Why founders should be a part of a community

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May 26, 2022
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So you’ve built an MVP for an idea you have been working on and somehow you feel stumped. You need to bounce your ideas off a couple of people and get the feedback needed for you to iterate what you’ve built. Or, you have successfully built a startup and found product-market fit. But you’re still looking for like-minded people to interact with, and will also love to share your expertise with a startup founder so this person can avoid the mistakes you made earlier. 

The first place to start will be to find the right community suited to your needs and become a valued member. What are startup communities, when did startup communities emerge and why should you even belong to one? 

The ensuing paragraphs will explain in detail, everything you need to know about startup communities.  

 

Part 1: How startup communities emerged

After Brad Feld co-founded Techstars and saw its expansion beginning in 2006, he began to observe patterns- negative and positive emerge in the way startup culture developed. By 2011, he developed a view on a new construct called ‘a startup community’ based on the patterns he observed from watching startup cultures evolve over time. 

By 2013, the phrase ‘startup communities’ became really common and the premise that startup communities can be built in any city with at least 1000, 000 people became a refrain for entrepreneurs all over the world. 

 

Part 2: Why startup communities exist

Startup communities exist for a number of reasons. Some accelerators and incubators create startup communities to foster connections between founders in their ecosystem and some others, to help founders get the resources and support vital to the success of their business. These reasons and more are summed up in Brad Feld’s framework for why startup communities exist. 

Startup communities exist to enable startups within a specific geographic location to share the costs of their common needs together. Think of your typical hubs and accelerators that provide workstations for startups in different phases. These hubs most times provide a solution to the familiar needs of these founders which include rent, internet connection, labour, accounting etc. Founders can share the rent and data costs amongst themselves, and get access to a talent pool provided by the accelerator, minimizing cost.  This is backed up byPaul Krugman, Micheal Porter and Paul Romer’s research on economic concepts as they apply to location. Their research is hinged on the fact that as more and more startups in a certain location share the costs of their common needs together, the average cost per startup is reduced providing direct economic benefit to the companies within that location.

The second reason why startup communities exist is tied to network effects better leveraged by communities with a culture of information sharing. This means that communities exist for information exchange and openness. Communities that encourage the cross-sharing and exchange of information across members, enable startups to adapt easier to rapid technological changes and help them to be better positioned to share information, adopt new trends, leverage information and respond to new conditions. 

The need to bond and meet with people of similar interests is one of the reasons why startup communities exist. In his book The startup community way, Brad Feld explains that creatives -  entrepreneurs, artists, engineers etc want to live in nice places and enjoy a culture that tolerates new ideas and most importantly- seek to be around fellow creatives. Simply put, startup communities exist to foster bonding between entrepreneurs who share similar interests. 

Now that we have established the reasons why startup communities are springing up in different places all over the world, we will examine why founders should be part of a community instead of doing it alone and winging it as they go

 

Part 3: Why founders should be part of a startup community with references (stories)

To get a better understanding of the importance of startup communities both to the founder and his startup, an understanding of a startup community is needed. 

In his book The startup way, Brad defines a startup community as ‘a group of people that through their interactions, attitudes, interests, goals, sense of purpose, shared identity, fellowship, collective accountability, and stewardship of place- are fundamentally committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed. It is the core of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in any geographic location’. 

A simple example of the importance of startup communities can be seen in the CCHub story.  Established in 2010 with the aim of encouraging, empowering, supporting and creating a network for people who wanted to drive change in the society through technology and social innovation. What started off as a need to provide support to innovators, accelerated the startup movement in Lagos and now boasts of an active community of 14, 500 members with over $385, 000 invested in funding startups in Nigeria. This further points to the fact that startup communities are accelerators for growth, expansion, mentorship and learning in an ecosystem. 

Here are some of the benefits of being a part of a startup community. 

  • Mentorship and learning:

The principal purpose of a startup community is to help entrepreneurs succeed. So much of this success relies on learning, access to mentorship and resources needed to scale. Research consistently points to the fact that startup founders with more extensive connectivity to other founders and resources needed for growth and acceleration are more likely to succeed than those who are secluded. Entrepreneurship thrives on connectivity and is oftentimes seen as a team sport, so being connected with others is important. This is because, the most valuable relationships startups need, particularly for early-stage companies, are local. Mentorship whether direct or indirect commonly practised and seen within different startup communities encourages knowledge spillovers, the exchange of ideas and learning from others. 

In complex environments particularly those faced by innovation-driven startups today, formal learning is most times, not viable. The best and easy way to learn in these environments is in close relation to the learning source. This means that founders have to rely on each other and on the community for ideas, skills and knowledge transfer. And because, mentorship in startup communities is underpinned by principles of trust, reciprocity and stewardship; social capital is easily built aiding the seamless flow of information and resource and acting as grease for funding, collaboration and connection. 

Moreover, knowledge transfer which is a product of mentorship in startup communities helps startup founders avoid pitfalls that some early-stage startups are prone to make; reducing the chances of failure and enriching longevity. 

  • Access to capital:

Most often than not, startup capital has been consistently highlighted as one of the core needs of founders. As much as financing is important to the growth and life cycle of a startup, intellectual (ideas, information, technologies), human (talent, knowledge, skills, experience, diversity), network (connectedness, relationships, bondedness), cultural (attitudes, mindset, behaviours, love of place), physical and institutional capital are also core capital needs of startups. Startup communities serve as a bridge through which founders can access capital.  

Startup communities act as a channel for the free flow of intellectual capital, encouraging the sharing of ideas, information, technologies, stories and educational activities. This is usually facilitated and done through community events, collaborations and partnerships either with other startup communities within the ecosystem or with relevant stakeholders. More recently, most startup communities are helping community members with talent sourcing and recruitment and are also encouraging diversity- bringing together founders with diverse experience, skills, knowledge, talent and experience together for the common good of all members. 

7 pilars of startup communities

Image:7 pillars of startup communities and entrepreneurial success by Brad Feld

It is common knowledge that culture is learnt and passed down and this is so with cultural traits seen in entrepreneurs. These traits include the attitudes, behaviours and mindset needed to build, launch and scale a startup. These characteristics are learnt and often passed down from founder to founder through mentorship and membership that startup communities provide.  

Furthermore, most accelerators and incubators establish communities for founders to enable them to fund and advance the growth of startups within the ecosystem. Becoming a member of these communities can help startup founders get the necessary ( (media, investor) attention they need for their startups as well as funding.

 

Communities are vital to the growth of the founder and the business as well as serve as a platform for mentorship, support and learning and can be a great access point for founders looking to get funding. The Aidi Community provides the support, resources and network founders need to build and grow their business. You can get aces to be an exclusive member by signing up here