Your co-working space is up and running and its halls are filled with a diverse group of entrepreneurs. The second generation of high-net-worth families have grouped together and formed an angel fund to pool their capital and resources. The local university has leaned outside their walls and embraced the startup community with free space, access to alumni, and co-lead a fun pitch competition. One of your local startups recently raised $5M led by two VC’s out of New York City. Ecosystem leaders are feeling pretty good about what has transpired over the last 3 years. So, what comes next for your startup community?

In 1962, E.M. Rogers outlined his Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory and as this blog does, I will attempt to simplify the meta message and apply it to your activities as a community member.

Rogers shares five key elements that influence the spread of a new idea:

  1. The Innovation – the new idea.
  2. The Communication Channels – the means by which information about the new idea is shared.
  3. The Social System – the overall community and their culture.
  4. The Adopter Categories – the subset of adopters that first embrace the idea.
  5. The Time – the period over which the idea is spread through the community.

It is this last element that I want to talk about today. And frankly, it is the hardest one to fully understand and eventually welcome into your mindset. I am talking about Time.

Regardless of your activities, regardless of your intellect, regardless of the amount of money you have applied to your goals, there is an element of time that YOU DO NOT CONTROL.

The diffusion of an idea takes a given amount of time. I do believe you can tweak that time element in your favor, but I do not think you can substantially change the arc of your progress.

s curve

This s-curve chart is typically used to examine and plan for product adoption but we can borrow the nuance of this for our ecosystem goals.

The changes you want for your ecosystem also typically follow an S-curve, where initial adoption will be slow, hopefully followed by rapid growth (as expressed in new founders, new capital and new activities), and finally a plateau where your ecosystem reaches its ceiling. 

Community enthusiasts must be aware of this timeline and manage their expectations accordingly. Here are three strategies for understanding the element of time in your efforts:

  1. Experiment, Iterate, and Accept that there will be failure.
  2. Focus on Momentum by celebrating wins and communicating them throughout the entire community.
  3. Lean In on Patience & Persistence. Embrace consistency & engagement every day.

Talk about this among your peers. Get some buy-in on the concept so that you can best manage the resources available to you.