“Engage in your local startup ecosystem” is the tenth part of a twelve-part series. It’s a deep look behind the scenes of the “business playbook” that makes VC-backed companies successful and how to apply these lessons to your business.
- If you’re looking for the introduction to the series and first article, please click here.
- If you’re looking for other articles in the series, links are at the bottom of this article. Enjoy!
10. Engage in your local startup ecosystem
In “Silicon Beach” there’s a sort of fraternity of VC-backed startups. Their team members show up regularly at social events and talks at local incubators, technology schools, and co-working spaces. Prior to COVID, on the westside of Los Angeles you could find one of these events virtually every night of the week.
Many of the solopreneurs and bootstrapped entrepreneurs I know have never bothered going to these kinds of events. They’re clearly not mandatory, as many of them have achieved quite a bit of success. But I’m constantly urging them to go. Why?
Mainly, for three reasons:
1) Startup ecosystem events are great for meeting people
Business is about relationships, more than anything else, and these events aren’t just for post-funding entrepreneurs! At almost every event you’ll also find a wide assortment of pre-funding entrepreneurs, VCs, angels, banks, and vendors who service startups. The VC-backed folks show up all the time because they understand the value of networking. After all, they probably attended before they were funded. Then they networked their way into an introduction to the VC who funded them, or at least into an invite to another event where they met the VC! These entrepreneurs have figured out one of the key rules of business: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
2) Knowledge is power
The bigger your network the more accumulated knowledge you can access. A simple example of this is vendor referrals. Need a good small business attorney? If you know a bunch of people in the startup community you can ask for referrals. This beats the hell out of poring over Yelp and Google reviews and hoping you find someone competent and honest!
3) Startup ecosystem events are fantastic learning opportunities
Even if you’re not the chatty type, there’s a ton to be learned at many of these events just going and listening. Many events have a fireside chat or industry panel with deeply experienced entrepreneurs, VCs, attorneys, and other veterans of the startup process.
Even if you don’t live near a startup hub like LA, I’m sure there is a similar startup ecosystem somewhere in driving distance. Check out startupgrind.com and meetup.com if you’re not sure where to find these events. Also, if you’re not already, start following local VCs and entrepreneurs on Twitter. They frequently speak on panels or serve as keynote speakers at conferences and normally publicize when and where their events will be.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like you need anything from the community at the moment. Go anyway. Meet people. Chat. If you can help, help them where you can. The people you help will be far more open to helping you in the future if you need a favor. And you just might meet your future business partner, lead investor, or even the company that someday acquires your business!
This series will continue soon with Part 11.
Other articles in the VC-backed startup series are:
- Part 1: VC-backed startups have external accountability (so get some for yourself or at least act like you have some)
- Part 2: Venture backed startups focus obsessively on their numbers. You should, too.
- Part 3: Put at least 75% of your focus on sales
- Part 4: Make culture a priority
- Part 5: Fund your business adequately
- Part 6: Invest in your team (and yourself)
- Part 7: Build scalability into your business
- Part 8: Build career paths for your team
- Part 9: Create copious documentation