The Entrepreneurship Forum recently published a report on the Ireland startup community. By focusing on improving their culture of mentorship and how community members interact with each other, they are investing in the long-term growth and sustainability of their startup ecosystem.
Big kudos to their use of “give before you get” – a core theme in Brad Feld’s Startup Communities – on page 5 of the SlideShare below.
This is a guest post by Skip Howard. Skip is the founder of Computer Vision–Dallas and Spacee, the next generation of interactive digital signage using computer vision, natural user interface and virtual touch screens. Follow Skip at @sphoward.
I was a lone-coder. In most of 2012, I was building a computer vision application, turning 2D surfaces into virtual touch screens in a way that hadn’t been done before. But I ran into a problem. I couldn’t get my computer vision engine running. I wasn’t sure if I had a math problem, a software problem or a combination of both. For almost the whole year, I worked on this problem alone, believing that there were no other resources in Dallas to turn to. At least, that was the perception. So I did what most solitary programmers do, and I took a break. I was sure that I was the only one that understood my problem and had the capacity to solve it. About a week into my break, I registered to attend a speech by Brad Feld. He came to Dallas in the fall of 2013 to speak about building startup communities. I have had one of Brad’s books and came alone just to check out his speech, not knowing what he was going to cover. Needless to say, after the talk was over, my mind was blown. My major take-aways were:
- If you have a problem finding resources for a specific topic or industry, then start a meetup. It’s ok if it starts with a handful of people. Start it anyway. It will grow.
- Be inclusive in your meetup. Make everyone welcome, no matter what the skill level. Be inviting.
- Give to people around you if you want to get from people around you.
I realized that my core problem wasn’t just my software, but that we didn’t have a community around computer vision. I talked this idea over with a friend, Jennifer Conley from The Dallas Entrepreneur Center (the DEC) and she encouraged me to start a meetup. The DEC is a co-working space in Dallas, TX and Jennifer is a co-founder. She immediately donated space for the group to meet. So, in January 2014, I started Computer Vision – Dallas and had about 18 people sign up and join. We have a growth rate or 20 members Month over Month, with a very high attendance rate. Thanks to the members of this meetup, I was pointed in the right direction to solve my problem. Now I have a working engine. But it doesn’t stop there. In June of 2014, Microsoft saw our success and offered to sponsor a Kinect hack-a-thon. We are calling it Computer Visionaries (www.computervisionaries.org). They are flying their entire Kinect for Windows engineering team to work with Dallas developers hand-in-hand. Microsoft is paying for all food, prizes, and giveaways. Dallas is one of four cities in North America chosen to host an event like this in 2014 and the only city south of New York City chosen in the United States. With future support pledged from Microsoft, we plan on converting this hack-a-thon into an annual conference centered on Computer Vision, which in turn will transform the developer landscape in Dallas.
Thanks to a speech and a book by Brad Feld, today I lead a cutting edge meetup, host Computer Visionaries sponsored by Microsoft, have a patent pending prototyped software finished, and am part of the story to bring bleeding edge technology to the Dallas development community.
One book, Startup Communities by Brad Feld, has been having a deep impact in Cleveland, OH.
As this piece in Crain’s Cleveland Business details, Feld’s work has been the inspiration for new meetups around town, new forums for discussion, and a new mindset towards development the startup ecosystem. By focusing on Feld’s “Boulder Thesis,” the community builders knew to give entrepreneurs the space to lead the ecosystem.
Read the full piece here: http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20140622/SUB1/306229984/book-leads-to-a-surge-in-startup-networks
Presented at the UP Global Summit that happened last weekend, a new paper from Kauffman Fellow Suren Dutia makes a convincing argument for the need for a board of directors early in a company’s life cycle.
A board of directors and the need for corporate governance is an often over looked aspect in early stage companies. However, having a board of directors can lend experience to the company as well as a built-in mechanism for mentorship. Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani address this in detail in their new book, Startup Boards.
This paper from Dutia gives a good overview of the issues surrounding an early stage board of directors including why a board is needed and how board members are compensated.
You can find the full paper here.
The PR Tech Summit just finished up and there were some great conversations about how to build startup communities and stories from startup community from around the world.
One standout presentation was from Nick Such. He talked through his experience of building a startup community in a “one horse town”, otherwise known as Lexington, Kentucky.
The presentation touches upon Brad Feld’s Boulder Thesis from Startup Communities.
You can find the deck used for the presentation here. A big shoutout to Nick Such and the community from Lexington, KY.
Brad Feld, a Managing Director at Foundry Group and Co-founder of Techstars, speaks prolifically about Boulder, the Boulder community, and how Boulder has come to be an international renown startup community.
What many do not know is that Boulder has sister startup communities in Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs – the four innovation hubs of Colorado.
In this interview with ID8, Brad talks about the entrepreneurial growth that Denver has been experiencing in the last few years. Among the topics covered are Boulder’s relationship with Denver as well as what Denver needs to do to take their startup community to the next level.
In early February, Seth Levine, Managing Director at Foundry Group, talked through the Boulder Thesis with a group in Minneapolis. The segment includes an interview with CEO Clay Collins and his perspective on startup communities.
Find a write-up and some video on the event here: http://tech.mn/news/2014/02/09/video-seth-levine-on-startup-communities/
In a piece on Marketplace Tech, Brad Feld articulates that startups do not need to be in Silicon Valley to be successful. Two examples: Boulder, CO and Provo, Utah have vibrant startup communities that allow for innovation in the early stage as well as significant exit activity.
Listen or read the full article here.
This is a guest post by Jeff Keen, the CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. The post originally appeared on Accelerate Okanagan’s website.
To continue the conversation regarding Startup Communities – Lessons Learned, I would like to discuss the 2nd of Brad Feld’s four pillars, the requirement to have a long-term commitment to build a successful startup community. Feld states that from any given point in time, it takes a 20 year commitment to build a successful startup community. This is not a static plan that gets created once and rarely revisited, but a rolling 20 year commitment that continually evolves with the growth of the community. For example, if you are 12 years in, you’ve got another 20 years to go. In the case of Boulder Colorado, which is constantly recognized as one of the most successful startup communities in the world, they have been at it for 14 years. And if you ask anyone in Boulder, they are just getting started.
So, how can you get started creating long-term commitment for your startup community? This is a very good and challenging question. First, I would recommend referring back the first pillar that states the community must be led by entrepreneurs. I would also add that not only must it be led by entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurs that have a long-term vision and commitment to building, supporting and staying in the community. I believe that without this grassroots level of support, it is too easy for the vision and priorities to change based on the personal interests of the individuals involved; momentum will be slowed and energy will be lost.
Over the years, there have been many people that have expressed interest in being part of building a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in our community. There were several roundtable discussions, focus groups, brain storming sessions etc. Unfortunately, nothing practical and/or tactical (i.e., actionable) resulted from all of the effort. Meetings were organized, well attended and ended with enthusiasm…. but…. nothing happened! One of the problems was the meetings were being led by people that had many other priorities and very little time (dare I say personal interest) to define and act on meeting outcomes. What a waste of time… for everyone!
So, about a year ago a group of us reconnected with some of the people that attended those meetings. We then connected with entrepreneurial leaders in the community and invited everyone to…. you got it…. another roundtable meeting with the promise that this time it would be different. Invitations went out to 24 community members ranging from entrepreneurs, members from all levels of government, heads of academia, to service providers and mentors.
The meeting began with a commitment from everyone around the table that we were attending the meeting because we felt it was important from a community member’s perspective and not as a member of the organizations we represented. People were not attending to get re-elected or further their individual careers, but because they felt it was a priority for the community we all lived in and plan to live in for a long time. This acknowledgement set the tone for the rest of the meeting and provided the lens necessary to have truly meaningful discussion. We also stated that it was okay for people to raise their hand and say that they did not have time to be involved and remove themselves from the process, but it was not okay to commit and then not be engaged in the process going forward. We lost a few people after the first meeting which was awesome. We respected their decision and moved forward with a core group of 16 volunteers committed to working together and getting “stuff” done.
This group had two subsequent, very productive, meetings that resulted in the creation of our startup community purpose statement, a 20 year BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) and practical, tactical goals and objectives the group could rally around and begin work on immediately; this was a very important outcome because it provided an opportunity for some quick wins that were visible in the community which deepened the engagement with group members.
Themes were developed and working groups were formed around three key initiatives, 1. “Place” – hubs, or access points where entrepreneurs can get access to the services and support they need to start companies, 2. “People” – talent attraction and retention strategy to not only attract more talent to the region but to create opportunities that will retain local university and college students upon graduation and 3. “Marketing” – creating a brand and awareness that our community welcomes and supports entrepreneurs and is a great place to start and grow a company.
These working groups continue to meet on a regular basis and progress is being made on all three initiatives. One of the keys to this early success is that the three working groups are being led by entrepreneurs (leaders) and supported by other group members (feeders)…. sound familiar?
It is very early days and it is not clear what the long-term effects of our efforts are going to be… only time will tell. But, we are enthusiastic about the direction we are headed in. Due in large part to the efforts of this group of volunteers, we are currently experiencing an unprecedented the level of momentum and engagement across the entire community.
We will report back on future developments (hopefully success stories!) as our community continues to grow and will continue to share lessons learned along the way.
Jeff has 25 years of experience in the technology industry, having held executive level management and leadership roles in technology organizations in both the public and private sector. Prior to joining Accelerate Okanagan, Jeff’s roles included technology entrepreneur, founder, and executive in both early-stage and high-growth technology companies. Jeff is an Honors graduate from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and is currently leading the amazing team at Accelerate Okanagan (www.accelerateokanagan.com).
A great summary and review of Startup Books is currently up on Tech Cocktail: A Book in 5 Minutes: “Startup Boards” by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani.
Get the overview of the book from Tech Cocktail then get the full read here: http://startuprev.com/boardbook