Idaho Technology

Von Hansen: Research evaluates Treasure Valley’s tech ecosystem

VON HANSEN, vice-chair of the Idaho Technology Council, former vice-president and general manager at Hewlett-PackardDecember 10, 2013 

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Von Hansen

Feedback is a critical element of high technology, whether in research and development, beta testing of products, or a sales dialogue with a prospective customer.

Members of the Idaho Technology Council have focused their efforts to become the statewide voice for technology. We offer feedback to elected officials and other leaders about what the state’s high-tech ecosystem needs to thrive. We contribute to collaborations among Idaho technology professionals to make Idaho’s products and services smarter and better. We work to increase the number of high-paying technology jobs in Idaho.

Now, members have come together with Idaho business colleagues to offer fresh feedback that creates a deeper understanding of their own companies and the Idaho high-technology ecosystem in a new Treasure Valleywide research project.

Idaho’s best baseline information about the state of this ecosystem came in a 2007 research program that traced the lineage of Idaho tech companies — a body of work by Dr. Heike Mayer of Virginia Tech University.

This new 2013 collaborative survey, carried out by graduate student Michael Cousins of Northwest Nazarene University, yielded a high response rate which enables statistical analysis.

Findings from this study indicate that the respondents value the Treasure Valley’s quality of life and the entrepreneurial energy that has helped launch high-tech startups into significant job creators. These factors have contributed to the area’s frequent mention among “best” places — including Forbes magazine’s ranking of Boise as No. 40 in its 200 Best Places for Business and Careers in 2013.

However, the results of this study also show that there are definite areas for improvement to enable the Valley to boost its status as a high-tech region and drive the tech economy. Respondents say Idaho needs to continue to make a priority of technology research, tech leaders need to be champions for education quality, and we all need to celebrate Idaho’s success stories, because even competitors benefit when one of our own wins in the marketplace.

The survey demonstrates that Idaho tech companies are self-starters. Most Idaho tech enterprises were founded by a single entrepreneur working without the guidance of a parent company or the capital of outside investors.

The environment has some inhibiting factors: a shortage of tech and leadership skills in the region’s labor force, limited direct flights to and from “cities of industry,” and low awareness outside the region of the area’s strength in technology.

Rather than mimicking success stories in Silicon Valley, business owners should capitalize on the Treasure Valley’s unique characteristics. Entrepreneurs and support networks also need to focus energy on publishing and letting the public know about the high quality of life in Idaho and our unique success stories that can energize more talent, business, capital, ideas and growth.

This research provides a baseline for the Idaho Technology Council to continue to help members start, grow and thrive. It can provide a map that organizations can follow to help propel technology in Idaho. And it can assist other Idaho technology organizations as they work to advance ideas and products in a hotly competitive global marketplace.

The study was made possible through the collaboration of the Idaho Technology Council, Boise Angel Alliance, Boise State University Research and Economic Development, Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Boise Valley Economic Partnership, Idaho Department of Commerce, Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho TechConnect, Kickstand, Idaho Small Business Development Center, Startup Boise and TECenter.

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Hansen.von@gmail.com, 949-6727

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