June 24th, 2020
By Chris Heivly, Techstars Senior Vice President for Ecosystem Development
There are short-term startup community goals and there are — and should be — long-term startup community goals. Many of us put our heads down under the “get stuff done now” mantra, and of course that has real value. But as you begin to stitch together a series of events, an angel fund, and a destination space, there will be a natural plateau that occurs when it seems like progress has stalled.
Just like scaling a company, startup communities have natural peaks and plateaus as well.
How you manage through those plateaus determines the resiliency of your startup community. Building a level of resilience to muster through the plateaus — and the inevitable valleys as well — is the key to the long-term success of your ecosystem.
In the upcoming book The Startup Community Way by Brad Feld and Ian Hathaway, we talk about a startup community or entrepreneurial ecosystem as being a system. As you begin to understand the characteristics of a system, one thing becomes quite clear: good systems are resilient.
Resilience is mostly a trait attached to a person rather than a community, however, we can borrow from the field of personal psychology and apply those same lessons to our startup community.
Dr. Tony Alessandra talks about resilience as “a measure of how much you want something and how much you are willing, and able, to overcome obstacles to get it.”
This notion applies to startup communities in a big way. I find that there is obvious motivation and even consensus among economic development folks, founders, and investors as to what they want for the community. The question is how much each of these individuals — and therefore the community as a whole — are willing and able to overcome obstacles to get there.
In this post from the Stress Resilient Mind, the authors identify five key skills:
Attention – flexibility & stability of focus
Letting go (1) – physical
Letting go (2) – mental
Accessing & sustaining positive emotion
As you think about how you can lead your startup community, convert these five skills from personal resilience to community resilience.
Create a collective idea about what stage of maturity your startup community is in, what gaps exist, and what assets you have. Most importantly, prioritize the next steps necessary to accelerate growth.
Establish a complex systems approach that has focus, yet provides a level of flexibility, and is shared by the leaders of the community.
Great entrepreneurial ecosystems — and their leaders — release control. It is crucial to understand that you cannot engineer yourselves forward. Letting go of your tendency to want to control outcomes is the single most critical step you can take as an individual and a community.
“Confidence is contagious” is an oft-spoken theme in our consulting practice. The challenges are many and the journey has those natural ups and downs. But through it all, we find ways to drive positivity.
What other startup community resilient skills should we add to the mix?
Chris is one of the nation’s leading experts on launching startups and has been dubbed the “Startup Whisperer.” He cofounded MapQuest, is an angel investor, ran a corporate venture fund and 2 micro venture funds (directed over $75M), and is SVP Ecosystem Development with Techstars. Chris recently published his first book about starting anything called Build The Fort and is currently writing a book on Startup Community Building.
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