One of the things entrepreneurs like to say is that it's important for startup businesses to "scale fast or fail fast" — in fact, we heard that turn of phrase last week as we chatted with folks from the economic development organization Oregon RAIN.
In other words, the entrepreneurs behind these startups need to be able to access the resources needed to grow fast in the event that their nascent business hits the sweet spot.
But it's just as important, maybe more so, to be able to be able to walk away from a business idea that just isn't going to work. The "fail fast" notion means that entrepreneurs can, in economic development parlance, "pivot" to another idea without losing too much time or money in a losing proposition.
And, of course, a business idea that doesn't catch fire, for whatever reason, can teach valuable lessons that an entrepreneur can take with her to the next startup.
These thoughts came to mind this week as we read about the Albany City Council's decision to cancel a three-year, $155,000 contract with Buxton Analytics, a Texas firm that researches and recommends ways the city could attract new businesses.
Buxton put together an in-depth analysis on the city's demographics and the choices residents are making when they spend their money. The idea was to create profiles for local businesses to use when targeting customers and knowing what kind of merchandise to stock. Buxton also made a free mobile app available to businesses for use as a marketing tool.
But, for whatever reason, Buxton's work never got much traction with Albany businesses, according to Seth Sherry, the city's economic development director, who briefed members of the City Council on the project on Monday. (To be fair, Sherry noted that Buxton had been transparent and its responsibility had been to match retailers with Albany, which it had done. And he added that other municipalities roughly the same size as Albany had reported success with the company.)
The council could have elected to see if the Buxton deal would catch fire among Albany businesses in the remaining two years of the contract — at $50,000 annually.
But with little evidence to suggest that a turnaround like that was in the works, the council made the right choice to pull the plug — and, perhaps, find another economic-development effort that could benefit from an infusion of cash. It's not any different from an entrepreneur deciding that her time and money could be better spent in another project — and it's an idea that will become more important as Oregon moves (slowly) toward an economy that's driven by innovation.
Of course, Buxton isn't the only economic-development entity in which the city of Albany has invested. Last year, for example, the city signed a $10,000 contract with Oregon RAIN (the acronym stands for Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network) to help local startups connect with resources that will help them thrive. The contract started on Nov. 1 and will be up for renewal after a year. It sounds to us as if Oregon RAIN has been busy in the mid-valley since November, but officials of that organization shouldn't be surprised this fall when Albany councilors ask for a detailed accounting of what the city got for its $10,000. (mm)
A vaccine footnote
Here's a little bit of additional information you might want to consider in the wake of our Tuesday editorial about vaccinations:
Health officials say that, in general, a vaccination rate of about 93 percent is required before "herd immunity" kicks in, helping to prevent an outbreak even if someone comes down with a highly contagious disease such as measles.
Since we wrote that editorial, we came across county-by-county vaccination rates for youths 13 to 17 years old for the year 2017, as compiled by the Oregon Health Authority. The percentage for Linn County? A healthy 97 percent. For Benton County, across the river? Just 86 percent. (mm)