Why You Can’t Market Your Way To Startup Community Growth

There are many tools in the community building toolbox, marketing should not be your primary tool.

Silicon Beach. Silicon Prairie. Silicon Beltway. Silicon Alley. Silicon Bayou. Silicon Desert. Silicon Harbor. Silicon Forest. Philicon Valley (my fav so far). These are all spins and a feeble attempt to ride along the brand of Silicon Valley. Most of you have rolled your eyes whenever we hear someone utter one of these phrases.  (You think that is troublesome – try sitting in a meeting of community leaders where someone actually offers up the local variant.)

Why do passionate and motivated leaders fall into this brand trap?  There is an easy answer – many think that there are shortcuts to startup community development.

Where might this thinking come from, you ask.  If you have never been involved in a startup (as a founder, early employee, investor, lawyer) and your knowledge originates from the media, your assumption is that companies appear and then are massively successful.  Its human nature to start your understanding of a phenomena when you first heard of it.  The problem is you are basically unaware of the prior months/years of effort.  Most of us only see the public-facing marketing and attribute the company success to the marketing campaign(s).

Unfortunately, some take that same flawed understanding and try to apply it to community development.

You cannot market yourself to community success.

Success is based on the months/years of hard work done prior to the public awareness of that same success. If you are a local leader who is motivated to build & grow your local startup community, don’t fall into the trap of thinking your can market yourself to your goals.

As a community leader, you typically have very little time to apply to community development as very few are paid to do this (it’s a side project for all but a few).  To that end, let’s not waste precious time and money on a tactic that will never work.

Anybody for Silicon Y’all or maybe Silicon BBQ ( representing my North Carolina)?

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.

2 comments On Why You Can’t Market Your Way To Startup Community Growth

  • Are you sure you’re not just talking about bad marketing? What about running mentoring sessions to attract more would-be entrepreneurs to get involved in your community? Is that not a tacit form of “marketing”.

    • Good point. But I am talking about using “Marketing” as the sole methodology to establish your community. Mentoring sessions should be 1 of many tactics required to advance your community.

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