (including Moorhead and West Fargo), it clearly fit the characteristic of “non-obvious,” he said.

“To see and hear of all this activity illustrates the renewing and revival of a city that has had some rough history in the past,” Tomkins-Bergh said. “It’s also interesting to see how the whole state of North Dakota, with the boom and ‘bust’ of the energy industry, is looking at other ways of diversifying the economy.”

Fargo-by-Dan-Francis edit

Tomkins-Bergh stayed in Fargo for the past few days, interviewing local entrepreneurs and thought leaders, attending 1 Million Cups and the Mayor’s Summit, and even playing a little kickball.

He will continue his research by hitting the final three cities: New Orleans, Albuquerque, and Reno.

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The book will be one of the first and most expansive looks at the startup activity across the nation, Tomkins-Bergh said, referencing Brad Feld’s Startup Communities as a prominent precursor.

From it, the Kauffman Foundation hopes to gain an understanding of how this startup fever is reviving certain cities, as well as if it can provide sustainable growth for a post-recession nation.

“We want to uncover the tale that this is happening everywhere, that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley, or a city that’s the hub of all startups, to have a really strong community and a great place to start a company,” Tomkins-Bergh said.


About the Kauffman Foundation:

“Established in the mid-1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Mo., and is among the largest private foundations in the United States with an asset base of approximately $2 billion. Our vision is to foster a society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens in their communities.”


[Edit 9/29/2015: Tomkins-Bergh said instead of Reno, the book will be covering Lincoln, NE.]

Photos courtesy of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Cover photo by Dan Francis, edited.

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Marisa Jackels