What’s the best way you know how to engage with your local tech ecosystem? Maybe it’s going to meetups, volunteering your time to help refine an idea, or attending various Demo Days.
Regardless of how you participate, the important part is that you’re participating. Did you know, though, that there’s a way to do it all at once? Have you ever been to a Startup Week?
I’m talking about the events hosted by Techstars, ever since they acquired UP Global and their programs. These incredibly potent events are made stronger by the Techstars name and the solid infrastructure UP Global has laid over the years.
Further, Chase decided that this would be the fourth year they join up with Techstars as a title sponsor, but this year they’ll also be scaling Startup Weeks alongside the accelerator. The decision came after Chase’s title role in last year’s Denver Startup Week, wherein they provided the seed money for the event.
This year, and into 2016, Techstars and Chase will be visiting various tech ecosystems across the US to celebrate entrepreneurs, innovation, and the people who make the communities great:
- Seattle: October 26 – 30, 2015
- Tampa: February 8 – 12, 2016
- Phoenix: February 22 – 26, 2016
- Dallas: April 12 – 16, 2016
- Columbus: May 2 – 6, 2016
Everything is focused on building momentum and opportunity around a community’s unique entrepreneurial identity: it’s by the community, for the community. Startup Week will thus be offering five days of free programming including speakers, education, and networking: it’s the largest, free entrepreneurial event in North America.
For Marc Nager, current CCO at Techstars and former CEO of UP Global, Startup Week is incredibly important because it brings about community alignment. That is, even the best of startup ecosystems can be sometimes disjointed.
“Think of an old university system, like a University of California setting. They have giant campuses with academic buildings for each individual school. Within those buildings there’s a lot of great stuff happening, but you’ll almost never bump into people from different schools,” says Nager. “If you do, it’s by accident and purely social. It creates silos, and I’m worried that as startup communities evolve we’re at risk of isolating ourselves in a similar fashion.”
According to Nager, this is the exact issue that Startup Week helps people move past though. After all, it’s useful to cultivate community, but to build and grow a real community means you need a diversity of perspective that comes from uniting and aligning these various moving parts.
In that light, Startup Week builds synergy between different elements of communities that sometimes operate independently of one another. According to Nager, there are three main groups of people that are affected most by this synergistic alignment:
- Community Leaders: These are your hosts for TEDx talks, hackathons, or any tech event that brings in an audience. Startup Week brings all of these influencers together so that whoever wants to be involved has the opportunity to be involved. All of the activity that happens over the course of a year can happen over five days, and it creates a network between community leaders and community members.
- Stakeholders: Let’s call this group the corporate partners, governments, or universities. Startup Week brings them out of their individual universes to help support all the events happening. A lot of the time there’s corporate support for an event outside Startup Week, but that happens in isolation. With Startup Week, you’ve got big name corporations working directly with the people in the city.
- Community: The hyper-concentration of events over a five day period tends to blow peoples’ minds. They’re able to dip their toes into so many different activities and then identify specifically what they want to be a part of that already exists. Whereas if you have them spread out over the course of the year, this process still happens but at a much slower rate.
When all of the pieces to the puzzle come together, it spawns two elements crucial to the longevity of a startup ecosystem. I’m talking about both density and culture and the harmony they create together.
I’m referring to the density of a network here. You get humans coming into a physical space on a regular basis, creating random collisions, and breeding a network that brings with it a strong diversity of perspective.
Through that diversity you then get shared ideas, problem solving, and mutual support between community members at all levels. Those are cultural values crucial for startup ecosystem growth and success.
“I think you need to have everybody together, and that diversity of perspective is so important via density. We need to make sure there’s a healthy, constant mix of random interactions,” says Nager.
That’s how you get past the issue of niche siloes. This is the true benefit that Startup Week holds for all the different ecosystems they’re visiting this year.
It puts a special responsibility on us as community members to push beyond the limits of our own comfort and engage with something we might find boring, irrelevant to our niche, or hard to understand.
“Check out something super geeky, like stuff that might not be up your alley,” says Nager. “Go to something that really challenges you and see who’s in the room. That’s the magical aspect of Startup Week – meeting people you might never otherwise come across and learning new things.”
Editor's Note: This article is part of a Startup Week content series brought to you by Chase for Business. Startup Week is celebration of entrepreneurs in cities around the globe. Chase for Business is everything a business needs in one place, from expert advice to valuable products and services.
Image Credit: innab's Instagram page / cropped, resized