Today I’d like to talk about what startup communities outside of Silicon Valley look like, how they emerge and what makes them take hold.
Most of what I think about startup communities came from mentorship by Brad Feld through hours of private discussion and debate.
You can now take advantage of this wisdom directly as Brad has now published it for everybody in a fantastic new book, “Startup Communities.”
Put simply, if you care about building a successful tech community outside Silicon Valley you should read this book. I will be ordering several copies for leaders in LA and will be helping to host Brad’s visit to our community later this year.
My views, influenced by watching Brad’s tireless efforts across the country, were first encapsulated in a post I wrote about Seattle titled, “A Few Key People Can Make a Huge Difference.” In that post I talked about how a few key people in any community can have an enormous impact on the fledgling success of the city or company. Think Fred Wilson, Tony Hsieh or Brad Feld.
Here are the components that I believe are important for success in any startup tech community:
1. A Strong Pool of Tech Founders – Stating the obvious. Duh. But I would point out that these days there are really talented tech developers and teams everywhere. And I really mean everywhere. Ever play Zynga’s “Words with Friends” or any of their “with Friends” games? Didn’t come out of the SF facility. It came from an amazing small startup in McKinney, Texas (30 miles North of Dallas) called NewToy, which they acquired.
Think the next big startup can’t come from Dallas? Think again. Angry Birds? From startup Rovio in Finland.
Think USV is only invested around Union Square in NYC? How about in the last 12 months deals were announced with Dwolla (Iowa) and Pollenware (Kansas City). I met the Pollenware team myself – they were KILLER.
Community: The Structure of Belonging
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Modern society is plagued by fragmentation. The various sectors of our communities--businesses, schools, social service organizations, churches, government--do not work together. They exist in their own worlds. As do so many individual citizens, who long for connection but end up marginalized, their gifts overlooked, their potential contributions lost. This disconnection and detachment makes it hard if not impossible to envision a common future and work towards it together. We know what healthy communities look like--there are many success stories out there, and they've been described in detail. What Block provides in this inspiring new book is an exploration of the exact way community can emerge from fragmentation: How is community built? How does the transformation occur? What fundamental shifts are involved? He explores a way of thinking about our places that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and details what each of us can do to make that happen.
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