Last week I had the chance to spend time in Little Rock after a friend invited me out for the day. We started with a great tour of downtown, and then met with local leaders from the business, entrepreneurship, civic, and economic development community. There’s a real passion and desire to see a more vibrant startup community, so much so that the taxpayers voted in favor of an additional sales tax that provides $20+ million in funding to build and operate the Little Rock Tech Park. After a few hours of meetings, I had five recommendations:
- Make it Lead by Entrepreneurs – While there were a number of great people on the board, it was clear that the startup community wasn’t lead by entrepreneurs. Follow The Boulder Thesis, make it lead by entrepreneurs, and try to minimize the government feeling as much as possible.
- Find a Poster Child – I asked several people who’s considered the top up-and-coming entrepreneur in town to act as a poster child and represent the entrepreneurial potential for the region. Crickets. It was really surprising that I didn’t get a single person or company name.
- Bring the Community Together Weekly – Entrepreneurship is such a fast-paced journey that people need to get together on a weekly basis, not just monthly. Create an event like the Startup Chowdown and help entrepreneurs and other people in the startup community build relationships on a weekly basis.
- Incorporate Tech and Non-Tech Entrepreneurs – While there’s heavy emphasis on tech startups right now, a thriving startup community has both tech and non-tech entrepreneurial companies. And, in the context of a large building to house startups (their first building is 42,000 feet), it’s critical to have energy and excitement as soon as possible which will come from bringing all types of entrepreneurs together.
Building a startup community is hard and requires input and collaboration from a variety of groups. At the core, it should be lead by entrepreneurs and supported by the business and civic leaders. With entrepreneurs at the forefront, other entrepreneurs will follow and good things will happen at a faster pace.
What else? What are some more recommendations for building a startup community?