Where you work, and with whom you surround yourself, counts. When I started my first software company 17 years ago, it was the era of the solo entrepreneur. Getting access to a community of supporters and mentors, finding capital and recruiting talent was as challenging as growing a plant in a tiny pot with no water or sunlight.
Entrepreneurship is now a team sport, with leagues and teams all across the country. You no longer have to be in Silicon Valley or an alumnus of an Ivy League school to gain access to mentors, developers and peers who can influence and propel your business. In fact, some of the most vibrant communities for startups are in Austin, Boulder, Seattle and Fort Collins, Colorado.
To help you tap into the power of proximity, here are five people you should seek to surround yourself with to succeed.
1. Fellow entrepreneurs. When you’re in a strange place – a new industry, a new city or a foreign country – there’s a certain camaraderie that develops when you find someone in the same situation. Finding your fellow entrepreneurs and connecting with them, human-to-human, can provide a wealth of resources. Swap battle stories, dissect each other’s strategies, commiserate, share resources, tools and knowledge. Your businesses may be different but you’ll likely be surprised at the similarities of your experiences.
2. Someone to hold you accountable. When you’re accountable only to yourself, it’s easy to let things slip. Didn’t reach out to your set number of prospective investors this week? Who cares, only the dog knows. Instead, find an accountability partner who is aware of your goals and isn’t afraid to call you out if you miss a deadline.
Set-up a regular check-in (once a week is ideal) with your partner to review what you’ve accomplished, your next immediate goals and how you’re progressing overall in getting your start-up off the ground.
3. Mentors. You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s worth mentioning again – and again: find mentors. Yes, plural, mentors. I recommend finding many. As you grow personally and as your business grows, your needs change. The mentors who can keep advancing you will change, too. To approach mentorship with this model, be specific about your current challenges. Choose someone who will be authentic and have specific experience in the areas you want to improve.
4. Talent. For most tech companies today, the biggest challenge isn’t funding, it’s finding highly skilled engineers. If you’re the CEO, your number one job is to build your team. To do this, create ties into engineering communities to recruit the best developers. Most great hires come from personal connections and networks. You need to be swimming in a deep pool of intellectual capital to recruit the best employees.
5. Potential Partners. I am not just talking about finding your technical co-founder (although proximity is also key to that too). I am talking about creating key industry relationships that fill in gaps in your business. No company today can afford to cultivate all of its needs internally. Identifying and establishing industry relationships must be part of your growth strategy. Being in close proximity to other entrepreneurs can open doors you never expected.
Entrepreneurs are responsible for designing their own roadmap to success but the days of operating in a silo have come to an end. This list is just a start. There are many ways to access the types of people, tools and support needed to reach your goals. Us the power of proximity to reach the next stage of your venture.