The Largest Startup Community In The World

As Boulder Startup Week 2014 comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the power of startup communities today.

When I wrote Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, I made some assertions about how to build startup communities and what the impact of them would be on society. As I sit here at the end of a week pondering everything that is going on in the world around startup communities, I believe I have vastly underestimated their potential impact. And this makes me feel very happy.

Startup Week is a great example of an activity and event that I talk about in my Boulder Thesis. It was also another creation from Boulder, just like Startup Weekend, Techstars, and the Boulder Thesis. Andrew Hyde, the founder of Startup Weekend, was also the founder of Startup Week. After a hiatus of a few years, Andrew came back to run Boulder Startup Week. But he is also about to do something magical with Startup Week – look for more on that soon. And, if you enjoyed Boulder Startup Week, go check out Fort Collins Startup Week which is happening from 5/20 – 5/25 and looks awesome.

This reflection led me to think about how to wire up the largest startup community in the world. Geography is one boundary, but the Internet allows us to create a global startup community that is a network of startup communities. UP Global, which I’m on the board of, is doing just that.

You might know UP Global by the names of the two organizations that combined to form it – Startup Weekend and Startup America Partnership. This combination happened about a year ago and the progress in the last year has been remarkable.

I encourage you to take a look at the UP Global 2013 Impact Report. It’s 28 slides and when I looked at it early today it blew my mind. Here are a few key metrics:

  • 310,000 alumni and volunteers
  • 4,500 mentors
  • 132,000 businesses
  • 87,000 developers
  • 39,000 designers
  • 501 cities
  • 126 countries

Go look at the UP Global 2013 Impact Report. It’s insanely wonderful how many people and startup communities this organization has touched.

The network is getting incredibly strong and powerful. I believe that networks are now more important in our society than hierarchies. Sure – we’ll have hierarchies forever, but I’m going to spend as much of my time as possible in the network. And for everyone who is part of the network of people engaging in startup communities, thanks for all your efforts on this mission!

  • Marc Nager

    As the man who literally wrote the book on startup communities, thank you so much for your leadership Brad. The people leading these communities today are already becoming the people that are shaping our future.

  • When I joined a couple of entrepreneurs to create our local startup community, we used your book as a guide, and a bit later Startup Weekend was the keystone that lighted the spark in our thriving community. Today, as UP Global’s country manager in Brazil, I recommend community leaders that are starting, to follow this same path. It’s amazing how a strong community can change the direction and reality of a city.

  • accelvimukti

    Link to UP Global is broken. It should be

  • Mike Chan

    Great stuff, Brad! Startup Weekend DC in November 2011 was my first foray into entrepreneurship, and this led me to eventually quitting my job and becoming an entrepreneur, startup founder and now Startup Weekend DC organizer. It’s been a great ride.

    Will you be at the Up Summit in Vegas in a week and a half? If so, hope to see you there!

    • I won’t be at this one since I’m still not traveling.

      • Mike Chan

        Glad you made it to UpSummit and great chatting with you on the walk back to the hotel!

  • Tom Blue – Lead411

    After attending Boulder Startup Week, I couldn’t be happier with our decision to move to Boulder. I was already happy with our move, but this week put it over the top.

    Being a bootstrapped founder one of my biggest challenges is finding other tech founders to bounce ideas off. That is one of the drawbacks of not raising money. After 3 months of being here I feel like I already have a mini-network of other self-funded founders that are in the enterprise space. I think this was so easy because A) everyone is so open & helpful here, and B) the entire county is just jam-packed with entrepreneurs. Brad would know better for the reasons why, but this is what I see.

    I have lived in NYC, LA, Buenos Aires, etc and have connected with entrepreneurs in all of those locations. The resources, network and general entrepreneur energy found in other cities is not comparable to what I have found here.

    • Psyched to have you here.

  • channel_one_networks

    Well gosh. Boulder has had big investments since the 1880s with Gold and coal. In the 1940s it was defense engineering. The 1950 brought Giant science labs , IBM and Nuclear. Then came huge investment l 100 of startups. Then oil outdoor sports. Food. Penny stocks..and now you new kids …. you didn’t invent it or boulder. You r just the latest. Don screw it up

  • RBC

    Glad to hear that. I think some people have missed one of the points from your book – it can’t be led by universities, government or VCs. It needs to be self-propelled. Well done for building the conditions for that to happen in Co as I’m sure you were instrumental in it. A quick style comment – I think the comments link should follow the article, I comment a lot and almost always read the other comments as you’ve got smart people participating. But as it is currently it discourages discovery and participation in the comments as the reader needs to go back to the top of the page – hope that is helpful

    • Great suggestion.

  • Well done! Excited about what UP Global is up to 🙂 best wishes and many blessings! Thanks for your Impact!!

  • Brad – All this work around “start-ups” is great but it seems to focus exclusively on the world of high-tech. According to there are 560,000 new businesses started each month across the U.S. That’s 6.7 million per year. Granted, a few of them are high-tech focused, but the vast majority are folks who are working to create a sustainable business around their skills, knowledge and ideas. Just because they aren’t high-tech businesses intended to make someone richer doesn’t mean they are not valid, job producing efforts that deserve more attention.

    We launched the Small Business Learning Center as a one-stop on-line resource for information, ideas, classes, services, products and support for folks looking to build and grow their businesses. It’s a non-government, non-grant, non-investor effort to support the solopreneur and micro-enterprise owners who make up 95% of the 28 million U.S. businesses. These are the landscapers, plumbers, hair-stylists, limo drivers, cooks, cleaners, consultants, and coaches (to name a few) who are everywhere not just in the incubators and special support facilities that get all money and media attention.

    I don’t believe you or other organizers are intentionally being exclusive of these “main street” businesses, as they are often refereed to by the media. But the obsession with the “get rich” aspects of the “start-up /entrepreneur” phenomenon detract from the rest of the work being done by tens of thousands of folks all around this country. I felt compelled to speak up.

    • Steve – thx for speaking up, but I disagree that the work we do detracts from this activity. Until 2010, there was no distinction made in government, politics, or the media between “small businesses” and “high growth startups.” In the US, the SBA was explicitly called the “Small Business Association” and there was no functional difference made between Google when it was 10 people and a local Mountain View restaurant.

      As you correctly point out, they are different animals, and need different resources.

      I like to call the “small businesses” you support “local businesses.” They are incredibly important to our society on numerous dimensions. But they are different than “high growth startups.”

      It’s not a zero sum game – there isn’t a winner and loser. They can both be winners.

      • Brad – Thanks for your response. Like I said, I don’t believe you or other organizers are intentionally being exclusive or detracting. It’s really a problem of the media who have to try and milk the story-line to make it “flashy” enough to grab both their editors and their readers attention. In the process they make it appear like its all about the money. I suppose only people with a real passion for seeing others do well would find the small victories of individuals worth hearing about. Yes, the majority of business we look to support tend to operate on a localized basis but, I prefer the general category name that both the government and bankers use for this group – Micro-enterprises. These are 1 – 9 people businesses which according to represent 95% of all operating businesses or about 26.6 million companies across the U.S. Hope you had a great memorial week-end. We Vietnam veterans appreciate the recognition.

  • The Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV) certainly wouldn’t be where it is today with the guidelines and principles set forth by you in your “Startup Communities” book. Thanks for being such a great steward and international thought leader for this revolution of startup communities. Just like the startups themselves, some communities will win and many will fail. But thanks to your continued guidance, the odds of success for each one are getting better and better. Thanks for doing what you do, Brad.