Last night I finished reading a pre-release copy of Brad Feld’s new book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. Brad does a great job of covering a wide range of topics and presenting a number of tactical ideas for community building, startup or otherwise. The book is closer to a how to manual with anecdotes than it is a strategy business book like you might find from Jim Collins. If you’re a hands-on, doer type, then it’s for you.
Here is Feld’s Boulder Thesis for startup communities:
- Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community;
- The leaders must have a long-term commitment;
- The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it; and
- The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.
Now, let’s take these items and go through them in an Atlanta context:
- Entrepreneur lead community (grade: B) – Many events, like Startup Lounge, Hypepotamus meetups, Startup Riot, and B2B Camp are entrepreneur lead. Several programs like Flashpoint, Venture Atlanta, ATDC events, High Tech CEO Council, and others have entrepreneurs within the leadership group, but aren’t purely entrepreneur lead as there is heavy government, university, and service provider involvement.
- Long-term commitment (grade: A) – Most of the core group of entrepreneur leaders in the city have lived in Atlanta 10+ years and show all the signs of a long-term commitment.
- Inclusiveness (grade: A-) – With ATDC opening up to everyone a couple years ago and the rise of massive events like Startup Riot, the inclusiveness of the community has gone up tremendously. There are still some invite-only events, but they are waning.
- Activities to engage the entrepreneurial lifecycle (grade: B) – The seed stage through the first part of the early stage is pretty well covered with opportunities to improve via more frequent pitch events (see the Atlanta Startup Village pitch night idea). The later part of the early stage as well as the growth stage and beyond don’t have much activity outside of Venture Atlanta (partly because there aren’t that many companies at those stages and partly because the companies at those stages aren’t as collaborative as you would hope).
So, overall, I’d give Atlanta startup community a grade of a B+ when applied to Feld’s Boulder Thesis. I see an A- as readily achievable with an A on the long term horizon. Just in the past 12 months there have been several new entrepreneur-lead initiatives and the quality of the community continues to improve.
What else? What are your thoughts on the Boulder Thesis applied to Atlanta for startup communities?