Tag: startup communities
As an author, it’s always incredibly exciting to get the actual finished version of a book I’ve written. While I still haven’t seen a physical version of Startup Communities (it’s still in pre-order), the Kindle version is now shipping.
If you don’t want to wait any longer for it, you can grab a copy on the Kindle right now. And, if you’ve pre-ordered it on the Kindle, it should be pushed to your Kindle by now (if it’s not, tell me and I’ll nudge someone.)
My newest book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, will ship around the end of the month. As a result, I’m activating Operation Pre-order today.
Between now and Sunday, if you pre-order a copy of Startup Communities, you will be entered into a random drawing. I’m going to pick two random winners – one for hardcopy book orders from Amazon and one for hardcopy book orders from BarnesandNoble.com.
All you have to do to be entered is email me the electronic receipt by 11:59pm EDT on Sunday night. I will announce the winners on Monday morning.
The winners will get a lunch meeting with me at their company sometime in 2013. I’ll spend 90 minutes with you and anyone on your team discussing whatever you want.
If you play, make sure you also Like the book (if you order on Amazon), tweet out or Facebook the purchase, or do whatever other social media thing lights your fire.
I heard the word “connector” several times yesterday at the Colorado Innovation Network summit. I gave the final speech of the day after being in Chicago in the morning to give the keynote speech at the Excelerate Labs Demo Day which was an awesome group where I discovered one company I’m very interested in potentially investing in.
In both cities (Chicago and Denver) I gave a talk about Startup Communities using the Boulder Thesis as a framework. The Chicago talk was short and tight (about 15 minutes) to warm up the event. The Denver talk ended up going almost an hour and having a lot of Q&A. Both were simulating (at least to me – hopefully to the crowd) and the entrepreneurial energy in both rooms was significant.
While I missed most of the COIN summit because I was traveling back from Chicago, I caught a few of the last talks before mine. I also talked to a bunch of people and kept hearing the word “connector” come up – it must have been one of the words of the day. This was used to define a role for many of the constituents in the COIN summit which included entrepreneurs, government, university, and big company folks.
My good friend Phil Weiser, Dean of the CU Law School, introduced me to the word “convener” several years ago. CU Law, and specifically the Silicon Flatirons program that Phil created a decade ago, plays a huge convening role for the Boulder startup community. As a result, it sits in the center of a lot of activity. It’s not a connector – it’s a convener.
Government and universities, in my view around startup communities, are feeders, not leaders. Feeders are important, but they are different – and play a different role than leaders. For a startup community to be vibrant and sustainable the leaders have to be entrepreneurs. This is the first tenet of the Boulder Thesis.
A convener has much more leverage than a connector. A connector implies a lot of work and a lot of control. There’s also a hierarchical dynamic – connectors are choosing who to connect; as a result they become gatekeepers which is not the right role for a feeder. I believe most gatekeepers inhibit the growth and development of a startup community so any role that looks gatekeeper-ish is often an inhibitor to progress.
Conveners quickly develop a reputation for being inclusive and accessible. This is another tenet of the Boulder Thesis – everyone in the startup community must be inclusive to anyone who wants to engage.
I was going back and forth with a founder of a startup in Chicago this morning by email who is now eight years old (not really a startup anymore) and just rented a 60,000 foot office and is looking to help the startup community more now that it’s gotten to a meaningful size. I suggested that, among other things, they play a convener role.
Basically, all feeders to a startup community can play a convener role. It’s more powerful than simply being a connector.
In another example of entrepreneurs just doing it and not waiting for anyone to give them permission, a couple of Denver entrepreneurs created the Denver Startup Map. My friends at FullContact blogged about it this morning and explained how it works. It’s simple – if you are a startup – just go to the map and put your information on the shared Google map. 60 seconds – done.
While you are at it, I encourage you to go enter your startups information into CrunchBase. I’ve been working on a mapping project with Ross Carlson (our IT guy) and Ian Kuliasha (Silicon Flatirons) that we plan to roll out shortly. It’s based on CrunchBase data and the open source Represent-map project that was the basis for Represent.LA map of the LA startup ecosystem that Alex Benzer of SocialEngine created.
We’ve got a nice twist on this that leverages CrunchBase data, will be applicable to any geography, and will be open sourced so get ahead of us and get your data in. We’ll be rolling it out as part of Startup Revolution.
And – while you are at it, if you are a Denver startup, get on the map.
I’m still buzzing from yesterday. The entire day was dedicated to TechStars Demo Day in Boulder. It started with a run on the Boulder Creek Path, followed by Demo Day, lunch with Paul Berberian, Mark Solon, and Pam Solon, a handful of TechStars meetings in the afternoon including one with the guys from J-Squared Media (members of the very first TechStars program), a hangout with Jerry Colonna at his new house in Boulder, dinner with Jerry, Mark, Pam, David and Jill Cohen, Nicole Galaros, and Jason Seats, and then the TechStars Demo Day afterparty.
When I got home at 11:30 I was done. Deeply happy, but wiped out. I woke up late this morning (7am) and wandered into my kitchen to see Mark Solon on his laptop preparing for a run (Mark and Pam stayed at my condo in Boulder this week). We talked for a few minutes and the deep pleasure we were both feeling about being alive and part of the Boulder startup community was apparent.
He then said something that I noticed last night but hadn’t thought much of. At about 10pm the Boulder Cruisers, on their weekly Thursday ride, went by Shine where we were having the afterparty. There was the usual cheering, hooting and hollering, and just generally good karma at 10pm on a warm summer night. This morning, Mark pointed it out as a magical moment. The mix of two totally different communities of people – a huge crowd of entrepreneurs, nerds, and techies in Shine crossed with an equally cruising bike crowd on the street. And the only feelings that were flowing were happy ones where everyone was glad to be there.
Mark then said “That’s the magic of Boulder and TechStars. Everyone is part of the community. Everyone feels like part of the community. Every single person at TechStars Demo Day was part of it – whether they were mentors, investors, lawyers, or the hundreds of people from the broader Boulder tech community who attended.”
The third of the four key principles of the Boulder Thesis at the core of my Startup Communities book is “The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.” We saw that on display in many different ways yesterday. Listening to Mark play it back to me reinforced once again how powerful it is.
In my upcoming book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, Mark Solon (Highway 12 Ventures) tells the story of a “startup wake” in a section where he gives an outsiders view of the Boulder startup community.
“I’ll never forget one of my early visits to Boulder. After a full day of meeting with startups, I was asked by the entrepreneurs I was with if I’d like to join them and some peers for a “special dinner.” “Sure,” I replied. “What’s special about it?” “It’s a wake” they deadpanned. That dinner showed me that the fabric of this small mountain town was different than anywhere else I’d been. Turns out that earlier that week, a local startup had decided to shut down and the “wake” was the startup community’s way of showing these young, fragile entrepreneurs that it was okay to fail – that the honor was in trying. They made those founders feel good about themselves in a moment that was critical in their development as entrepreneurs. As an aside, in this case the founders didn’t run out of money. After giving it their best effort, they realized their business wasn’t going to be the great success they had envisioned and they decided to return their remaining cash to their investors. The epilogue of that dinner is that the founders had roles at other local startups within a few weeks.”
I was thinking about this last night as I was emailing with an entrepreneur who’s company is struggling. Failure is a normal part of the entrepreneurial cycle and it’s talked about regularly. There are endless stories about the entrepreneur who failed and then created a monster success for his next company. But there’s not enough discussion about how startup communities should embrace failure.
I think this is especially important for first time entrepreneurs in a community. It’s easy to prognosticate about failure when you’ve been successful; it’s much harder to go through it. It’s even more painful when it’s your first time and everyone around you seems like they are doing great, even if they aren’t really but are just putting on a good act. So a natural instinct for an entrepreneur on a failing path is to turn inward, shut down, and withdraw.
If your peers in the startup community (the other entrepreneurs) don’t notice, it’s even worse. Failure sucks – it’s often emotional, physically, and financially painful. When your friends suddenly ignore you, avoid you, or don’t have time for you it just reinforces the pain.
Having a wake for a failed company can turn this around. If you are an entrepreneur and observe an entrepreneur in your community failing, do something about it. Organize a group of entrepreneurs to have a wake. Surprise the entrepreneur who is shutting down his company and take him out. It doesn’t have to be a debaucherous, alcohol laden evening (although it can be) – rather do something that you know the entrepreneur in question will enjoy and appreciate. A nice meal. A quiet conversation. A show of support from his peers. Encouragement. Acceptance that failure is part of the entrepreneurial process.
If you are an entrepreneur in a company that is failing, don’t be ashamed. Most startups fail. What matters is how you handle it and what happens next. Let your fellow entrepreneurs throw a wake for you, let the moment happen, and then get on with the next thing. Life is hopefully long. And, for all the entrepreneurs who are leaders of their startup community, make sure you do everything you can to make sure everyone knows failure is ok.
On Friday 7/6 I spent the evening in Missoula with a bunch of entrepreneurs. Amy and I were in Missoula for the marathon on Sunday and I decided to do a Meetup talk about Startup Communities. Normally we are pretty anonymous when we show up in a town for a marathon weekend, but I thought I’d try something new this time. Rob Irizarry and the Montana Programmers Meetup made everything happen – all I had to do was show up and talk.
The Meetup was excellent and there’s a great write up on the Start Bozeman blog titled Brad Feld on Building Startup Communities. But before the event, I had dinner with Rob, Ryan Stout, Jake Cook, and Elke Govertsen, the CEO of Mamalode at the Iza Asian Restaurant.
I was totally, completely blown away by Elke and what she and her gang have created at Mamalode. It’s a great example of bootstrapping a startup in a town off the beaten path, just going for it, and building a real company. Elke and Rob are exactly the kind of people I mean when I talk about the need for entrepreneurs to be the leaders of the startup communities.
Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer recently dubbed Mamalode The Best Parenting Magazine in America. I’ll add another accolade – best talent for a bunch of entrepreneurs making a video response to Foundry Group’s I’m A VC. In this case, it’s the Mamalode gang doing AC/VC. The picture above is me watching it for the first time over dinner.
Our entire weekend in Missoula was great and when I think back to it, the evening on Friday has inspired me to do Startup Community stuff on the Friday’s prior to marathons going forward. I’ve got three coming up in October – St. George (UT), Burlington (VT), and Detroit. If you are an entrepreneur in any of those cities and want to put something together with me, just drop me an email. And Elke, Rob, and the rest of the Missoula entrepreneurs that I met – thanks!
Yesterday at 4:57pm I hit send in Gmail and submitted the final draft of my newest book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneur Ecosystem In Your City to my publisher (Wiley). I’ve still got two more revision cycles – one in a few weeks when I get the final copyedited version and then one last review of the page proofs but the book is done. The publication date is early October but if history is a guide it should be out by mid-September.
Startup Communities is the first book in a four book series I’m doing called Startup Revolution. I’m spending most of this summer in maker mode at my house in Keystone and doing all my normal work, but I’m not travelling at all and trying to spend as little time as possible doing random stuff. June was just awesome – I feel rested, happier, and more productive than I’ve felt in a very long time.
My deadline was the end of day on July 5th. Specifically 11:59pm on July 5th. It felt phenomenal to get done a day early. I went for a short bike ride (I have a marathon this weekend in Montana so I’m tapering), had some dinner, grabbed some ice cream and popcorn, and watched the first six episodes of Damages with Amy. Four hours later my brain was calmed down from a 40+ hour focused push to get the book out.
Today feels like a total bonus day. I’m heading out for lunch with Amy, grabbing some salt tablets for my marathon, working on random stuff this afternoon, running an hour to dinner and then eating with two good friends (and Amy). We get up early tomorrow and head to Montana.
Life is good.
This week I’ll be kicking off the second day of Big Boulder with a talk about how the Boulder startup community has come to be what it is today. Big Boulder is a conference on social data held by our portfolio company Gnip.
Last year Chris Moody wrote a blog post about how companies should pursue thought leadership. To me, Big Boulder is the embodiment of this. Gnip believes that social data will change the world. To that end, they’ve brought together some of the biggest players from social media publishers including Facebook, Twitter, Klout, LinkedIn, StockTwits, Disqus, Tumblr and WordPress. They’ve put together a killer agenda talking about the many uses of social data and how publishers are thinking about it and what is enabling people to do.
Part of Boulder’s ability to grow as a startup community is our ability to bring high-level events to Boulder. To that end, Foundry Group has worked hard to bring and keep Defrag and Glue in Boulder. We’re excited to have Big Boulder as another high-profile event attracting people to our city. This affords more people to see everything Boulder has to offer a startup community and for our community to interact with attendees. I know that some Big Boulder speakers like Daniel Ha of Disqus are also sticking around to speak to the TechStars teams.
If you’ll be at the conference, please come and say hi.
Brad Burnham (Union Square Ventures) and I were in Iceland a few weeks ago for the Startup Iceland event. Bala Kamallakharan organized the event and moderated the discussion (and was an amazing host.) We talk about the Boulder and New York startup communities, why we were hanging out Iceland, what we thought about Iceland as a startup community, how to “organize the future” (since the future doesn’t have a political lobby), innovators vs. incumbents, leaders and feeders, and what to do if you want to create a lasting long-term startup community, As a bonus, around minute 17, you can find out how to get me to come to a conference in your city.
Amy and I had an awesome week in Iceland and have decided to go back again next year.