A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about why the ecosystem is important for startup founders. In it, I described some of the reasons your local startup ecosystem can affect you personally and your company’s success. If there is a healthy network of investors, companies, and service providers in an area, everyone benefits.
But what can founders can do to help their local ecosystem flourish?Especially on a startup schedule (and budget), it can be hard to dedicate time or resources to enhancing the common good. Nobody running a new company can afford to be a one-person Chamber of Commerce on the side.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that hard. Keeping the local ecosystem in mind when you’re making everyday decisions can help both your company and the startup market in your city grow and prosper.
So here’s a list of things founders can do for their ecosystems, for their companies, and for their own careers.
- Stay put. Outside investors and some other entrepreneurs will encourage you to move to the Valley, to New York, or somewhere else. You need to do what’s best for your company, but it’s best for the ecosystem if you stay where you are.
- Stay in touch. Being a visible part of the local community keeps the fabric of the community together. People will point at you and say, “See? There are startups in this town.” Go to events, meet other founders, give talks, blog, tweet.
- Don’t hide your location. There’s a temptation to hide where your company is, so you’re not stigmatized for it. Avoid that temptation. Most of your real customers don’t care where you are, and those people who do — investors and potential partners — are going to find out anyways. Fly the flag proudly.
- Use local products. If another local startup launches a product, use it — visibly. Give feedback to the company. Give it the benefit of the doubt.
- Partner with local startups. If you can, find a way to put your company’s prestige behind other local startups. Do they have a widget or some other tool you could put on every user page, say? Try to find synergies that work.
- Build a local team. Sure, virtual workgroups work. You want the best, and your company deserves it — even if that team is thousands of miles apart. But if you can, try to find people locally who can do the job as well. If possible, try to convince your remote team members to move to your city. The more talented people there are in your city, the more robust the community becomes.
- Be a sponsor. Local events are usually cheap to sponsor. They help to galvanize the community and give it visibility. They also help make talented developers or others feel like there’s “something going on” in your city. There are other things to sponsor: blogs, clubs, hackerspaces.
- Mentor. You don’t have to have 4 exits and a global business network to be a mentor. No matter how early you are in the startup process, there are others who are behind you. Give them the benefit of your experience. Even in the most robust ecosystems, there are at most a few dozen people who’ve gone through what you have recently. That experience is like gold to other founders.
- Make introductions. Investors need to meet founders, and founders need to meet investors. If you can make an introduction, it may be a key factor in getting someone funded. But that’s not the only introduction that matters: introducing employees, other founders, the press, government officials strengthens the web of connections that forms an ecosystem. It takes a few seconds, but can make a big difference.
- Invest. If you have an exit with a decent cash-out, you can help significantly in the local ecosystem by investing (re-investing?) that money in new startups. You don’t have to be a billionaire or carry an entire Series A by yourself — just a $10K seed investment can make the difference between life and death for a new team. Combining your funds with other founders in seed funds or angel groups can stretch your influence.
As I said before, founders have to put their companies first – ahead of other factors like ecosystem. But that doesn’t mean that the interests of your region and of your company can’t be aligned.
For more information about healthy network of investors. Click here.