Harnessing Your Social Capital with Jacob Evan Smith

Tash Moore: How would you define social capital?

Jacob Evan Smith: When I think of social capital, I think of earned trust and influence between people and communities. One can build up social capital by adding net-positive value to others and the community at large, and then can “exchange” that capital in the future by asking for reciprocal support.

TM: How do you leverage your capital to best serve Detroit?

JES: Give first! Enter into spaces and interactions thinking about what you can give, not what you can get. Frame everything in terms of how you can add value, whether or not you will ever get something concrete in return. This is how you build trust and influence, which hold inherent future value in the form of social capital.

TM: How do you see Detroit’s entrepreneurial scene evolving over the next few years?

JES: Detroit’s entrepreneurial scene will continue to grow and organize at an increasing rate. When I say “scene,” I’m referring to the number of entrepreneurs, startups, and related employees; the amount of capital that’s accessible; and the programmatic support available (like accelerators, mentors, etc).

This scene has come a long way since I moved to Detroit in 2012, but there’s still major work to be done. For example, there’s a big skills gap, particularly in software and tech, between available jobs and people with the right skills for those jobs. This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited to be in my current role with Altimetrik, launching a hangout and collaboration hub for the Detroit software community, located downtown at 1500 Woodward. We also need more major success stories (shout-out to Duo Security!) and mentors with proven track records (I see you, Assembler Labs!) who can inspire entrepreneurs to think big and reduce avoidable mistakes. All in all, I can’t wait to see what’s next!

TM: What drew you to entrepreneurship?

JES: For me, entrepreneurship has always been about leveraging the power of business to drive positive social change. I’m also the type of person that when I stumble across a problem, I enjoy thinking of solutions, particularly when I see challenges that are being avoided. For example, a lot of my friends left Michigan after the 2008 financial crisis because there weren’t a lot of jobs, but my thought instead was that if there aren’t enough jobs, we should create some jobs! So a friend and I found a juicy problem — helping local homeowners save money while reducing energy waste — and launched a business.

TM: What does your perfect workday look like?

JES: A perfect workday is when I’m out and about interacting with people. I love meeting people, collaborating, and seeking out mutually beneficial partnerships.

TM: What is your favorite memory from [Detroit] Startup Weeks past?

JES: I have a very fond memory of being at one of the big social events last year, looking around at a sea of smiling, familiar faces, and thinking “Wow, we’re really building an amazing startup community!”

Jacob Evan Smith is an entrepreneur, community builder, and and community organizer. He is a lifelong Michigander who grew up in West Bloomfield, graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and has lived in Detroit since 2012.

More info about Jacob can be found here.

In celebration of Detroit Startup Week, a 5 day conference for Detroit’s entrepreneurs, we’re speaking with leading creators and founders in our community. Meet local leaders in person at the conference June 17th-21st, 2019. RSVP here: http://detroitstartupweek.com/

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