Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My report on a forum regarding small businesses in Berkeley

On January 24, 2011, our local Berkeleyside blog sponsored a very informative forum on the subject of small businesses -- and I went to it. The first panel consisted of Carl Bass, CEO of AutoDesk, and Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine. Bass spoke on the many advantages that Berkeley has to offer anyone who might be considering starting up a tech-oriented small business here. "You have access to the global supply chain, labor, assets, IT, creativity and ideas. Stanford gave birth to Silicon Valley. UC Berkeley, one of the top research universities in the world, could also give birth to something on that scale of innovation."

It was nice to be gently reminded that we have all kinds of smart people living here in Berkeley, that we have a top-drawer university to draw on, that we have all the Right Stuff.

Then Anderson spoke with regard to the wonders of Berkeley's tech start-up possibilities. "This is a great time for small enterprises," he said, illustrating his convictions with examples from his own inventiveness and those from the new Maker Movement, which is driven by small-business entrepreneurs working out of the basements and garages of America.

Both Anderson and Bass live here in Berkeley and both men pounded home their main point several times -- that Berkeley is a real idea-creating town and that we should take that reality and run with it. Listening to them, I got all enthusiastic about the future of Berkeley even in these difficult economic times.

Then another panel was formed and various local business people also spoke on the possibilities of making Berkeley an even more exciting place to live, work and create.

And then somehow the forum got hijacked by people from the audience who seemed to only want to talk about making Berkeley safe for developers. Been there, done that. No thanks. Let's go back to listening to Anderson and Bass!

I would have preferred it if audience members would have stopped dissing the homeless on Telegraph and the slow permit process and the roadblocks to paving over paradise -- and instead started trying to figure out how to harness Berkeley's legendary creativity, our "Think outside the Box" abilities, all those 36,000 eager UC students who flow through our town, our great primary schools, our compassion-before-greed POV, our writers, our artists, our filmmakers.... I get worn out just THINKING about Berkeley's wonderfulness!

This forum was important to me because it got me to thinking about my hometown and its future and what wonderful things can and should be happening here next. Plus they served free pizza at the forum, always a plus.