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It’s been a blast to have a house in Kansas City. I’ve made a bunch of new friends from it and have been able to participate in the radical growth of the startup community there, especially in the KC Startup Village where my house is located. I’ve gotten to experience Google Fiber first hand and also helped mentor a neat startup called HandPrint who has been living in the house for the past six months. And it continues to be really fun to tell the story of the look on Amy’s face when I came home and said “hey – I bought a house in Kansas City today.”
When I bought the house, it had an attic that was a mess. A really gross mess. Think mouse turds, busted boards, and damp rotting wood mess. I hired a contractor who the HandPrint folks hung out with and he turned it into a great new loft. Turnstone (a Steelcase company) offered to furnish the house as a way of highlighting their furniture in a startup environment.
It turned out awesome. If you’ve been following the story at all, the video below will give you a few minute glimpse into the house, some of the players including the amazing Lesa Mitchell who helped make it all happen, the snazzy Turstone-loft, as well as give you a look at the HandPrint team.
I’m trying to figure out the next fun place to buy a house like this.
One of my heroes is Jim Collins. Of all books that I’ve ever read about business, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t are two of the most important ones I’ve ever read. While I read Built to Last first, I didn’t really get how important it was until I read Good to Great. I went back after, read Built to Last again – and slowly – and realized how powerful Collins’ research and thinking was.
So it was an incredible honor to interview Jim for 45 minutes last week at the Startup Phenomenon event about Startup Communities. We spent the time applying the ideas from Jim’s books and research to the idea of Startup Communities.
I learned a lot. I also had a lot of fun. And I came up with a few new ideas as Jim tossed out a few absolute gems during our 45 minutes together.
If you are interested in Startup Communities, or are a Jim Collins fan, I think you’ll like this a lot. Enjoy!
I woke up late today (yay – 12:06 hours of sleep) to the last 15 minutes of the elite women in the NYC Marathon. Watching them finish and then watching Mutai crush the men’s field over the last six miles was pretty inspiring. I haven’t run a marathon since October 2012 when I ran the Detroit Marathon but after a year of struggling to get into a rhythm I’m once again motivated – and interested – in doing another marathon. I’ve committed to being one of the 14 in 2014 that run the Boston Marathon – there’s a gang of well known tech entrepreneurs and investors that are doing this together as part of a big fundraiser. I’ll definitely try to get at least one marathon in before then just to be confident that I’ll get it done.
Last week I added back in something I used to do regularly, but had stopped for a year or so given my schedule and then ensuing depression. I did a full day of random day meetings on halloween. I sat at Amante Coffee all day, mostly in my cookie monster outfit, had random meetings, drank coffee, and ate cookies. I had a blast.
If you’ve never heard of random day, I’ll meet with anyone who signs up for 20 minutes. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade – it’s part of my “give before you get” philosophy that’s deeply embedded in the Boulder Startup Community psyche. I have no expectation of what I’m going to get out of these meetings, but some pretty magical things, including the creation of Techstars, have occurred as a result of them.
During the course of the day I had 12 meetings, three cups of coffee, a yogurt, a burrito, and two cookies. I met with the following people.
- Friend starting a COO / CEO search
- Attorney in town thinking of starting a seed fund
- Founder of a non-profit I recently supported
- Person looking for a new BD gig
- Founder of a natural foods company I just invested in
- BD person looking to get into the VC or Boulder scene
- Tech entrepreneur I hadn’t seen in a decade describing his new thing
- Content marketing person looking to be plugged into Boulder
- Founders of non-profit looking to expand outside of Boulder
- Partners in a non-profit looking for support for a robot competition
- New VC in town in the natural foods market
- Two entrepreneurs just starting their tech business looking for feedback
I was immediately able to help at least six of the 12. I have no idea what will come from the other meetings, but that’s part of the fun of random day.
I plan to do this again six times in 2014. So that’s about 80 random meetings – people I wouldn’t have met with – and who wouldn’t have had some time with me. If one powerful thing comes out if it, then it’s worth it. Regardless, I had a good day on Thursday and feel like I did something that contributed to the glue in the Boulder Startup Community.
As many of you know, mentoring women in startups and STEM careers is important to me, so I’m very pleased to be a part of the Startup Phenomenon: Women program, a one-day event in Macky Auditorium at CU-Boulder.
The speaking line-up for the day is really outstanding. It includes author Amanda Steinberg, founder and CEO of DailyWorth; Margaret Neale, management professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business; and Michele Weslander Quaid, chief technology officer (federal) and innovation evangelist at Google. If you’d like to see all the speakers scheduled, you can check out the website.
We’ll be covering topics of interest to entrepreneurs like startup financing, mentoring by and for women entrepreneurs, alternative business models and resources available for women-led businesses.
The conference is open to the public, and and a line-up like this doesn’t come along every day. Tickets start at $25 for students and $100 for the general public. I’m looking forward to an informative and inspiring day, and I hope you’ll consider attending.
As I continue to talk about Startup Communities, I say over and over and over again that the leaders have to be entrepreneurs. Everyone else – who I call the “feeders” (government, university, non-profits, big companies, VCs, angel investors) – have an important role, but the leaders must be entrepreneurs. Now – members of feeder organizations can play a leadership role, but in the absence of a critical mass of entrepreneurs, the startup community won’t ever develop into anything meaningful.
I was interviewed recently in MIT Technology Review in an article titled It’s Up to You, Entrepreneurs. It’s part of a series they are doing titled The Next Silicon Valley. It was a long interview by Antonio Regalado who boiled my rambling down into a bunch of coherent answers to specific questions.
For example, when he asked, “What’s the most important step an entrepreneur can take to create a startup community?” I answered:
“Just do stuff. It’s kind of that simple. It’s literally entrepreneurs just starting to do things. If you’re in a city where there’s no clear startup community, the goal is not raise a bunch of money to fund a nonprofit, the goal is not get your government involved. The goal is start finding the other entrepreneurial leaders who are committed to being in your city over the next 20 years. Then, as a group, get very focused on knowing each other, working together, being inclusive of anyone else who wants to engage, doing things that help recruit people to that geography, and doing selfish stuff for your company that also drives your startup community.”
He got underneath some great key points about startup communities with his questions, which follow.
- People talk about technology clusters. You talk about entrepreneurial communities. What’s the difference?
- What’s the most important step an entrepreneur can take to create a startup community?
- Let’s say you are the mayor. Would you rather bring Boeing to your city or have a startup scene?
- You seem to think a top-down approach is pretty toxic.
- What’s the evidence that startup communities can happen outside of traditional technology hubs?
- In your book, you say entrepreneurs need to make a 20-year commitment to a place. Does anyone really think in those time scales?
- How would you measure the success of a startup community?
- In Kansas City you bought a house and handed it over to some programmers. What’s the idea?
If you want the answers, go read It’s Up to You, Entrepreneurs.