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Goliath Embraces David: Winston-Salem Leaders Welcome Venture Cafe


There are Two Types of People in Winston-Salem

“There are two types of people in Winston-Salem,” Jon explains, “those who firmly hold that [the city’s] glory is in the past, and those who believe it is on the brink of greatness.”  So is Winston-Salem David, or Goliath?

A Revisionist View of the Story of David and Goliath

Bear with me as I examine first the story of David and Goliath.  The highlights of the story are well known:  Goliath was an undefeated, well-decorated, gigantic warrior from a well-established nation.  David had yet to be tested at all by battle.  He had no battle victories under his belt.  He was a young shepherd boy of small stature, unknown to the leader of even his own nation.

While it seems that David was the underdog, I have a revisionist bent (which is similar to, but distinct from Malcolm Gladwell’s medically-informed reinterpretation).  My interpretation is couched on the idea that institutionalization portends decadence.   David’s greatest asset was his fresh perspective.  David was used to being up against fierce foes with physical prowess greater than his--but those foes were animal predators preying on his flock of sheep.  His frame of reference was not restricted to traditional warfare. He took down Goliath innovatively.  David's stature and age were not handicaps--those characteristics enhanced his agility.

Goliath’s laurels spoke of a glorious and institutional past.  It is now abundantly clear from the story that 'undefeated' is, sometimes, a positive spin on 'inadequately tested.'  Goliath’s gigantism enabled his sloth--his ability to easily intimidate masked an ossified mindset.  His fatal flaw was the assumption that a one-on-one battle would be one at close range where he had the advantage of the force of his weight.  He did not anticipate the irrelevance of his bulk.  After all, it's his bulk that made him an easier target for David’s slung stone.

Winston-Salem--anything but dead on arrival

Truly a classic, the tale of David and Goliath transcends time and place and informs my view of Winston-Salem.  Let me tell you, when I first moved here and had very limited exposure to the people of this city.  I thought then that Winston-Salem was Goliath, DOA.  I viewed Winston-Salem as a once opulent town that got too comfortable with the same three pillars of industry; it did not pivot with the changing times, technology, and social conscience.  I hope I’ll always be the first to admit my own ignorance.  It is true that these issues have, in some respects, stunted the economic progress and promise of Winston-Salem, but the tail ends of an era always take time to wrap up.  In that time, Winston-Salem did some serious introspection as it positioned itself to be a center of art and innovation at an opportune time.  Prescient Winston-Salem leaders carefully noted the evolution and setbacks of comparable cities.

The Plan: David Stands on Goliath's Shoulders

Mayor Allen Joines makes it no secret that he wants for Winston-Salem to be a top 50 metro area by 2020.  The leaders of this city are taking a two punch approach--yes, attract big names here, sure--that’s a necessary part of the short and long game.  Just as important, if not more, is growing Winston’s own unique brand with home-grown entrepreneurship.  Today, the Winston-Salem Journal and the Triad Business Journal formally announced that the non-profit Venture Cafe will be expanding into Winston-Salem, to help spur home-grown entrepreneurial activity alongside other organizations committed to this cause.  The Winston-Salem Alliance is a group of enlightened Goliaths who know that sustained greatness requires partnering with Davids.  It’s a group that is dedicated to having David-like foresight and agility.  The Alliance's very inception was the collective realization that it’s the Davids that attract top talent around the globe.  After all, all those cool cities that attract and keep visionaries have the "Keep <<insert city name here>> weird" movement, where the term weird is a fun and funky version of "distinct."

So is Winston-Salem David or Goliath?  Erdős works to make it the best of both.  After all, an epic requires David AND Goliath.

(By the way, Winston-Salem has an actual David who is a beacon of the entrepreneurial community and a serial inventor.  The lastest invention is the patented Battery Vampire.  In news related to strategic entrepreneurial positioning, David brokered the partnership between Flywheel Coworking and the Center for Design Innovation.)

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