A Good Community drives Startup Impact
Theres a difference between the community that supports startups and the resources the community mobilizes to support those entrepreneurs.At MC we often talk about 6 elements of an ecosystem: Entrepreneurs, Government, Investors, Corporates/Foundations, Universities, and People/Press/Market. A Community is less about having all of those elements, and more about the glue that holds them all together.
Do we know exactly how many investment dollars something like Tech Gives Back drives? No. Does it bring together people in Boston who want to help each other build great companies? Absolutely.
- Celebrate Wins – Talk about your city like its #1
Building a startup community is kind of like building a startup. Its a good practice to always be sharing good news and talking up strengths. At UpSummit, there were 150 attendees from cities all across the US. Most of them talk about their community as the best and mean it. They are the local champions. However,since only one city/region can be #1 for patents filed or #1 for VC deals or #1 for VC dollars per capita (thats MA, by the way), what good community leaders do is focus on their strengths.
Houston has NASA, Seattle has Amazon & Nike, New York has bagels etc. The question is not, why should I start my company in Kansas City, but rather, what can I get out of Kansas Citys ecosystem?
Compete & Collaborate
When we all claim that our communities are the best, theres bound to be some competition. Its kind of funny to watch some of the friendliest, most collaborative people on the planet try to find polite ways to tell you that their city is the best without hurting your feelings. However, in the end,competition keeps us all working hard. The obvious risk in always claiming youre the best is that you fail to address your weaknesses. This week was a great example of sharing resources and learnings to help others brew up new solutions to build better communities.
Strengths as a startup ecosystem
Overall supportive and friendly, but still somewhat fragmented. It is centrally located between the two coasts and housing is cheap. However, people dont know about it. Yet.Kansas City is home to the Kauffman Foundation, which has an asset base of $2 billion and is a leader in supporting US programs for entrepreneurship
Kansas City is known as the Animal Health Corridor (KC area companies account for more than half of total worldwide animal health, diagnostics and pet food sales). Lots of great research, tech, talent & money in that area. KC is also home to Hallmark, H&R Block and Sprint.
Areas to improve as a startup ecosystem
Sources of funding: Theres a growing number of investors and a couple of accelerators (Sprint/TechStars, SparkLabKC), but KC doesnt make the top 20 for investment no matter how you slice it. There is, however, an encouragingly growing number of investors and a couple of accelerators (Sprint/TechStars, SparkLabKC).
Sources of talent: The NYT says KC is attracting more and more millennials, but there arent the pillar companies spouting out tech talent or many universities drawing in fresh blood.
- Kansas City is a really cool place! (See below)
The VOLUME of activity
Up focuses on quantity – inspiring as many people as possible to give entrepreneurship a try – and they have great numbers: More than 500 cities, 120 countries have hosted events, 200K attendees in 2013.
Everyone I met on the UP team is great. Young, smart, driven, wildly optimistic (lots of MC similarities!). Ari Kern and Seijen Takamura are the Regional Managers and are aweseome people.
The number of times I heard Startup Weekend organizers say something like this was astounding: I first found startup weekend 2 years…no, about 28 months ago, and it changed my life forever.
Volunteers are the secret sauce to startup community success.
UP has something like 10K community leaders that volunteer their time to run events. Theres just something in their DNA or it might be the kool aid, but these people are some of the most active promoters of any organization Ive ever seen. One guy, Jon,has a Startup Weekend tattoo.