Beware of Building a Startup Community Fire

By Chris Heivly, Entrepreneur in Residence at Techstars

For a brief, shining moment, I was in the fire suppression business, so I know a little about fire. Fire needs three elements: spark, material, and oxygen. That is why you keep your door closed when there is a fire outside the room—don’t feed it more oxygen.

When I meet with startup community enthusiasts, we talk about the factors that seem to grow a community and the factors that seem to inhibit progress. If we could only do more of the right thing and less of the wrong things maybe we could build a little momentum.

Every community has its challenges. Some of the ones I hear are:

  • We do not have enough capital;
  • There are leaders who try and control everything;
  • I can’t find any good mentors;
  • The local corporations do not engage with startups;
  • We don’t have any breakout companies.

These are real challenges and each one plays a negative role. But here’s the thing—in itself, publicly and privately bitching about these issues also has a negative role to play. I know this is human nature. I also know we need to address the issue.

Those complaints just gave the challenges more oxygen. And now we have a bigger fire.

Negative community talk creates doubt and has a direct impact on each member of the community. At the very least we need to balance the challenge discussions with the positive milestone stories.

Are you an active member of your startup community? Find yourself spending just a little too much time whining about what you don’t have? Try and minimize those conversations, and try celebrating a few more of the advances you have made.

***

One great advance for any growing startup community is a Techstars Startup Weekend. Organize one in your city!