Seth Levine on the Boulder Thesis



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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/


Can Startups Succeed Outside Silicon Valley? – Marketplace Tech



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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.

 Can Startups Succeed Outside Silicon Valley?   Marketplace Tech

Startup Communities – More Lessons Learned



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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.

GotStartupShirt 300x200 Startup Communities   More Lessons LearnedHere are some lessons we are learning in our community. I hope they are helpful and provide insight into building and sustaining long-term commitment in your startup community.

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.

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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).

 

 

 Startup Communities   More Lessons Learned

A Book in 5 Minutes – Startup Boards Book Review



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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


#startupboards Tweet Chat with Brad Feld, Mahendra Ramsinghani, and Mark Rogers



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Check your Twitter feeds on 1/7 at 1:00pm MT for a Tweet Chat between Brad Feld, Mahendra Ramsinghani, and Mark Rogers.

This online event is hosted by Board Prospects.

If you are on a board, or if you are in the process of starting a board, this is a great opportunity to ask the authors of Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors questions. To do so, tweet the question with #startupboards included in the message.


Startup Boards by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani – Book Review



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This is a guest post by Tim Huntley, EIR at The Startup Factory and the former CEO of Ganymede Software.

Startup Boards Startup Boards by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani   Book ReviewLast month, I received an advance copy of Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani’s book, Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors.  The tl;dr review is:  If you are an early stage entrepreneur, Startup Boards takes the mystery out of how and why you should build a world class board of directors.   The advice in the book is practical and actionable and is based on Brad’s and Mahendra’s experience on dozens, if not hundreds, of boards.

As I have gotten more active in mentoring and investing, I have been surprised by how few entrepreneurs appreciate the value of an outside board of directors.  When my friends and I left IBM in 1995 to start Ganymede Software, we actively recruited several successful entrepreneurs to join our board.  We recognized that we had led a sheltered life inside of IBM, and we wanted help.  But even though I appreciated our board, I had zero clue of how to run an effective board meeting.  This book would have been invaluable and would have saved me several years of having to figure it out on my own.

The single biggest lesson I had to learn, one that is mentioned multiple times in this book, is to have a consistent board package and to send it out several days ahead of the meeting.  By doing this, we were able to move from 80% of the discussion being in the rear view mirror and shift it to 80% strategy and things I needed help with.

Another lesson from the book, and one I am not sure I understood well as a CEO, is that the job of the board is to aid and assist the CEO.  I tended to think of the board as a decision making group, but in reality there were very few items around strategy that required a formal vote.  Rather, what I needed to do was to take their advice as input and test against all of the other data points I was gathering.

In addition to the logical progression of information in the book, it is rich in anecdotes from folks like Fred Wilson, Scott Weiss, Reid Hoffman, Matt Blumberg, Steve Blank, and others.

Please, if you are an early stage entrepreneur, add this book to your reading list, and reference it as you transition through the different phases of your startup.  It will be money well spent.

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Tim is the former CEO of Ganymede Software, a venture-backed start-up he co-founded in 1995 with three friends from IBM.  After growing to 100 people and $13 million in revenue, Ganymede was acquired by Mission Critical/NetIQ in early 2000.  Tim is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at The Startup Factory in Durham, North Carolina, and a board member of the Track and Field Athletes Association.


Startup Communities – Lessons Learned



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This is a guest post by Jeff Keen, the CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. The post originally appeared on Accelerate Okanagan’s website.

sup 300x57 Startup Communities   Lessons Learned

I just returned from the Startup Phenomenon conference in Boulder where I had the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends and meet some new amazing people from around the globe.

We talked about everything startup community from culture, entrepreneurs, events, finance, corporations, and governments to networking models and measuring success.  Brad Feld and Jim Collins provided some incredible insight on how to take our startup communities from “Good to Great”.  The conversation was inspirational and ended far too soon.  I would like to keep the conversation going through this blog and encourage you to chime in with your thoughts, learnings & suggestions from your startup community.

To kick off the conversation, let’s start with a review of Brad Feld’s four pillars for building a successful startup community and how our own experiences relate to these concepts.

The first of Feld’s four pillars is that for a startup community to be sustainable over time it must led by entrepreneurs.  Many other organizations can play key roles in the startup community but they cannot be the leaders.

The challenge for many startup communities at the early stage of development is identifying and engaging with successful entrepreneurs.  This was the case for our community.  Here are a few lessons we learned along the way that can help engage entrepreneurs in your community:

  1. Hold events and activities that are appealing to entrepreneurs.  Events should be fun, casual and provide an environment for entrepreneurs to connect with community members without having to worry about being constantly pitched or inundated with requests for their time.  I would suggest that morning coffee meetups are a great way to begin the engagement process with entrepreneurs in your community.  One event that has proven to be very successful in our community is Startup Drinks, a monthly event that is hosted at various tech companies around town that regularly attract a full house of attendees representing a great cross-section of community members .  The venue is free, beer is donated by a local micro brewery and the networking is off the charts!
  2. Be consistent and patient.  If possible, community events should happen at the same time on the same day of the week, and preferably at the same location.  When entrepreneurs become comfortable attending community events and activities, they will attend on a more regular basis and invite the friends to join them – familiarity breeds comfort and this will eventually lead to more engagement.  One event that follows this pattern in our community is “Entrepreneurs Unplugged” which happens on the first Monday of every month at the Streaming Cafe at 6pm.  Entrepreneurs Unplugged provides a venue for local entrepreneurs to talk about their journey, share their successes and failures and inspire the next generation of creative, innovative, entrepreneurial thought leaders in our community.
  3. Identify and engage “rock star” entrepreneurs.  These are people who are recognized in the community for having significant success as an entrepreneur.   Our startup community gained significant momentum when the three most successful technology entrepreneurs became more outwardly facing and accessible in the community.  Although active behind the scenes for several years, this heightened level of engagement added a new level of credibility and “cool factor” to community events and activities.  These three leaders are now hosting coffee meetups, community building activities and are deeply involved in supporting social entrepreneurship and social enterprise initiatives.
  4. Identify and support volunteer, community driven organizations with a shared vision of supporting startups and entrepreneurship.  As a partially government funded organization our first foray into delivering community events and activities were done behind the Accelerate Okanagan brand.  What we found over time is that it was much more effective to identify likeminded community organizations and support their event and activity efforts.  We did this by providing venues, speakers, registration services and refreshments but took a back seat and remained behind the scenes.  Also, it should not have been a surprise to find out that entrepreneurs were active in many of these grassroots community organizations.
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Brad Feld and Jim Collins

In his book “Startup Communties” Feld talks about the difference between leaders (entrepreneurs) and feeders (everyone else) including government, academia, service providers, venture capital, mentors etc. and that feeders play a key role but cannot be leaders.  One very interesting anecdote raised at the  conference, and supported by Feld,  was that individuals from feeder organizations can take on a leadership role in the community if they act as individuals and not representatives of the feeder organizations.  The key is they must share the “give before you get” philosophy.   I would support this notion and state that our community is very fortunate to have several individuals from feeder organizations who willingly volunteer their time and expertise to support entrepreneurs and are regular participants in startup community events and activities.

I would also recommend not underestimating the power of the grass roots volunteer organizations in your community and the leadership role they can play in fostering a vibrant startup ecosystem.  We are extremely fortunate to have organizations in our community like OKDG (Okanagan Developer Group), DO (Digital Okanagan) and OYP (Okanagan Young Professionals) that are behind several startup community events and activities like Startup Weekend, Okanagan Startup Week, TEDx Kelowna, Startup Drinks and several weekly meetups.  Amazing volunteers delivering incredible events!

I would love to hear from you and learn more about how you are engaging with leaders in your community and some of the lessons you have learned along the way.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Jeff Keen, CEO Accelerate Okanagan.

headshot2 237x300 Startup Communities   Lessons Learned

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).

 


Absorbing Startup Life as you make life’s journey



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Guest Post By Eric KleinLemnos Labs - (Partner)

Eric Klein 300x290 Absorbing Startup Life as you make lifes journeyI recently finished Startup Life and want to thank Brad and Amy for writing such a bold and emotional book. I’ve been married for roughly twenty years and was separated for close to a year as my wife and I difficultly learned many of the lessons in this book. If I could go back in time and hand this book to my younger self, it might have saved us much angst. I really appreciated the openness of all the contributors and will be recommending it within the Lemnos Labs founder community.

What struck me about the book was that its lessons might not be absorb-able in one phase of your life. If I went back in time and handed this book to my younger self, would I have been able to hear all the knowledge and lessons it prescribes? I’m pretty sure my friends and psychiatrist told me how to be a better partner while pursuing my dreams of entrepreneurship, I just wasn’t completely ready then to absorb those ideas when I was in my twenties.

It feels like there are three life phases you read this book in; each phase bringing more understanding of the book’s lessons:

Phase 1 – The young entrepreneur
Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentioned the “10,000 hour rule” in Outliers, rightfully highlighting the time it takes to master something new. Young entrepreneurs, and we’ve all been there, are simultaneously trying to master building businesses and relationships. It’s incredibly hard to do one, let alone both, but I think it is even harder to accept guidance and wisdom on these topics at the beginning of the learning curve. Looking back, I can see myself denying so many basic problems at the intersection of my business life and my relationship with my wife, unable to see what is now obvious in terms of balance and commitment. I just wasn’t ready to see solutions to problems I barely understood.

I think younger entrepreneurs with less relationship experience reading this book will absorb some of the material, but have fewer reference points to relate to the lessons contained in the book. Hopefully what they have received is a pointer, so to speak, to a great reference on entrepreneurship and relationships that they can return to on a regular basis.

Phase 2 – The entrepreneur in crisis
Sooner or later every relationship enters more troubled waters. The stresses of entrepreneurship only exacerbate the natural tensions of a relationship. So many of the things that were pointed out in Startup Life seem obvious now, but in the apex of my marital challenges, this book would have been a godsend. Or a smack in the head! It is so hard to find consul and wisdom when you reach this point. It’s a difficult topic to discuss with anyone, let alone finding a fellow entrepreneur with great relationship skills who wants to talk with you about these personal, sensitive topics. I think Startup Life has maximum value for an entrepreneur in this phase of their lives, because the lessons it contains finally become timely, relevant, and critical.

Phase 3 – The maturing entrepreneur
While entrepreneurs often think of time as their greatest enemy, in terms of experience, it is our friend. As we mature, we finally start to start to notice the warning signs of issues in our businesses and our relationships, why they are happening, and have proven techniques to address our issues. Experience makes us more comfortable and capable in our relationships. I’m finally at the point where I sorta understand what to do to be a good partner! In this phase Startup Life provides great relationships tips and reminders that help you stay on course and reminders of potential problem spots. I’m working hard, as an example, to embrace shorter Qx vacations for my wife and I. In my limited experience with Qx breaks, they really spur creativity and force me to check in with the real world instead of the ten million little issues with my company that I tend to become fixated on over time.

I think this is also the phase where you recommend Startup Life to every entrepreneur you know that is in Phase 1 and 2 in the hopes they avoid your mistakes icon wink Absorbing Startup Life as you make lifes journey
Startup Life is a book you put on the shelf and re-read semi-regularly as you make life’s journey. It can’t be absorbed in one session and its lessons ripen as time goes by. An entrepreneur learns that you have good days and bad days both in business and in your relationship. Pull this book from the shelf for wisdom as you navigate those highs and lows.

 Absorbing Startup Life as you make lifes journey

Startup Phenomenon



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SP 13 banner newest Startup Phenomenon

Join us to celebrate the launch of Startup Phenomenon and collectively build-up the Denver-Boulder corridor.
When: July 30, 2013, 5:30 – 8:00
Where: Galvanize, 1062 Delaware St, Denver, CO 80204

The Denver-Boulder corridor: At one end is a thriving community of startups, tech companies, and investors, and at the other end is…a thriving community of startups, tech companies, and investors. So why the divide? Each city is doing fine on its own, but together we can turn this region into one of the most dynamic and economically important innovation hubs in the world. Join us for drinks and networking to help us bridge the longest 25 miles in business and look for ways that Denver and Boulder’s finance communities can join forces to expand both their collective strength and their individual investment opportunities. We’ll have a few brief comments from Jim Dieters, Brad Feld and the Startup Phenomenon team.

 Startup Phenomenon

World Startup Report: 16 Countries and Counting



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Guest Post By Bowei Gai - World Startup Report – (Founder)

bowei auto small World Startup Report: 16 Countries and Counting

 

A million thanks to the World Startup Report team, sponsors, and volunteers around the world for making this trip a reality. It’s been an amazing 6 months. Here’s a recap of what I’ve learned on the road.

Time flies when you’re off exploring startups in far flung lands. Six months ago I set off with just a carry-on and my trusty laptop, bright eyed and armed with boundless enthusiasm – I was ready with a capital R, to explore the world of startups. Now six months have passed and amazingly, I’ve realized that the more I learn, the more there is I need to learn. 6 months, 16 countries and 1000s of startup conversations later, I have only scratched the tip of the iceberg. The people I’ve met and the passion they have for what they do, often times in the face of great adversity is equal parts motivating and humbling. Its been a whirlwind journey so far and I am beyond excited to be able to share these findings. So on that note, here’s a little mini recap of my trip to date. Stay tuned for the full startup reports!

What in the world did I find?

India: hello, Google? Running a search engine via telephone may sound funny to the Valley, but really is it that different from asking Siri where the nearest parking lot is? Now picture Siri as a live person and put yourself in a country with 895M mobile phones vs just 35M smartphones. JustDial is a $720M empire in India…and it’s just one of many catering to this unique market.

Nepal: Don’t discount this hidden gem – even in a country where there are rations of only 12 – 16 hours of electricity per day, you can build tech firms with $100M USD exits.

Australia: Being a small yet modern and accessible country can be a double edged sword. On one hand, you get access to the latest and greatest from the West, but on the other hand, this very same lack of entrance barriers eliminates many startup opportunities for locals hoping to break onto the scene. Expect stiff competition here.

Greece/Spain: This could be a classic case of turning lemons into lemonade. 50% unemployment rate among youth might turn out to be the fire-starter that Greece/Spain startup ecosystems need.

Argentina: The story of Argentina can be told through their currency, which devalued 25% in the last 3 months. These folks are under constant pressure to produce in the midst of impossible constraints – trial by fire style. It could be argued that these conditions have produced the best entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Brasil: Size does matter. Virtually all successful Latin companies make the move to Brasil after their initial growing period, despite the unfavorable laws and social instability.

Peru: Though one of the least developed countries in South America, it’s also the place with the highest growth. Serious potential here.

Colombia: When a country invests 40% of the national budget on education, it changes things and empowers people.

Chile: StartupChile might go down in the history books as one of the best things to ever happen to Chile in this decade.

Kenya: The future of mobile payment can be seen in Kenya today. M-pesa is a micro-financing and money transfer service all easily accessible from your mobile device. It accounts for 25% of the country’s GDP.

Ethiopia: There are two 1s you have to know about Ethiopia: 1% internet penetration rate. 1M new cellphone subscribers a month.

Philippines: The Peru of Southeast Asia, but three times bigger with its 100M population plus everyone speaks perfect English. Keep an eye out for it.

Thailand: Unbelievable infrastructure and ample access to talents through its tourism. This 70M population country is poised to do well.

Myanmar: For a country that’s only a year old, its infrastructure is surprisingly developed. Those who want to jump in for low hanging fruit might already be too late.

Israel: Roughly 70% of the startup founders at our meetup believe they can build a billion dollar company. With this much ambition, drive and optimism in the room, some of them could be right.

So what’s next?

There are 13 more countries on the list, equally split between Europe (Netherlands, France, UK, Germany, Ukraine, Russia) and Asia (Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore). Big things are happening for the WSR team, keep following us to access the full country by country World Startup Reports as they become available. If your country is on the list, please let us know if you would like to help! http://bit.ly/helpWSR

Oh and one more thing… *drum roll*

GOAB World Startup Report: 16 Countries and Counting

We’re proud to announce the WSR closing ceremonies happening in the Philippines at the end of my 29-country tour, called Geeks-On-A-Beach. Some of our most influential and knowledgeable founders/investors from all over the world will join us at Geeks-On-A-Beach to discuss the global startup trends and opportunities, from Silicon Valley to India. This will also be where I share my overall findings, impressions and conclusions from my epic journey.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet the world’s startup founders and investors.  Sign up today and get the early bird discount. This will be an incredible event in partnership to help the local startup community in the Philippines.

@Bowei
Founder, World Startup Report

Special thanks to: 500Startups, Startup Revolution, StartupWeekend, StartupDigest, Brad Feld, Dave McClure, Flightfox, Boingo, Bizpora for making this trip a reality!

 


Bowei Gai World Startup Report: 16 Countries and Counting

 

Bowei Gai is a serial entrepreneur from Silicon Valley who sold the company he co-founded, CardMunch, to LinkedIn in 2011. On New Year’s Eve of 2013, he boarded his first flight for a 9-months long trip across 29 countries and 36 cities to research the world’s startup ecosystems.

Bowei’s first project, “The China Startup Report”, received over 100,000 views on SlideShare. His new project, the India Startup Report gained over 150,000 views shortly after release. From January to June 2013, Bowei has traveled to the following places: India, Australia, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Israel, Greece and Spain. Below is his story.