How to Give Back to the Startup Community

January 3, 2013

9:00 am

The hundreds of millions of entrepreneurs in this world are amazing people. Through our successes and failures, what we have in common is that we’re driven to fix problems and lead the way to a better world. We are constantly facing uncertainty in what we do, but one thing is always certain – we can’t do it alone.

The first companies I started ended in failure because I didn’t have enough direction in how to scale my ideas – a vacation rental website and a hosting company. But then, all of a sudden, everything changed for the better. The driving force? A small community of amazing advisors. Their experience and judgment helped me see the opportunities and weaknesses that I couldn’t. Entrepreneur Steve Blank said it best:

“Entrepreneurs lead a startup community while everyone else feeds the community.”

Let your success fuel the success of others. Here’s how:

1. Been-There-Done-That Advice

This one’s priceless. For entrepreneurs who are building businesses for the first time, advice is everything. And good advice is harder than you think to find. If you’ve been there, it’s your job to jump in to fill the gaps. Start answering questions on Quora. Maintain a blog like this one, but start small if need be. Create a profile on Clarity (my startup) so up-and-comers can reach out to you on the phone. Just jump in and get involved. There is no rhyme or reason to it. Just make yourself available to provide the priceless been-there-done-that advice most startups don’t have access to.

2. Well-Deserved Introductions

Remember that one introduction that changed your life? Well, you’re now in a position to do that very same thing for somebody else. Next time you meet that entrepreneur who you just know is going to be amazing, offer up an introductory handshake or two with media contacts, other advisors, and industry experts. You never know where this entrepreneur will be in five, ten, twenty years. The minute it takes to make that introduction could change the life of the startup founder and their business.

3. Social Support

If you have a friend or colleague who is launching a new product or feature, be that extra arm, and leverage your own networks to help spread the word. Tweet, like, share, and comment on their efforts. A little exposure can go a long way.

4. Speaking Your Way to Evangelism 

Yep, you’re busy. We all are. But you need to stay involved with the community in person. Create or attend an event that brings together outstanding entrepreneurs, and make it free. Provide your best tips, and divulge your deepest startup secrets. Not sure what to talk about? Just ask your colleagues and friends for advice. You of all people know how easy it is to fill up five to ten minutes of talking time. No time to plan your own event? Then turn to the likes of Ignite, StartupWeekend, Lean Coffee, or Hacker Meetups to speak your way to evangelism. The community will love you for it.

5. Mentoring the Meek

Seek out organizations that are a strong fit with your own values. Many times, such groups may be too submissive to ask for your time, so be the first in line to help out their community of startups. This approach will help you find like-minded up-and-comers. Help new entrepreneurs become better speakers and presenters. Help ‘em find new angles. Just be there to offer advice and support.

6. Betting on Someone

What do entrepreneurs have in common? They’re damn competitive. They’re always striving for self-improvement, to outperform the competition. As a mentor, it’s your job to fuel that desire. Bet someone $100 that they can’t do it. Entrepreneurs love risk. They love challenges even more. Put your money where their fears are so that they have no choice but to jump in and kick ass.

7. Teaching

Offer your time to colleges, universities, General Assembly, and online platforms like Udemy to teach what you need to know. There are so many new entrepreneurs who need to know what you have to say. What you choose to teach could change the course of their entire careers. You don’t have to go all out with planning lectures, courses, and seminars – you just need to share what you know. Focus on what you enjoy talking about and what makes you most passionate. Enjoy what you’re doing, and it won’t feel like a chore.

8. Always ask “How Can I Help?”

Simply putting yourself out there to offer help to any budding entrepreneur gives hope and motivation to the startup community. Whether it’s a phone call, an email, a tweet, or in person, just ask “How can I help?” You’ll be amazed at the response you receive and how quickly you can answer a question that may very well change the entire direction of a company.

Notice one major thing that I left out? Investing. Sure, it’s a way to give back to your community, but by giving your time and knowledge, and sharing your passion for leaders just starting out, you’ll develop a stronger sense of credibility. You’ll be more admirable. Plus, advice and time are worth way more than money. So what are you waiting for? Go make your mark on the world.

How have you helped the startup community? What advice do you know that can help any entrepreneur?

Guest author Dan Martell is an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Clarity, a platform that helps entrepreneurs give and get relevant advice over the phone. It’s a problem he’s passionate about solving and believes it has the potential to positively affect a billion people over the next ten years. He previously cofounded Flowtown, a social marketing application, which raised venture funding and was eventually acquired by Demandforce in 2011. Today he spends his spare time giving back to the startup community as a mentor, advisor, and world-class speaker.

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