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Aussie entrepreneur Leeaps into US start-up documentary

Friday, 14 December 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Australian entrepreneur Simon Walker has made a documentary called the Leaap Project, which saw him visit 10 US cities in 20 days to gain insight into America’s complex start-up scene.


Walker used to run Taylor Ventures, which he launched alongside Damon Garrett. Taylor Ventures describes itself as “a radar for the events taking place around you”.


Earlier this year, Walker decided to explore 10 of America’s largest start-up cities in 20 days, filming all his experiences for a start-up documentary dubbed the Leeap Project.


Travelling alone, Walker stayed at a local entrepreneur’s house in each city while he attempted to uncover the DNA of each start-up community.


He visited Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Boulder, Austin, Chicago, Washington, New York and Boston.


Filming for the Leeap Project wrapped up recently, and is now in the process of being edited for final production,


“There has never been any intention to make a single cent from this project. This is a project by an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs,” he says.


“During my time in America, the project was featured in Forbes and has received tremendous support from both the US and here in Australia.”


Walker was lucky enough to meet with internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, former MySpace chief Mike Jones, and South by Southwest director Hugh Forrest.


He even participated in a round table discussion at Harvard University.


Here are his views on three of the lesser known US start-up cities:


1. San Diego



San Diego’s start-up scene is still in its infancy, although it’s been growing steadily over the last decade or so.


The early start-up community in the area is largely centralised around its major incubator program called EvoNexus, run by Rory Moore.


It’s interesting to note that the incubator program is also America’s only 100%-free incubator program – that is, there is no financial capital given/equity lost.


2. Seattle



The Seattle technology scene is a relatively established one, predominantly due to the longstanding tradition and existence of Amazon and Microsoft.


The two conglomerates have been pulling in technology talent from around the world for decades. However, unlike the mentality of Silicon Valley, most people here have stayed and made a long career at these two tech giants.


However, in the last couple of years with the emergence of TechStars, Microsoft’s new Bing fund… and co-working offices like Surf Incubator and TheHUB, the local start-up community is leveling up to be one of the largest in America, and the world.


3. Washington DC



A common misconception about Washington DC is that it doesn’t have a start-up community at all, or that it’s just full of government contractors.


Most start-ups in DC seemed very much to be focused on business-to-business, rather than more consumer-facing products.


This is largely a result of the impact that government seems to play in the local start-up ecosystem as traditionally most businesses/startups in DC have been manufactured as a government acquisition opportunity and as such don’t have the global outlook that many have in places like NYC or San Francisco.


This is now beginning to change, with the new incubators opening up and local start-ups like CoFoundersLab and Social Tables having a much more global application.