David Cohen, founder and CEO of TechStars, first presented his new program to us five years ago at our Regional Summit held here in Portsmouth, NH, hosted by the eCoast Angels. Since then, TechStars has spread into several cities with a thriving program run nearby in Cambridge by Katie Rae. Here he serves as a guest blogger; thanks, David.
One thing that makes TechStars really work, and a reason people come from all over the country to participate, is that here in Boulder we’re part of a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists know they can come here to seek out investment opportunities, business development partners, funding, mentorship and support.
Brad Feld’s new book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, which made the Amazon Top 10 Business Books of 2012, explains how it’s possible to create a startup community in any city. Brad really goes deep with this stuff, and in the past few years has written a lot about startup communities. One example is a blog post about inclusion in which he explains why the startup community needs to include anyone who wants to participate.
When I spoke at the Silicon Prairie startup awards I touched on many of the concepts in the Startup Communities book. You can watch the video of my talk, which includes a simple exercise to help you figure out if you’re a leader of your startup community or not, along with tips for those leaders. Building a sustainable entrepreneurial community takes time, and the leaders need support from the entire community. Brad points out that you have to take a 20-year view to building a community that will thrive, and that begins with identifying the leaders who will continue to be a part of the community for years to come.
The idea of startup communities really seems to be catching on. Earlier this year, I was invited by Xconomy to come to San Diego and talk about entrepreneurial communities to a group of about 25 entrepreneurs and investors who were very interested and motivated to learn more. One thing we talked about was Brad’s notion of entrepreneurial density. If the best efforts of a city occur in one dense area, you’ll have more serendipity and excitement about startups. In Boulder, the entrepreneurial density is palpable. Larger cities will need a different strategy than smaller towns. In New York, for example, most of the startup activity happens in Union Square. For a large metropolitan area like San Diego, it makes sense for the entrepreneurial community to be consolidated into a compact area or a well-defined neighborhood. That density is important because events can be centered in that part of town, investors know where to look for opportunity, and out-of-town entrepreneurs know they can go there and meet a bunch of interesting people.
Brad also has another upcoming book, Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. He and his wife, Amy, co-wrote this book about their experiences in 20 years of entrepreneurial life together. They share some great insights, along with examples of other couples who have managed to find ways to achieve both personal and professional success. It won’t be released until January, but you should probably go ahead and pre-order it now.
I had the opportunity to contribute to both of these incredible books, and I’ve been very lucky to learn a lot from Brad, who is the master of work-life balance. Personally, I’ve always placed a heavy emphasis on work-life balance, and as crazy as TechStars is, my family somehow makes it work. Finding that sweet spot is definitely one of the most challenging parts of being an entrepreneur. When you’re throwing yourself into your business–as you pretty much have to with a startup–it’s easy to neglect other parts of your life. Startup Life is a great book for both new and seasoned entrepreneurs who want to enjoy their relationships and live life to the fullest in the midst of a crazy busy lifestyle.
You can read more about both of these books, along with three others that Brad has in the pipeline, at Startup Revolution.