Atlanta Tech Village and SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter hosted a LIVE video chat with legendary startup investor Brad Feld on Wednesday, after a nice lunch provided by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (MAC), which now has a satellite office in the Village. Brad talked extensively about the startup ecosystem in Boulder. Brad has been there and done that on dozens – hundreds! – of tech startup investments, and has seen the rise of the startup ecosystem in Boulder. So, when Brad Feld talks, tech startup founders and communities should freaking listen.
Here are 10 take-aways from the LIVE Video Chat with Brad Feld, specifically addressing how to (and how not to) build a thriving startup community & ecosystem.
- The Boulder Thesis for building a vibrant startup community has 4 points. The startup community must:
- be led by entrepreneurs at critical mass, to anchor the community.
- take very long term view, at least 20 years. Just like startups, the vast majority of which take years, the community will take years to develop.
- be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage at any level: new entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, successful repeat entrepreneurs, recent failures, service providers, etc.
- foster a constant, never-ending series of activities and events that engage the entire community. These events are NOT cocktail parties and networking events, but things like Startup Weekend that engage every player in the startup community to DO THINGS and BUILD THINGS that weren’t there before.
- What causes #startup ecosystems to fail? There are 2 categories of people in the startup ecosystem: leaders and feeders. Entrepreneurs must be the leaders. See Boulder Thesis point #1. Feeders – government, academia, service providers – must participate in the community without trying to control it. Rather, the feeders must represent their particular vertical in the startup ecosystem, very much like Mayor Kasim Reed has done in Atlanta recently. He’s one of the best cheerleaders the Atlanta startup community has. The community will fail when any entity attempts to control it.
- Resist control. Foster engagement. You want conflict & overlap. Have so much engagement going on that there is always something happening somewhere.
- The Boulder #Startup Philosophy: give before you get. Put energy into it without knowing what you’ll get back, or when you’ll get it. Brad compared this to an advisor vs. a mentor.
- Advisor: “I’ll advise you for 5% equity or $5000.”
- Mentor: “How can I help you?”
- Founders define the culture of a startup, and then hire people that fit into that culture. Brad doesn’t give a sh** what the culture is, but the founders have to hire people that fit the culture.
- Do not try to control the startup community. Let it grow organically.
- The startup ecosystem is a messy, organic network that grows over time.
- On culture, Brad puts culture and competence on two axes: high culture fit and high competence is perfect. What do you do with lows? No room for that.
- 3 Criteria for @bfeld to invest:
- Founder is obsessed with it;
- Feld has an affinity for it;
- Feld wants to be a partner with that founder.
OK, so twelve take-aways. Were you there? What did you take away from Brad Feld’s LIVE video chat?