As you hopefully know by now, I love simple statements that convey a message that I/we can then re-interpret for this tribe of founders, startups and startup community enthusiasts. Today I was pondering the parable that “you can only harvest what you plant”. (My second farming parable, BTW.) You want to know what drives startup community results? Look back and see what you were planting months and years ago.

Brad Feld first coined the phrase that ecosystem building is a 20 year journey and I added that it restarts every day. You are never done, the game never ends.

The idea here in community building is that you must plant long before you are ready to harvest.

It also means you have to be a patient farmer as some plants take years to take hold, grow and prosper. My landscape brother once told me that new grass takes 3 years to fully establish itself (first it sleeps, then creeps then leaps). You want startup community results? Think about how many years it takes to grow a big tree.

So what does this mean for our tribe of community builders? It means that you should immediately invest in the foundational elements ASAP. 

  1. I am thinking about a culture of support and collaboration. (Show up at each others events, help promote new events, write checks to current and new event ideas)
  2. I am thinking about great mentor networks easily available to all. (Networks grow over time so you can’t get started on this too early. Make introductions daily – expose your network to others. Foster a #givefirst mentality – remove the transactional connection.)
  3. I am thinking about key partnerships across your region. (These include economic development, college and university entrepreneurship leaders, chambers of commerce, existing startup nonprofits, etc., etc., etc.)

Overlaid on these foundational elements are programming, coworking spaces, innovation conferences & meetups and all of the sexy stuff that is readily seeable. These are necessary building blocks for a robust community. 

But, place those building blocks on top of a great startup community culture – now you have something that can sustain over time, ready to be harvested for years to come.