Dec 31 2012

Sister Startup Communities

Guest Post By: Jeff Keen – Accelerate Okanagan (CEO)

I heard so much about the incredible Startup Community developing in Boulder that I decided to take a trip there to witness it firsthand.  Since my return, many people have asked about the trip, about Boulder and our experience.  For those of you who like to cook, you could draw a parallel of my Boulder visit to reading a cookbook versus taking a hands on cooking class from world class chefs. The intended results are the same but there is nothing quite like being there, witnessing how it’s done, and immersing yourself in the culture to truly appreciate and get the most from the experience.

During our visit, we had the opportunity to meet with many community leaders and learn about the evolution of Boulder as a Startup Community.  Everyone is actively involved and committed to making a difference.  We had 12 meetings in just over 2 days, each starting and ending the same way “how can I help?” and “is there anything else I can do to help or people you would like to meet?”  Awesome.

We participated in Meet-up events, Entrepreneurs Unplugged at CU Boulder and were invited to a small group dinner with community leaders and entrepreneurs.  We visited Techstars, were welcomed into several co-working spaces to hangout and catch-up on emails.  We were the beneficiary of many pay-it-forward introductions – no questions asked.  Entrepreneurs are everywhere in Boulder and the entrepreneurial energy is infectious. One afternoon at a local establishment, our server asked why we were in town and then proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes talking to us about her Startup.  Sidebar: Another great experience during our visit was the prevalence of “Happy Hour”. For a beer loving Canadian entrepreneur could Boulder be any more perfect?

If you read Brad Felds book “Startup Communities”, he talks about the Entrepreneurial eco system and the importance of it being led by entrepreneurs, the “give before you get” attitude,  network versus hierarchical structure, inclusive of all who want to be involved and the necessity to be in it for the long term – 20 years from any point in time.  There are many other important discussions in the book, but these were my key impressions and our firsthand experience in Boulder.

The only negative about our Boulder visit was that it ended too soon. It was very inspiring and motivating to hang with people that are all working together to make a difference, led by entrepreneurs and supported by the community – everybody “all in”. Cool.

On the trip back, I was thinking about our experience in Boulder.  How could we tap into that culture, the infectious energy and continue to learn about successful Startup communities on a go forward basis?  The concept of the Entrepreneurial eco-system being a network not a hierarchy was resonating with me – the power is in the network.  Could we expand the network and get entrepreneurs connected to and from other regions? Perhaps we create a “Startup Communities Network”, a network of like minded entrepreneurs from other communities committed to the “give before you get” culture – the impact could be very powerful; entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs through a boundless, non-regionalized support system, making the right connections at the right time, reducing risk and accelerating business growth.

Interested in discussing the “Startup Communities Network” concept in more detail?  I look forward to your feedback and getting connected.

A big shout out to Brad Feld and all the amazing people from Boulder for making us feel welcome and for sharing your time and experiences with us.  We are returning to the Okanagan with many great community building ideas to share and look forward to visiting Boulder again in the near future!

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