Beware of Building A Startup Community Fire

Startup community building is fraught with uncertainty – dont make it worse.

For a brief shining moment, I was in the fire suppression business so I know a little about fire.  Fire needs 3 elements; spark, material and oxygen. That is why you keep your door closed when there is a fire outside your room – don’t feed it more oxygen.

When I meet with startup community enthusiasts, we talk a lot about the factors that seem to grow a community and the factors that seem to inhibit progress.  If we could only do more of the right thing and less of the wrong things maybe we could build a little momentum.

Every community has its challenges.  Some of the ones I hear are:

  • We do not have enough capital
  • There are leaders who try and control everything
  • I can’t find any good mentors
  • The local corporations do not engage with startups
  • We don’t have any breakout companies.

These are real challenges and each one plays a negative role.  But here is the thing, publicly and privately bitching about these issues in itself also has a negative role to play.  I know this is human nature.  I also know we need to address the issue.

But, you just gave the issues/challenges more oxygen.  And now we have a bigger fire.

Negative community talk creates doubt and has a direct impact on each member of the community.

At the very least we need to balance the challenge discussions with the positive milestone stories.

An active member of your startup community?  Find yourself spending just a little too much time whining about what you don’t have? Try and minimize those conversations and try celebrating a few more of the advances you have made.


Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. One of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory (35 investments across 7 cohorts), founder and MC of the Big Top Reverse Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities. Currently EIR @ Techstars with Brad Feld ~ Startup Communities, to help community leaders around the world grow their startup community.

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