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The following is a post from Carie Davis, global innovation director at Coca-Cola. Follow her on Twitter at @cariedavis2

Last month, I attended SXSW V2V – a new offshoot of the SXSW conference focused on startups and innovators. The first-time event took place in Las Vegas – not because of the glitzy Vegas strip or convention infrastructure, but because it’s most famous in these circles for being the home of Zappos and the Downtown Project, a bold new vision to rebuild the old downtown Las Vegas into a bustling entrepreneurial ecosystem created by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

Tony believes thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems are driven by community – a trusting, sharing, co-learning community. He’s doing everything possible to create diversity and collisions as a way to build community through serendipitous interactions that lead to new ideas, opportunities and achievement. A number of funds provide resources to people who want to build something that supports that mission. Before funding anything, the project must demonstrate passion as well as “return on community.” Because community is what sustains.

Just as the local food movement says that the healthiest, tastiest and most sustainable food solutions are often times in your own back yard, the most appropriate and inspired solutions emerge from proximity to people, resources and diverse networks that define a community. Sometimes they don’t naturally mix; corporations can, at times, be characterized as walled communities. Startups have their own and patterns and lingo. How do you build trusting, sharing relationships across these networks? If it’s not naturally part of the DNA, what do you do?

Define a goal that’s seemingly unachievable to inspire and rally support. This is what Tony has done and is proving can work. You’re not Silicon Valley? Great! Don’t have a Tony Hsieh injecting loads of cash into your city? No problem! The bigger the challenge, the more inspired and motivated people will be to make it happen.


Getting Local

At Coca-Cola, we partnered with UP Global because we believe in their mission to inspire and educate entrepreneurs and to help them move from idea to IPO, but we also admire their ability to operate at scale on a local level, similar to our own organization. With our partnership, we can begin to impact startup communities in more than 500 cities.

We operate locally in more than 200 countries, so we have a tremendous opportunity to be an example for how to support the growth of vibrant, entrepreneurial communities around the world. Entrepreneurial ecosystems succeed when there is a community driven by a common purpose, passion and energy. Think about what Tony is doing as a proof of concept. We now have the opportunity to transform each of our communities to create opportunities, jobs, quality of life, and sustainable growth.

I Work at a Corporation. What Can I Do?

I believe any and every corporate group has the ability to collaborate with startups – not just the people with innovation, venture, tech or entrepreneurship in their titles.

Steve Case, chairman of the Case Foundation and Revolution, said, “Large companies must recognize the world is changing and needs a networked approach to grow and see new opportunities.”

Get involved in your startup community. How? Reach out to the local Startup Weekendorganizer, check out startup meetups and local startup support organizations. Support the growth of a trusting, sharing community. Brainstorm ways to work together.

We don’t even know what our problems are. The connected nature of the world usually means most things can’t be solved by one individual or company alone. We need to listen to understand each other’s challenges and capabilities. We can collaborate to see new problems and work together to create solutions.

No one is in charge – it happens organically, led by leaders from the startup community and organizations who are inspired by collaboration. No amount of planning or organizing can get you there faster than just starting. Try some things. Go places you’ve never gone, reach out to people, expand your network, learn from others, have conversations, don’t just go to hear pitches at demo days. Don’t be afraid to have discussions. Talk about your challenges and the opportunities you see. Be a part of building the community you want to see.

What are you doing to drive collisions in your community? Share your stories and ideas with us!


Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian