Best Practices

Startup Communities: What It Takes to Make it Happen

Published Oct 17, 2012 by Kate Hodel

I just read Brad Feld’s new book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. It’s a quick read and has some really good points for entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them.

What I took away is that you should go about building a startup community in sort of the same way you build a startup company: it’s a bit organic, you try a lot of things to see what works, it’s not a very structured or “plan-heavy” undertaking.

The Boulder Thesis

Feld bases his suggestions for building entrepreneurial l communities on his experiences in Boulder, Colo. , where he has been an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, mentor, event organizer, etc. His four key components are: 

  • The effort must be led by entrepreneurs
  • Those leading have to take a long-term view
  • The startup community must be inclusive
  • Activities should engage the full range of entrepreneurs and a full range of activities

As a non-entrepreneur who is hoping to help strengthen my startup community, I started to take offense that my organization couldn’t be a leader. Then Feld goes into detail about the role for entrepreneurial support groups, and how critical it is to have organizations that champion entrepreneurship and provide the connectivity to each other and to resources that entrepreneurs need. He finally convinced me that entrepreneurs in the startup community are best positioned to know what kinds of activities will mean the most to them, and they are more likely to support something they help create.

How networks help

That said, I think there’s room in Feld’s equation for initiatives such at U.S.SourceLink. Someone has to be the touchstone for what’s going on. And while it’s great to have a lot of activities, having a central place to find information is helpful. I believe the U.S.SourceLink model of networking, convening and serving as a clearinghouse can be a vital component of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

I worked a bit with Brad back when I was with the Kauffman Foundation. He always had strongly held opinions which I found interesting, intelligent and provocative. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts about Brad’s approach to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem.