Your startup community’s future will be shaped by whether you are making it inclusive and events-saturated
“Silicon Valley is not a place, but a state of mind, – Timothy Sprinkle, the author of “Screw the Valley”, says. – It is a like-minded community with a non-stop stream of tech events”.
What makes a startup community great? An answer is nestled in the right proportion of companies’ concentration and involvement, level of professionalism, well-built infrastructure, the “give before you get” mentality and the uniting fabric of every community – an inclusive culture (interactions and engaging activities). Richard Florida theorized that communities with a high level of inclusiveness attract young, creative people who contribute directly to the economic growth of a region/city. It is a shift in how a creative class change the environment it lives in. The demand for a liveable community is getting grounded in a tech world.
The startup communities focused on jumping out of the labs, offices and the grind, are evolving tremendously. This approach intends to deliver non-stop interaction activities from regular non-specialized gatherings to large-scale conference events, hence solving two challenges:
- enhancing the experience of all newcomers to get plugged into the startup community in a meaningful way (the event is a platform where you can be welcomed through the informal network of coffee bars, business breakfasts, and is the quickest tool to get familiar with everything happening around)
- creating a context of a liveable city meant to attract and retain new innovative talents.
Collectivelly, events provide a powerful base that a startup community is built on.
What targets a vibrant startup community can pursue by organizing events of different formats?
In a nutshell, the startup and technology ecosystem should bring together techies, geeks, students, every company, startup, investor, entrepreneur, workspace, accelerator, incubator, the tribes of people sharing the same interests (however, loosely connected groups can also lead to creation of diverse and profitable groups) to one venue at a particular time. The trend shows that tech events build social awareness in the community by educating people from different backgrounds and making a clear and memorable message out of the complicated tech issues to a broader audience.
Events are basically made to inspire and connect. Other motives for the startup community members could be split in the following points:
- To cultivate tech and entrepreneurial knowledge in the community (rise social awareness by educating people)
- To encourage and facilitate knowledge transfer (for example, help companies avoid common mistakes)
- To provide a pipeline to the community (address student engagement in entrepreneurship, connect them with exciting companies through content, classes, conferences, and jobs)
- To deliver a social value and fun social environment to the community through:
- nurturing a sharing spirit in entrepreneurs’, mentors’ minds (encouragement and support are key drivers to success)
- connecting people with similar interests and passions who want to solve the same problem and facilitating their collaboration
- giving a blast to meet good friends who love startups over the informal environment and coffee/wine
- making a valuable conversation
- To show an alternative career opportunity – to build the networks to develop participants’ businesses
To put it more in a practical way, those attending tech events even have a greater likelihood of an initial public offering or acquisition. In business realities, interaction is a backbone for your success.
Motives for network members: (P.98) Tools and strategies for innovative talent attraction and retention – a Handbook on Talent Attraction Management for Cities and Regions
What is an effective set of events?
Every social gathering is an opportunity to make your community great. The formats are different, the subject matters may broaden accordingly to every event concept and maturity, but the idea of bringing fun informal atmosphere and people from every city sector remains the same. The short list of the most held events around the world is the following:
- Career day/Talent Expo/Youth track
- Venture showcase
- Open doors / Launch Academy (program)
- Hands-on workshops
- Project demonstrations
- Academy (Accelerator program/Incubation/University course) graduation and final pitch
- Investors dinner
- Tech/Business Breakfasts
- Panel of industry leaders
- Global/National/Local Awards
- International franchise of events/international events held locally around the world (Startup Safary, TechCrunch, Startup Sauna, Seedstars World, etc)
- Founders Meetups/Dialogues
- Geeks/Geeky gatherings
- Online gatherings
The scenario of every event may lack in success if the city culture is left behind. The content must be applicable to the community’s demands, context and cultural background. Thus, festival as the most visible and spectacular manifestation of the tech culture is a successful project unless its content is relevant for the community it is organized in. Social or hardware events also have a good community involvement if there are enough specialists in hardware technologies or mentors with impressive social business practice.
Events’ concepts can be adjusted to the city culture
NYC never stopped mixing media, advertising, financial, fashion projects with the tech industry. Events with intersection of music, culture, art are stirring up the local community in 5 boroughs of the city. District Dialogues come up with the subject important for a particular city’s boroughs – innovations in real estate, media landscape, etc.
A “disruptive” city context encourages “disruptive” event formats, encouraging festivals and meetups with techies and people from different fields – culinary, travel, photography. The international status of the city made it possible to organize authentic events from all over the world with “Meet the Nordic startup community” event as a clear example of the city’s inclusiveness.
Berlin’s constantly expanding startup ecosystem has a well-built private-public partnership and the system of accelerators and business incubators, responsible for demo and open door days, local festivals and geeky meetings. The focus of event is often international with the involvement of the European startup community . The inclusive city culture has led to the creation of specialized tech events for women, LGBT groups.
Berlin’s economic structure also encourages diverse events (Startup Clinics Talk is one of example of the Berlin startup ecosystem demands).
A vivid students’ life made it open for everyone in this community to hear the students’ demo sessions and graduation pitch on a regular basis. More than a dozen MBA and undergraduate teams present their business ventures with mature investors and mentors in the jury. The city’s diversity leads to different events’ profiles, marking the Gastro startup session as a good example.
The “give before you get” mentality is embedded in the community DNA. However, in some cases it has been transformed as the crowdsourced philanthropy. The best and brightest of the Boston tech scene get out of the office and into the community to give back to local nonprofits by giving mock job interviews and other help for veterans seeking employment, painting and assembling furniture for homeless people’s living spaces, organizing after-school program spaces, etc.
The level of events saturation is supported by local initiatives, government corporations, well-known companies’ brands and the Universities’ activities. Moscow has been scored very high in the Global startup ecosystem ranking 2015, that marks the point that the local startup and tech community is growing at a faster pace, even though entrepreneurship has not commonly been seen as the career path of choice due to the still emerging support system for startups, small and medium enterprises, and non-favorable economic conditions.
The popularity of international events (Mass Challenge, Startup Sauna, Seedstars World) builds a good buzz here. The rise of “Maker population” stirs up hardware technologies events with hackathons and makerthons leading the trend. The students’ incubators provide a platform for techies, coders, designers, artists, marketing specialists to feel triumphant after making a prototype during the hands-on workshops.
Festivals and large-scale conferences have a national and global vision, but there is a need to create a strong club of “givers” who will regularly participate in occurring events by the community for community. This vector is being gradually implemented by local accelerators and the entrepreneurial university “Higher School of Economics”.
After writing the article, some questions have been left open:
1) How can we quantitatively and qualitatively measure the impact of tech events on the community?
2) How tech events will evolve?
The subject is open for public discussions.
“Would I rather live in a liveable startup community with an impressive tech events digest that makes hard a choice where to go?” – one Russian entrepreneur asked rhetorically, speaking with the author. “Yes.”