Startups are popping up all over the world, even in regions that aren’t generally known their technological innovation. From the North America to Africa, from Europe to Australia, from South America to Asia, more and more cities are challenging Silicon Valley’s reputation as a global startup hub.
However, every city that gives way to the rise of local companies requires certain conditions that are conducive to entrepreneurial activity. And, more often than not, it takes certain people to take the lead in their city and bring network together to encourage innovation and growth.
The Founder Institute can help you build a startup ecosystem in your city. Click here to find out how.
If you want to become an entrepreneurial leader and build a startup ecosystem in your city, this blog post has everything you need to get started.
Why Should You Build a Startup Ecosystem in Your City?
It Improves the Local Economy
Don’t sit around waiting for major conglomerates and tech companies to move to your city and bring jobs. Believe it or not, it is the small businesses, and not large corporations, that form the backbone of most economies and provide the most jobs. Remember, every giant company started off as a small business, and considering how much easier it is to launch a startup than in previous years, a handful of small yet ambitious companies can do more to invigorate the local economy than, say, Facebook can do by setting up an office in your area.
It Strengthens the Network
Nothing brings professionals closer than working together to launch a company. By facilitating the exchange of ideas, skills, and experience, you are planting the seeds for a thriving, interconnected network of talented individuals who are working to solve a problem. The strongest startup ecosystems only grow when the people of an economy work together, rather than against one another, to succeed. While a little rivalry can be beneficial for businesses, too much competition will only fracture and divide the community, which will lead to economic stagnation. In short, if everyone helps each other with their companies, everyone wins.
It was a life changing experience to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs in my city. It was a great way to find opportunities for investment in local innovative ideas as well.” - Sergio Escobar (Director, Montreal Founder Institute)
What Does it Take to Become a Startup Ecosystem Leader in Your City?
In the Forbes article, “A Simple Way To Become A Better Startup Mentor”, Founder Institute co-founder and CEO Adeo Ressi outlines some of the most important qualities of startup leaders. Below are a couple of the biggest takeaways.
You Have to be Brutally Honest
If you want to help aspiring entrepreneurs launch startups, you cannot hold back when giving them feedback. Whether you are providing advice on someone else’s idea, team, product, revenue model, customer research, or anything else, it is important to be as honest and straightforward as possible. Pointing out the flaws of a company when they are still at an early stage will help founders fix and prevent problems in the future. Also, because every company will get negative feedback at some point during its lifespan - either from mentors, investors, or customers - subjecting early-stage startups to harsh feedback from the beginning will only prepare them for the challenges ahead.
You Also Have to be Empathetic
As important as it is to be brutally honest from the onset, it is just as important not to get carried away with your criticisms and to temper your blunt feedback with encouragement and understanding. Instead of only pointing out the weaknesses of the founders you are mentoring, work together with them to find solutions, to strengthen their ideas, to build a better product, etc. Recall a time from your life in which someone was there to support you through a tough time, and use that experience to help you help others.
How Do You Turn Your City into a Startup Ecosystem?
The Boulder Thesis
When Brad Feld helped found Techstars in 2006 in Boulder, Colorado, he developed a blueprint for building startup communities called the Boulder Thesis. This is a great primer for those looking to launch a startup in their city as it clearly lays out a defined vision for a sustainable entrepreneurial community. Below are the core concepts:
Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community. Those who launch companies must also devote their time and efforts to help others launch companies.
The leaders must have a long-term commitment. Entrepreneurship isn’t for people who only like to dabble in different industries until they find something like.
The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it. The more people you have in the community, the more ideas, the more talent, and the more potential for success you have.
The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. Hackathons, Startup Weekends, and other events are necessary to keep the network alive and engaged.
Check out the video below for more information on the Boulder Thesis:
Map the Local Market
Before you set out to establish your region as an active entrepreneurial hub, you first must list out what it has that can benefit aspiring entrepreneurs. Startup resources may include coworking spaces, venues for networking events, preexisting professional networks and groups, accelerators and incubators, educational institutions specializing in business and entrepreneurship, government organizations, and many others. If you need help organizing your findings, or to see if there is already a map of your city’s resources, check out the Startup Ecosystem Canvas - a free tool from the Founder Institute to map your community and make it more accessible to newcomers.
Gather the Network
If you’re planning on becoming a startup leader in your city, it should go without saying that you’ve already accumulated a considerable network of industry professionals and experts. Your next step, then, should be to bring them together and encourage them to do the same with their respective networks. Meetup.com is a great way to organize tech and business events in your city, as well as to network with other likeminded individuals in industry-related groups.
Also, the Founder Institute hosts over 1,000 free local startup events around the world each year, where local startup experts share their lessons learned and provide feedback on startup ideas. These events are all free and open to the public, with names like “Startup Pitch Bootcamp”, “Startup Founder 101”, and more. The goal of these events is to create a low-pressure, open environment where people share ideas, make connections, learn about the opportunities to launch a company in their city, and become inspired.
Spread the Knowledge
Another great way to build a startup ecosystem in your city is to start mentoring other early-stage founders and their companies. This has several benefits. First, by serving as a mentor to others, you are establishing yourself as an entrepreneurial expert and boosting your credibility, which will open numerous opportunities for you as you create a growing startup network. Second, helping other aspiring entrepreneurs means you are leading by example, which means you will be inspiring other experts lend their skills and knowledge to help other aspiring entrepreneurs, and so on and so forth. Third, by supporting local startups and guiding them to success, you will cement your city’s reputation as a startup-friendly region.
Work with Your Government
Governments around the world are slowly starting to realize that increased entrepreneurial activity has a favorable effect on the economy, which means that more local government institutions developing ways to help startups get off the ground. Some resources that local governments provide may include coworking and office space, tax credits for investors, financial initiatives to fund companies, tax incentives for companies that exceed environmental standards, and training programs for entrepreneurs, among many others. Connect with the Chamber of Commerce in your city to see what they have to offer small businesses that are just starting up. Or, even better, get involved in your city’s politics by attending council meetings to make your case for why startups can be beneficial to the city.