This is a guest post from Ryan Martens, founder and CTO of Rally Software and CEO of Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO). Ryan wrote the story of EFCO for Startup Communities and he asked if he could add to his section via a guest post with some new thoughts he had. They follow.
Not only did I have the gift of reading an advanced copy of Startup Communities, I also had the gift of getting to know Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor when they moved to Boulder back in the mid-1990’s. It was coincidental that I was moving back to Boulder at the same time. After going to school at CU, I had left to try opportunities in Bozeman and Denver.
I agree with Brad, the Boulder Startup Community seeds were planted by leadership back in the mid-1990’s. However, NOT enough has not been said about Brad’s leadership role.
As folks who were working in technology back then, it was an exciting time. My business partner (and now Rally CEO), Tim Miller, and I used to say that we were just trying to hold on to the tail of the giant monstrous force called the Internet. Tim was fond of saying, “Sometime we even got to grab on to the collar of the beast and see where it was headed.” When Brad rolled into town in his early 30’s, I literally saw him as an extension of that Internet beast.
Brad did not just bring his energy, experience and vision; he and Amy brought their entire selves to the game. They came ready to share, to laugh and to be self-effacing. Starting the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, now EO, was critical. In that step, Brad showed how to be a servant leader. He had no problem serving by leading, but now his stewardship of YEO showed how to lead by serving. He helped many of us invest in ourselves and thus invest in our rapidly growing community. This was one of many gifts that Brad and Amy gave to this community over the past 15 years.
Roll the clock forward 15 years and let’s look at Brad’s partnership, Foundry Group’s, latest example of Servant Leadership.
In 2010, the Foundry Group set aside a portion of their “carry” to the Entrepreneurs’ Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and this summer, they broke into their carry. As a result, they were part of almost $500,000 of community endowment flowing through the Entrepreneurs’ Foundation of Colorado and into the Boulder/Denver community. As a result of Foundry Group’s partners committing to this program, EFCO can see more income coming over the remaining life of the first Foundry fund. This gift has allowed EFCO to hire an executive director, Morgan Rogers, and have EFCO become an active part of growing the Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs’ startup communities.
This was not Brad or Foundry Group’s first impact on EFCO. If you read my EFCO chapter in Startup Communities, you will hear about Brad’s help in founding and pivoting my work on EFCO. Also know that Seth Levine, from Foundry, has been an invaluable member of the EFCO board for the last five years as we have grown.
Many people think that Boulder’s Startup Community is so great because of Brad. I believe that to be true, but not in the way you think. It was not his personal or investment money that built this community; it was his servant leadership that is causing this to be such a great startup community.
The great thing for you and your community is that the book is true. You can create a great startup community by following the 10 principles outlined in the book and you don’t need Brad — you just need some great servant leaders to help the other entrepreneurs work for the long game.
Luckily all entrepreneurs, like you, are natural leaders because of your drive to inherently make things better and committed to turning your vision into reality. By keeping your eyes focused on the long-term outcomes, not just the short-term outputs, you can provide the servant leadership to create a great community — not just a great startup community — a great company and a great personal life.
I got an email early this morning from Bala Kamallakharan pointing me at a blog post he wrote titled Startup Communities – My open letter to Brad Feld. In it he discusses some of the things he’s working on in Iceland post financial crisis, including launching Startup Iceland.
I encourage you to go read the letter – it’s inspiring, especially against the backdrop of Iceland’s dramatic rise and fall through the world financial crisis which I recently read more about in Michael Lewis’s great book Boomerang: Travels In The New Third World.
What Bala is doing is a powerful example of “entrepreneurs leading their startup communities.” Don’t wait for government, or other “feeders” (which I’ll describe in other posts) to take the lead. Entrepreneurs must lead.
Bala – thanks for setting an example. I look forward to seeing where you take this.