Sam Altman was a guest on Conversations with Tyler (Cowen) recently and they discussed Sam's home town, St Louis:
COWEN: You grew up in St. Louis, right?
COWEN: I asked Larry Summers this exact same question: If you had, say, $200 million to distribute, you could do with it whatever you wanted to help St. Louis — just St. Louis, not the world — what would you do to help St. Louis?
ALTMAN: This is very specific to St. Louis, but I think it may be true of other cities in the Midwest that were once growing and prosperous and now are less so. I’m such a believer that momentum is, at all levels of organization — an individual’s life, a company, a city, a country — is so important, even though cities seem eternal and indestructible in a way that not many things — maybe religions also are.
St. Louis has lost momentum, and there has been the talent drain that you would expect from that. So I would spend all of the money trying to get a few really interesting, high-growth startups that I was confident in to go move to the city of St. Louis and build enough of an ecosystem around them to make them successful and let that regenerate the talent pool in much of the city.
COWEN: What exactly is the check written for? There’s a bonus for companies?
ALTMAN: The thing that people normally do, which is predictably awful, is cities will open these coworking spaces and say, “Hey, startups, we’ve got this really cool coworking space. There’s free espresso and colorful couches. Come.” You get the people you deserve when you do that. I’m very anti-coworking spaces, but I’ll save that rant for another time.
No, literally what I would do is make a venture capital fund, get really good GPs to do the advice, and fund the companies to come be in St. Louis.
COWEN: You would give them special treatment? Or you would make them jump through all the same hoops as in any other context?
ALTMAN: I’d give them a higher valuation or something, but no, I would like to make them be really great companies. I would just invest in them on the condition they move to St. Louis. We talked earlier about the importance of a network effect. Rather than do this for one or two companies at a time, I would do it for enough at once, get them all in one part of the city to form something like what Y Combinator has done here.
The USVI currently have some momentum from the hurricane recovery activities, the election of Albert Bryan, and the re-launch of the UVI RT Park. How do we keep this momentum going? and how do we build specific momentum around technology in the USVI?
cover photo source via flicker user moominsean used under creative commons license