The Essence of Startup Communities

Over the past several years, New York has positioned itself as the second largest hub for a startup culture. It’s been an exciting year for bringing together the worlds of education technology, startups, government, and traditional education.
While watching Andy Josuwelt of Student Loan Hero present at the New Jersey Tech Meetup last month, we were lucky to catch a session where Brad Feld dropped some knowledge about startup communities and what makes them successful.
Here are a few highlights from his book Startup Communities:

  1. Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community: A thriving startup community needs to be driven by entrepreneurs or “leaders”. The leaders then can work with everyone else (ie: government officials, teachers, students, parents, small business owners, etc). The idea is that innovation typically starts with the leaders and can be instituted amongst other organizations in the community. Brad noted that relative proximity to a university allows capturing bright young students upon graduation, which also assists in creating innovation clusters. Boulder where Brad is from is a great example of that.
  2. Leaders must have long-term commitment: Creating a thriving startup community will not happen over night. It’s needs to be cemented in the culture of the town and correlated with the curriculum and programs in schools, which will assist in attracting talent. When companies have resources to operate with more bandwidth, talent to hire, and supportive environment to work in, they are more likely to set roots. This all takes times but is key in building a successful startup community.
  3. The startup community must be inclusive to anyone that wants to participate: Brad’s motto is “give before you get”. Energy needs to be put into the system without an expectation of what you’ll get from it. The most successful communities incorporates the culture of all are welcome and the more involved and persistent you are, the more likely you are to be successful. I am huge on building relationships, helping my friends, and promoting really cool projects because I believe that at the end of the day, it will come back around.
  4. Activities and events that engage the whole staff continuously. Brad Feld is one of the co-founders of TechStars and genius in all that is accelerators.  He explained how accelerators build the essence of community for startups. Some would even say the first NYC TechStars class was a bit like a fraternity. But really, whether it’s a Host Committee party for you cause, Startup Weekend (Startup Weekend EDU for us), hackathons, morning Biz Dev Breakfasts (a personal favorite is Kristal Bergfield’s Caffeine & Connections), there are so many ongoing events that can be used to engage your community.

Needless to say, I love the New York Startup scene. I am so grateful to be constantly surrounded by the smartest people in the world, and constantly assist in building an amazing culture around innovation in education.
Interested in joining a startup scene? My best advice is to just start something, go, build, create and dive in!

Katie Vander Ark - Getting Smart

Katie Vander Ark

Katie is an education and innovation enthusiast.

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