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Why Entrepreneur Communities Matter

Sxswpostcard2I just landed back from my trip to SXSW. It was a lot of fun but it was also inspiring. The energy & passion to drive change bubbled up from every street corner, dive bar and seat in conference.

The highlight of the trip for me was the panel that I participated in. The topic was “Creating Entrepreneurship Communities In Your City”. The panelists were all rockstars who have had a major impact on our startup ecosystem.

  • Paige Craig has become the godfather of Silicon Beach,  
  • Nick Seguin operates like a community puppet master from the perch of the Kauffman Foundation,  
  • Andrew Yang is transforming college grads into entrepreneurs through Venture For America,  
  • Marc Nager is infusing innovation support groups through StartupWeekend’s massive program,  
  • Jeff Slobotski has breathed more life into the Omaha region, 
  • Brad Feld (who couldn’t make it) has helped transform Colorado, and  
  • Shane Reiser and I are on a mission to bring startup communities to every university and region in the world.

While most panels hypnotize audiences into yawning, this panel had soul.

The question that got me thinking the most was “what makes a community successful?” The usual responses come to mind – capital, educated talent, etc. The missing piece that bubbled up from the conversation is the community itself.

Communities not only give entrepreneurs the ability to access resources and find teammates, but also provide the alleviation of fear. Starting a company is scary. It can be terrifying to leave the safety of a steady paycheck, especially when your friends and family think you’re throwing away a career and jeopardizing the wellbeing of your family.

This is where community can provide a dose of sanity. Meeting with other sane people who have chosen the startup path and hearing their words of encouragement can accelerate the rate with which new founders will fall from the branches of your local corporations and into your startup ecosystem.

Entrepreneurs are people - and for anyone straying from the herd alone can be overwhelming.  As a result, creating a community that simply allows would-be-entrepreneurs to join a different herd (rather than go solo) is one of the major keys to bringing startupland to your hometown.  

Simply put - get people together.

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