How To Make A Startup Community Grow And Become More Inclusive
Everyone that works in startups desire a strong, growing and inclusive community. It’s something everyone benefit from, founders, VC’s, developers, marketers, the list goes on.
How you perceive a community often depend on if you’re a local or not. In Barcelona the startup community is a good mix of both Spanish people and expats from all over the world, which is a great thing.
I’ve been a member of the startup community in the city for well over a year now, and I’ve been impressed by how inclusive and fast-growing it is. To help me analyze why and how the ecosystem has been growing, I spoke to a local expert.
Want to go fast or far?
Àlex Rodríguez Bacardit is the CEO and founder of MarsBased, director of Startup Grind Barcelona, and the man behind the Slack group StartupBCN. As a local, he’s seen the community grow fast for the last years, and have recognized a clear difference between certain companies:
Some companies fail to understand that an ecosystem is a perfect sum of the actors that contribute. Go alone if you want to go fast, go accompanied if you want to go far, as the African proverb says.
Even though tech startups is dependent and built by developers, it’s important that all events isn’t exclusively for this group. Bacardit says entry-level events are key in building and growing a community:
Events provided by new startups or even public administration, where you get free non-technical content, not using acronyms or tech-jargon so people can start soaking the startup vibe and culture without feeling lost.
Too many “rockstars”
As Brad Feld wrote in the well-known book “Startup communities”, inclusion doesn’t just mean to invite as many of the people you think will fit into the community, it actually means everyone, according to Feld:
“Welcome everyone to the startup community. Everyone should have the perspective that having more people engaged is good for the startup community.”
Wise, experienced startup founders are essential in all communities that want to grow, but it’s important to not forget the youngest group of the ecosystem.
Young people who’s hungry for experience with their whole life ahead of them, and with“nothing to lose”, can be an incredible resource to a growing (or a stagnant) community. They’re often not limited by the same things as older, more experienced members of the ecosystem can be. Limited time, money, pride, are things young people more rarely have, and make them more free to be active and engaged.
Bacardit explains that even though the Barcelona ecosystem is getting better every year, there’s still too many older “rockstars”.
There is an established “startup mafia” which is everywhere, pulling the strings of the community. If you’re not friends with them, you won’t make it. The biggest pitfall is the conquer-all attitude of some companies that try to gain foothold within the community without caring about other companies.
The founder believes giving before getting, is the key to growth.
An inclusive startup community is where being a competitor does not matter. At this level, companies should partner more often than not, even if they’re competitors.
If even Microsoft and Google or Apple partner from time to time, why shouldn’t startups?
Build something that lasts
In Barcelona we’re very lucky to have an extremely strong city brand, but not all cities have the world’s best football team, and millions of people coming to visit every year. If you don’t have a strong identity, it’s easy to start drawing lines to other places that have fostered world-famous entrepreneurs.
You often hear that cities brand themselves as the Silicon Valley of this or that, but if you want your startup community to develop in a healthy way and be a reference to other communities, I think it’s important to stay true to who you are.
For instance to call Barcelona the Silicon Valley of southern Europe would look good as a title in news articles, and create a bit of buzz, but to base your brand on your own talent and success is something that will last much longer, even though it takes more time and effort.
So if you’re part of a startup or a tech company you now know some of the things you should, and shouldn’t do. And Bacardit has one last encouragement to you:
I believe most companies should host an event or two a year just to learn what it can bring them, and how difficult it is. It’s a nice way to pay the community back.
This post was written by Sindre Hopland, media manager at itnig.