The Power Of Including Anyone Who Wants To Participate In The Community

I’m still buzzing from yesterday. The entire day was dedicated to TechStars Demo Day in Boulder. It started with a run on the Boulder Creek Path, followed by Demo Day, lunch with Paul Berberian, Mark Solon, and Pam Solon, a handful of TechStars meetings in the afternoon including one with the guys from J-Squared Media (members of the very first TechStars program), a hangout with Jerry Colonna at his new house in Boulder, dinner with Jerry, Mark, Pam, David and Jill Cohen, Nicole Galaros, and Jason Seats, and then the TechStars Demo Day afterparty.

When I got home at 11:30 I was done. Deeply happy, but wiped out. I woke up late this morning (7am) and wandered into my kitchen to see Mark Solon on his laptop preparing for a run (Mark and Pam stayed at my condo in Boulder this week). We talked for a few minutes and the deep pleasure we were both feeling about being alive and part of the Boulder startup community was apparent.

He then said something that I noticed last night but hadn’t thought much of. At about 10pm the Boulder Cruisers, on their weekly Thursday ride, went by Shine where we were having the afterparty. There was the usual cheering, hooting and hollering, and just generally good karma at 10pm on a warm summer night. This morning, Mark pointed it out as a magical moment. The mix of two totally different communities of people – a huge crowd of entrepreneurs, nerds, and techies in Shine crossed with an equally cruising bike crowd on the street. And the only feelings that were flowing were happy ones where everyone was glad to be there.

Mark then said “That’s the magic of Boulder and TechStars. Everyone is part of the community. Everyone feels like part of the community. Every single person at TechStars Demo Day was part of it – whether they were mentors, investors, lawyers, or the hundreds of people from the broader Boulder tech community who attended.”

The third of the four key principles of the Boulder Thesis at the core of my Startup Communities book is “The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.” We saw that on display in many different ways yesterday. Listening to Mark play it back to me reinforced once again how powerful it is.

  • no other environment to live and grow in. ATX is similar.

    And I want to play with an Ubooly! Verbalizeit seems like a solution near the right price. I’ll be watching those.

  • One thing that makes this community amazing is how much people give selflessly. You see it over and over again – because the more you give without expectation of reward, the more you get back. I think that’s the core of the magic, inclusivity and selfless giving. Thanks Brad for being a key factor in the start of that cycle!

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  • I love that quote. Congratulations on a great day and all that it represents!

  • James Mitchell

    I used to go to SEO and WordPress meetups in Boston. The
    reason I no longer attend is that both of them do what you advocate — i.e.,
    let anyone attend who wants to. In the SEO meetup, there were some guys who
    knew SEO well but they were drowned out by the “I own a shoe store and I’ve
    heard about the Internet and I have no idea what SEO is, but I thought I would
    come and learn”people. Same with the
    WordPress meetup. So I stopped going to these. If I really cared, I would start
    a SEO Experts meetup and a WordPress gurus meetup, but I don’t care enough.

    The only conferences I go to nowadays are national
    conferences. If somone pays $1000 and has to get on a plane to attend, the
    quality of attendee is much higher.

    I feel the same way about voting. If I were in charge, one
    would have to pass tests in history, economics, political philosophy, law, probability
    and statistics and other subjects in order to vote. The idea of printing
    ballots in languages other than English for people who cannot read English is
    ridiculous. If only 500,000 people in American were allowed to vote, can you
    imagine the quality of political debate we would enjoy? The Founding Fathers
    would be proud.

    Other than making you feel good, there is no reason to do
    what you advocate, and lots of reasons not to. Being an entrepreneur is for a
    small number of intense, highly unusual people. Same for being an angel
    investor. If a virgin wants to attend, how about saying, “Show up that you are
    serious. Spend a year reading the blogs, reading some books, talking with
    people. Come back in 12 months and demonstrate to us how much you have

    Three cheers for excluding people!

  • Powerful thought! I couldn’t agree more. Inclusivity simply removes the ambiguity of what is ‘acceptable’ for participation. Exclusion has the degrading effect of many individuals drawing the line one or two rungs below their level of knowledge/talent. This is the sad effect of people simply participating for personal gain, rather than the sharing of knowledge and ideas. While exclusivity may provide marginal benefit to the individuals who are ‘allowed’ to participate, it serves no benefit to the expansion of the community, or the spreading of knowledge – which ultimately leads to increased creativity and innovation.

  • It’s interesting how Facebook’s core value of exclusivity is fundamentally different than the formula to build a such a community as TechStars which aspires to be all inclusive. It seems the inclusivity formula starts to break down when number of participants increase beyond some threshold.

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