How to Build A Startup Community

I’m a passionate believer that startups around the world are trying to address a very real problem: how to build the future.

I’m also passionate about how startups should unite to collaborate and create something greater than their individual parts.

The obstacles startups have to surmount are numerous. They are facing old problems and old mentalities, which requires new rules, and new ideas. Brad Feld did a masterful job at enumerating what worked for Boulder—but after seeing what is happening in Montreal, I am convinced that there can be more rules fleshed out to build successful startup communities. I think there are some more ingredients I’ve spotted, some a mixture of what Brad saw in Boulder, but others that are distinctly different.

I hope this is something you and I can both learn from as we work to build the community around us. I don’t want this to be a monopoly, but a spark for you and I.

In the comment section below, add in what you think would be more principles that make up a successful startup community. In the meanwhile, here are my thoughts.

Is it time to cross the bridge with code(love)?

Is it time to cross the bridge with code(love)?

1-Be open.

A community is built on openness. The Montreal startup community works because its members trust each other, and trust those that are trying to come in. This means honesty and trust within each layer of the community. It means a commitment to share with one another, and to support each other through good—and bad.

It means taking coffees with newcomers and guiding them in, being open with your time and network. It’s about trusting that they’ll pay it forward, so that your learner becomes a mentor in a couple of years.

2-We are not Silicon Valley—and neither do we need to become it.

Silicon Valley is a once-in-a-era occurrence. A startup community doesn’t have to be Silicon Valley: every city has its own destiny. The only community anybody has to be better than is the community they were yesterday. Planning the future out shouldn’t have to be about what is missing between your city and Silicon Valley: it should be about how to best construct startups in your city, even if it looks nothing like Silicon Valley.

Montreal has a social entrepreneurial edge to it, to the point where many social startups such as E-180, a platform where people connect with one another to have coffee, and learn from one another, have emerged. They don’t necessarily focus as much on the technology as the good that can come from it. This isn’t something to be shunned: it should be celebrated.

Every city has a different character, and technology will enable that distinctiveness to shine.

Every city has a different character, and technology will enable that distinctiveness to shine. 

3-It shouldn’t matter who you are, it matters what you build.

A successful startup community should be inclusive, and embrace diversity as a key value. Builders can come from anywhere. It shouldn’t matter what you wear, who you love, or what language you speak. It doesn’t matter who you are. All that matters is what you build.

4-Break echo chambers.

We have a tendency as startup people to talk a lot amongst ourselves. A great startup community will try to reach out both to startup people in other cities, and to non-startup people in their own. Echo chambers are flattering, but in order to truly build, one must reach out to people beyond their usual networks.

5-Embrace collaboration.

Startups have succeeded because they have embraced a high degree of collaboration.  Open source principles and the lean philosophy have combined together to minimize waste by sharing what has already been built: a builder no longer has to repeat the efforts of others.

A community truly succeeds when it adheres to open source and open data approaches to constructing itself: making sharing the default rather than the alternative, and being as open about the information gathered as possible, so that everybody can make informed decisions.

By building and sharing collectively, the community grows stronger together. Instead of splitting into proprietary silos, the norm becomes building on each other’s work, rather than splitting it apart.

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Startups have so much potential in them. A collective of them can be unstoppable, and a force for good throughout the city they are based in. Communities grow strong when they reflect the values they are built on, and when they are the change they want to see.

This is what sparked my belief in Montreal. What has sparked your belief in your community?

The author

Roger is an entrepreneur who has co-founded a social network entitled ThoughtBasin that looks to connect students looking to make a difference with organizations looking for difference makers. This experience has given him some setbacks, but also some priceless insights. He is deferring admission from the law school of University of Toronto to pursue his dream of creating impact through entrepreneurship, and he is constantly looking to learn and create, and to do more. He contributes to social entrepreneurship projects with his fellow Global Shapers, coordinates a volunteer tutoring site, and on his off time he unwinds by reading, writing, and dancing---sometimes, all at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Rogerh1991.