By Cheryl Broetje
Start Up Communities is the name of a book by Brad Feld, about ‘building entrepreneurial ecosystems in your city’. He starts the book out by saying that startups are at the core of everything we do. We were all startups at our birth! Every city was a startup, as was every company, institution and project-even the world was a startup! Why? For what purposes? As humans he says, we are wired to start things. My belief is that we have been encoded by our Creator with the need and nature to create. As I think about my own life and experience, I realize that just about every enterprise I have been involved with in my adult life has been a start-up. By creating contexts in which people can get involved and make their unique contributions, they and the enterprises they serve are able to grow forward. I wanted to see what this author would say about what startups mean to him. His focus in largely on high technology communities such as Silcon Valley and Boulder, Colorado. Mine is with relatively lower tech organizations. However, I quickly saw that there are many principles we share in common. Here are a few:
1. In order to increase innovation, business creation and job growth, you must have the investment of entrepreneurs. Many other skills are needed to grow the community; but first there must be someone who knows how to start up companies and has done it.
2. People who are committed to invest themselves into the community, usually small geographic regions, over the long term, an average of 20 years….a generation….are the true leaders there who can best ensure the sustainability of the community.
3. The process of growing a community is more like gardening than being a mechanic.
4. Everyone needs to be included, have a job to do that contributes to the growth and development of the community. There are towns around here where the city and its enterprises are run as hierarchies by insiders. Outsiders, newcomers have to earn their way into the hierarchy. This is not conducive to growth and participation by all. Too many people and good ideas are left on the sidelines.
5. Today, people and nations are turning away from hierarchies, towards networking groups of people who flow together around various needs and ideas that strengthen and carry the community forward.
6. Give before you get. Instead of asking: “what’s in it for me?” Ask: “How can I be of help?” We will be better for it; our families, communities, nation and world will be too.