Take Silicon Valley, for example. The area is doing an excellent job of fostering its startup community — one built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. From informal tech meetings through Meetup to formal startup accelerator programs such as Y Combinator, it’s constantly working to sustain its startup community and put the area on the entrepreneurial map.
Does this mean that you should relocate your new business to an existing startup hub?
Not necessarily. After all, there’s a reciprocal relationship between businesses and cities. As your business and others invest in your community, you develop its economic value. It begins to grow and thrive, building itself into a prime startup location. In turn, your business benefits from the community’s economic success. Trust me, I know.
My company is a member of Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit organization committed to revitalizing downtown San Diego. Our work with this committee doesn’t focus on our company, instead, it centers on important social issues, including combating homelessness, diversifying transportation options, activating open spaces and branding causes. Kris Michell, president and CEO of the organization, has seen firsthand just how much the community has benefited.
“Just look at the skyline, and you’ll see how our business leaders have reshaped the community and our economy for the better,” said Michell. “Whether it’s the new Central Library, Petco Park or the San Diego Convention Center, the business community has been an important partner in making those iconic structures a reality.”
To support and strengthen the existing startup space in your community, you should:
Center the conversation on your city.
As an entrepreneur, you’re already creating content to further conversations with consumers about your products or services. Do the same for your community and brag about your city whenever possible. The next time you publish an article or a post, emphasize how the area invests in the startup space.
Never take off your entrepreneurial hat.
Often entrepreneurs check out when it comes to addressing local challenges, but they shouldn’t. If you approach these challenges the way you approach your products or services, you may just be able to come up with solutions — and innovative ones at that.
Share ideas with local legacy stakeholders.
You may assume this is a sphere of influence where your voice will go unheard. While that may be true in some scenarios, it doesn’t apply to all of them.
Perhaps you have a solution similar to the one coming out of Los Angeles to fuel growth in the tech industry by increasing the local talent pool with General Assembly. If so, let people know. Otherwise, your community might miss out on a great opportunity.
Network and mentor in your community.
Like creating content, networking should be nothing new for you. But how much of your time do you spend engaging the community on topics not directly related to your own business interests? You need to stay focused, but you shouldn’t wear blinders when it comes to your community responsibilities. If you’re an experienced founder, share your knowledge through mentorship.
Stop complaining about problems without presenting solutions, flaking on commitments and making assumptions. Instead, start making a difference in your community. In a world of flooded inboxes, nothing is more important than the quality of your in-person network, and the bulk of that is fostered in your local community.
Your city has a profound impact on your life and the life of your company. But the reverse is also true: By giving to your community, the community will give back to you. Connect with your fellow entrepreneurs, share your ideas and identify problems in the market. Only then can you create promising, groundbreaking solutions.