You Don’t Need to Go to Silicon Valley to Build Your Startup. You Can Start at the EDC’s Small Business Development Center.

By Greg Prestemon, CEO 

I love the HBO series Silicon Valley. I would tell you some of my favorite quotes from the show, but since this is a professional publication, I can’t. However, the series is more than just good for the inappropriate jokes. It gives a glimpse into the world of startups, founders, and venture capital in a way that is funny and informative.

Part of that glimpse includes the vocabulary of tech startups, entrepreneurs, and the ecosystem that supports them. If you watch the show, you’ll learn a little about Series A funding, Series B funding, a Key Man clause, “points,” and a lot of other terms you never hear in daily conversation. Between the vocabulary and the constant setbacks the main character and his team face, it can make starting a billion-dollar technology company seem all but impossible.

And starting a billion-dollar technology company is all but impossible. There is a reason we know Mark Zuckerberg’s name (besides the fact that Hollywood made a movie about him). What Zuckerberg did with Facebook has happened just a few times in human history.

However, being a successful entrepreneur and being the next Mark Zuckerberg are two different things. In my time leading the St. Charles County EDC, I’ve never met the next Mark Zuckerberg. But I have met multiple successful entrepreneurs, some of whom are graduates of our incubator—many of whom would have no idea what terms like Series A or Series B were, or what a Key Man clause was.

The startup “movement” has been a good thing, particularly for the St. Louis region. It’s given new life and energy to neglected parts of our region, and has created economic opportunity that didn’t exist before. Those are great things. Still, one downside of startup culture is that it makes the language of starting a business seem more complicated than it is.

But the fundamentals of starting a successful business still haven’t changed.

You still need a good idea.

You need to have identified a potential market to serve.

You need to figure out how to reach that market.

And, last, you need money to get started.

You may already have a good idea, identified a market, figured out how to reach out that market, and have all the money you’ll ever need to get started.

But if you’re like most would-be entrepreneurs, you lack at least one of those ingredients. In that case, you don’t have to go it alone—and you don’t have to know what Series A or Series B means. In fact, if you’re like one of the many success stories that come from our incubator, a good place to start is your local Small Business Development Center. We have one right here, as a part of the EDC Business and Community Partners. Our SBDC Director, Justin Schulz, can help demystify some of the process associated with starting your own business—particularly when it comes to money, banks, and the 504 Loan program.

Most entrepreneurs aren’t aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs. They aren’t looking to conquer the world. In fact, they are usually small businesses looking to fill an unserved market within their own community. Small businesses like that provide the vast majority of jobs and economic opportunity in communities across the country, including here in St. Charles County—but they don’t get attention in the form of their own HBO series.

However, at the local level we understand how important those businesses and entrepreneurs are to our community.

Here at the EDC, we look forward to serving you—and helping you understand what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur in the real world, outside of Silicon Valley.

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