Book review _ Startup communities by Brad Feld
As much as coding requires attention to details, coming up with new solutions to problems is a day-to-day task when you’re working in tech, and drumming up ideas is something creatives excel at. For tech is an incredibly suitable field for creative people or those who tend to make things better on a daily basis. So is entrepreurship! Which is defined to be ” the ability to apply creative solutions to certain problems in order to enhace people’s lives or enrich society “. So the people of IT are on top of the list when it comes to investing in an idea and making it a reality.
Accrodingly, I picked a book on startups and how to nurture them as this month’s review.
The book discusses in 14 chapters the buzz, strategy and long-term perspectives of building communities of entrepreneurs who can feed off of each other’s talent, creativity, and support and thereby energise entire cities and industries. It makes it clear that all sorts of cities across the world can become home to job-creating new businesses, and that startup communities are popping up around the world, not just in Silicon Valley. The key according to Feld is to foster the necessary culture. And he details the hows of that in his book.
+ What you might appreciate about this read is Feld’s simple and smart writing. He engaged the greater global startup community to bombard the book with stories, insights, and experiences. There are many testimonials of entrepreneurs between the lines. Brad makes sure to put the Twitter usernames of these guys so you can reach out to some great people.
+ You will also like how all the insights and tips are appropriate for building any type of community, not just a startup communities. I wont spoil this here, I would let you enjoy learning about creating a community for yourselves.
± There is relatively redundant information within the chapters of the book and as a reader you wont prefer that. As if the author took 100 pages of valuable content and made it a 202 page book.
The book starts with a brave introductory chapter about how Startup communities can be built in any city and the future economic progress of cities, regions, countries, and societies at large is dependent on creating, building, and sustaining startup communities over a long period of time. If I would resume the chapter in a sentence it would be “startups are everywhere“. According to the author, that is a result of the networked society and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Startups are transforming our society. Over the past 100 years, we’ve gone from an industrial era, where a hierarchical structure dominated business and society, to a post information era where the network is rapidly disrupting the hierarchy and transforming the way we work and live.
The second chapter presents the key principles of a sustainable startup community through discussing the Boulder startup community, which has evolved over a long period of time, with the seeds being planted in the 1970s. Numerous entrepreneurs have been involved in its creation, growth, and on-going development.
Chapter 3 “Principales of a vibrant startup community” discusses the historical frameworks that have been used to describe why some cities become vibrant startup communities. A startup community must be extremely inclusive. It should engage entrepreneurs, people who want to work for startups, people who want to work with startups or people who are simply intellectually interested in startups.
Chapter 4 “Participants in a Startup Community” is one of the most important chapters of the book. It discusses the importance and the roles of varied participants in a startup community such as leaders, feeders and entrepreneurs. Leaders of startup communities have to be entrepreneurs. Everyone else is a feeder into the startup community. Leaders of a startup community must have a long-term commitment, welcome everyone to the startup community, and help create things that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. Feeders are everyone else in the startup community: government, universities, investors, mentors, service providers, and large companies.
It’s not about having a Silicon Valley attitude—it’s about having an entrepreneurial attitude. It’s about partnering with other organizations in and around your area. It’s about thinking big with entrepreneurs that sit next to you in your coworking space. It’s about collaborating with tech gurus, social media wizards and community leaders at cool business events. It’s the people that make a community an entrepreneurial one—not the location—and it’s up to you to contribute.
The fifth chapter is about the attributes of leadership in a startup community. It tells that leaders have to be mentorship driven and recognize the continual power of a mentor-mentee relationship. They must realize they are not playing a zero-sum game and embrace porous boundaries. They also have to be inclusive.
Building a startup community is not a zero-sum game in which there are winners and losers: if everyone engages, they and the entire community can all be winners.
Chapter 6 “Classical problems” discusses a set of typical problems along with suggestions about what can one do about them. It’s commun that entrepreneurs complain about not-enough capital. Although government can play a constructive role in startup communities, a reliance on government to either lead or provide key resources for the effort of building a startup community over a long period of time is a misguided view. This blind reliance on government is another grave problem.
Chapter 7 is very rich. It presents a set of activities and events that various leaders in Boulder took on, got going, and turned into fundamental components of Boulder startup community. The impact of each one varies, and individually one might not view any of them as a particularly huge endeavor, but collectively they provide a powerful base that Boulder startup community is built on.
You can’t motivate people, you can only create a context in which people are motivated.
Chapters 8 to 11 discuss similar topics or go through more details of what’s in chapters 2 to 7. These are about university envolvement and it’s role in preparing students to be players in dynamic industries that require entrepreneurial skills through different courses or activites. The stark differences between entrepreneurs and government that throws sharp contrast to each other. The power of the community and how to behave within a team.
Chapters 12 to 14 give the gist of the book! “Broadening a Successful Startup Community” is the twelfth chapter and it explores some of the weaknesses of Boulder’s startup community, along with what some of the leaders in the Boulder startup community are doing to address them over the next 20 years.
Chapter 13 is “Myths about startup communities“. It discusses some of the most popular myths that Paul Kedrosky, a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, regularly hears about startup communities. Being like Silicon Valley is one of them !
If that’s really your goal, save yourself a lot of heartache and simply move to Silicon Valley.
The last chapter offers encouragement to readers to take their startup community to the next level. It’s named “Getting started” and I find it a great closure as it’s a call for action. The authour explains that great entrepreneurs just start doing things. These are the same entrepreneurs who can be the leaders of their startup community. They just do things!
This book is a must-read for those who care about startup communities, absolutely boring for anyone else! It is a call for introspection aimed at any city, community, entrepreneur, developer, funder, leader or feeder. The book makes you think about whether you’re doing the right thing. And if you are in the tech field, which you probably are as you’re reading this blog, you won’t put the book down easily!