Community culture is the foundation for healthy ecosystems – but are they created for founders or by founders? Maybe we can look at how a company culture is created as a guideline.

Employees and employers are very conscious of culture in the post-covid workplace. There are many efforts by executives to build and establish a corporate culture. I agree that in a startup, the founding team and the first x number of employees establish the culture of the organization. I also agree that new executives brought into an existing organization are typically motivated to change the culture. This sometimes feels to me to be very top down like it’s being imposed or mandated.

As founders, we spend time (I hope) creating a vision for the culture of the company we wish to build. Like that future employee, our analysis as founders take from our own experiences, add in some ideas observed from other companies and their founders, as well as the myriad books and blogs that eventually result in establishing the culture we envision. Both the employee and the founder outcomes of this culture challenge are ultimately responsible and frankly alone in that final decision (join the company or not // here is what our culture looks like and doesn’t look like).

Startup community culture is a much different beast and seems much different than company culture. Startup communities are never the result of one person’s decision. There is no King or CEO of the startup community.

Startup communities are the sum of the collective actions and decisions and behaviors of the entire community.

Whereas company culture is driven by the CEO and possibly a few executives, startup community culture is driven by everyone including those that hold appointed leadership roles AND those that are investors, supporters, vendors and of course founders. But the leadership of one or a few appointed individuals is not as strong as the leadership of the executives of a startup company. They have no position to mandate behavior.

This means that everyone has a chance, and frankly the responsibility, to influence the culture of their startup community.

And yet, I frequently hear from startup community members (especially nascent or developing communities) that they feel as though their community culture is “done to them” as opposed to “created by them”. This is disappointing as they each are missing an opportunity to change (hopefully for the good) their startup community culture. In fact every decision and action you take as a member of the community influences how others make decisions. Your actions are your startup community’s culture.