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“Startup Mayor” Wants First CrowdOffering-Focused Startup Accelerator in Lewisville

I recently spoke with Lewisville mayoral candidate Winston Edmondson, who announced NEXT[LV], a set of initiatives including the formation of a CrowdOffering focused Startup Accelerator, designed to attract entrepreneurs, startups, and jobs to the City of Lewisville. Following is part 1 of my interview.

Brad Anderson
This election is a rematch. You were a candidate three years ago in the last election, and lost to the current mayor. We’re several weeks away from the May 12 election, yet some of your supporters are already calling you the Startup Mayor. Why do you think they’re so confident that you’ll win, and what’s the story behind that title?

Winston Edmondson
I have a vision for the City of Lewisville, and it involves the DFW Startup Community. I was sharing some of my ideas with an author who lives here in the city, and her first response was, “So I guess you’ll be The Startup Mayor.” I laughed, at first, almost choking on my Triple Venti Breve White ChocoMocha, but the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. It immediately differentiates my candidacy, and the type of mayor I would be. It’s action oriented, which is perfect, because I keep talking about our need for an Active Mayor. It gives credence to the citizens in Lewisville who feel that we have so much untapped potential, and we just need a catalyst to start things up. When my supporters refer to me as The Startup Mayor, they’re talking about the exciting possibilities.

BA
What ideas, specifically, did you share with this woman that inspired her to call you The Startup Mayor.

WE
Cut right to the chase. I like that. I want to attract entrepreneurs and startups to Lewisville. I want them to work here, live here, go to startup oriented events here…you name it. I want Lewisville to be recognized as a startup friendly city. How can we make that happen? Specific ideas to make that a reality…

BA
Right. Because that doesn’t sound like an easy task.

WE
If you’re looking for easy, you probably want to vote for the other guy. This is significant. It may not be easy, but we can do it.

BA
Well, then, convince me. How do you transform Lewisville so that it becomes known for being startup friendly.

WE
It’s a series of steps. I call the entire process NEXT[LV], because we’d be taking Lewisville to the next level. Let’s start at the beginning. The beginning of the Startup process. The “Mark Zuckerberg & Eduardo Saverin buddies with a great idea” phase. Yes, there are things we can do to encourage existing startups to move to Lewisville, but why not plant startup seeds here, in Lewisville soil, and help nurture them into successful startups? I’d like to see a brand new Startup Accelerator launch in Lewisville’s Old Town district.

BA
But the DFW Startup Community tends to gravitate towards Downtown Dallas, or the Uptown area. Does it make sense to have an accelerator in Lewisville?

WE
I’m an innovator. People will say “That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it’s always going to be,” about anything and everything, but I can’t hear that. Here’s why it makes sense. I’d want to see an accelerator with a very narrow focus. An accelerator that would invest in startups working on Community Oriented Technologies. Products, software, or services that would have a universal appeal, but that would have to clearly be relevant to a significant portion of the Lewisville community. An application designed to simplify accounting for businesses with at least $50M in revenue wouldn’t make the cut.

BA
We’ve seen accelerators with narrow guidelines like that. Accelerators who only accept B2B startups, for example. That can be a successful approach. But why focus on community-oriented startups?

WE
In Lewisville, we’re not setup like they are in Chicago, where the Mayor is the Big Boss of the city, wielding considerable power. We have a city manager, and I’m proud to say that Claude King is one of the sharpest city managers out there, and Lewisville is lucky to have him, but it’s the city manager’s job, along with his team, the city staff, to run the city, with guidance and permissions provided by the city council. The Mayor is the figurehead of the city, which means The Startup Mayor can’t just wheel & deal on his own.

I’d love to see some official strategic partnerships between the city and a Lewisville Startup Accelerator, and I’d be an advocate for that, but I wouldn’t have the authority to simply make it so.

Conscious of those limitations, I’m looking for opportunities to create win-win scenarios on my own, that don’t necessitate official actions from the city. A Lewisville Startup Accelerator with a focus on Community Oriented Technologies makes sense, because as Mayor, I’d be promoting the hell out of these startup seedlings. These Startups are going to inherit Lewisville Pride. I’m going to make the case to the citizens of Lewisville that this is a team effort. I need them to get behind these companies and root them on, just like we do for our LHS Fighting Farmers football team. The focus on community oriented technologies means that I’ll always be able to reach out to parts of the Lewisville community that will benefit from the technology, or find it useful and relevant. We’re going to rally behind, and nurture our Lewisville Startups. They’ll have an automatic user base, beta testers, feedback, and more.

BA
Interesting. Sometimes you’ll hear about a startup with “revolutionary technology” that’s supposed to be the next big thing, but for whatever reason, it never really catches on because they have difficulty getting the word out. Without being able to guarantee any official incentives from the city, you’d use the Mayor’s pulpit, or the Mayor’s bullhorn, if you will, to bring an almost immediate, active user base to these Startups.

WE
Exactly. I’d like to take it one step further. If I’m the Mayor of Lewisville, I’m going to work my tail off to make sure that Lewisville becomes the first city to have a Startup Accelerator with an integrated CrowdOffering Program.

BA
Sounds cool! But that term is new to me. Is that some conglomeration of crowdsourcing and private offering. What is a CrowdOffering Program?

WE
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it!? Yeah, I coined the term myself. Make sure you include the ™ symbol when this goes to print, will you?

BA
Not the ®?

WE
No, not yet. The ™ will do for now. CrowdFunding, popularized by companies like KickStarter.com, is where you can appeal to the public at large to help fund some type of initiative. People that contribute might get various perks, like limited edition T-Shirts, but these monetary transactions are considered donations. A private offering is a funding round where securities are sold to a small amount of investors, without an IPO. The JOBS Act, which has now been approved by Congress, and in the very near future, will be signed into law by the President, will allow businesses to raise capital in an entirely new way. A hybrid approach, whereby the contributions previously donated in the CrowdFunding process, can be considered as investments. A CrowdOffering. This is huge, and I want Lewisville to be at the forefront.

BA
In the past, the rigorous schedule of classes provided by Startup Accelerators would prepare the startup teams for an end of semester Pitch Day, where, in an effort to secure additional investments, they make their pitches to angel investors and venture capital firms…

WE
And that could continue. That’s a great experience. Remember, though, that we’re talking about this interactive, community experience, where citizens have been along for the ride with these startup teams, from the very beginning. I’d encourage the accelerator to take steps to make the process even more transparent and “community interactive”. When you invest in a company, there are never any guarantees, but as a community, we’ll know so much more about these startup teams, and their technology, and their potential, because we’ll be active participants in their progress. If people want to make an investment, we’ll be able to facilitate that. The accelerator will ensure that all the precautions and requirements, as outlined in the JOBS Act, are taken care of, creating a unique environment for smooth, simple, and educated investment opportunities. You can bet that there will be “snake oil startups” out there, trying to game the system. Providing a system for open and transparent CrowdOfferings will help establish Lewisville as a forward thinking Startup city.

BA
Do you anticipate startups that graduate from the accelerator program staying in Lewisville? Is that part of your goal?

WE
I’d love for them to, and I think we’ll have an atmosphere of perceptible creative energy at that point, and they’ll want to stay, and benefit from, and contribute to that. But that’s not an essential part of the plan. By attracting a new Startup Accelerator to Lewisville, the immediate benefit to the city is their presence in Old Town. On Day 1, you have a large group of innovators and big thinkers who now office in Old Town. Creative energy needs fuel. Lots of it. They’re walking down to Tierney’s to hash out an idea over coffee, they’re ordering a boatload of subs from Subway to take back for a working lunch. They’re meeting Lewisville residents, and Old Town business owners, and making small talk, and finding inspiration. They’re providing a constant and reliable foundation of activity, and life, and that creative energy I keep talking about, that is so desperately needed. Revitalization has to be strategic, and in my view, that’s a pretty powerful move.

Stay tuned. In part 2 of this interview series, Winston provides additional details about his initiatives, including his ideas on reaching out to the entire Startup Ecosystem, and how, after being inspired by Dr. Waddell, the new Lewisville ISD superintendent, he wants to partner with the forward thinking school district to introduce students, through a Lewisville Startup Accelerator, to the Startup experience.