Monthly Archives: March 2013
I recently read Brad Feld‘s book, Startup Communities and I loved it. Creating a healthy startup ecosystem — one that supports and encourages entrepreneurs — is something that I really care about and Brad has helped to build one of the best startup communities around in Boulder, CO. I took three key principles from the book that I believe will help us build a stronger startup community in Utah County.
1. Give before you get.
I completely understand the desire to monetize every interaction you have with startups, but I think it weakens our community. As a struggling startup, I remember feeling very vulnerable and not knowing exactly how to get to the right people. And when we found people who had connections to the people we wanted to talk to, it was surprising how frequently those people wanted to be compensated for their advice or introductions. As I said, I understand why they would put a premium on their time, but I think it’s a really short-sighted model. Sure, you can get a fee from a struggling entrepreneur or a small equity stake in the business but you are contributing to an unhealthy system and if you are going to stick around that will affect you.
I know a lot of people who rightly put a premium on their time. I do too. But I believe that I will get a better return on my investment in the long run by giving instead of charging for my time, my advice, and my introductions. It is important to me to be part of the conversation. (I should clarify that I’m picky about introducing people to my network in order to keep an introduction meaningful.)
2. Mentors before money.
I hear all the time that the problem with the ecosystem in Utah is that there isn’t enough capital. I am convinced that this isn’t true. In fact, I’d be willing to pull out some good old economics to prove that it isn’t and can’t be true. Money will flow to where the best ideas and execution are found. And if you are following lean startup principles, money probably isn’t the roadblock to getting enough traction to find investors if you need them. So if money isn’t the problem, what is? I think that this is related to the first point, but we need to see more mentoring in the ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem should share information, collaborate, provide a mechanism for experience entrepreneurs to share what they have learned, and provide guidance to startups.
3. Don’t dismiss anyone.
This was the hardest thing for me to grasp, but I have come around to it. There will be people with bad intentions in every ecosystem and my instinct is to punish them. But the fact is, it doesn’t work and who am I to say who is allowed to participate and who isn’t? Things are rarely as black and white as they might appear to be at first. In the end, a healthy ecosystem will deal with bad actors on its own. If, for example, most people are practicing the give before you get mentality then the people who aren’t start to stand out. Eventually they change or they don’t have an audience.
I mentioned in my last post that my company, Franchise Foundry, moved into the Startup Building in Provo and I briefly overviewed some of the plans we have for the building. The second floor of the building is currently under construction and we hope to have entrepreneurs in the space by May of this year. We and everyone we work with will be committed to following the principles listed above.
I’m excited to announce that on March 1, we officially moved the Franchise Foundry offices. We are now housed in the historic Startup Building in Provo. I am pretty attached to Provo since I grew up here and have lived here most of my life so I’m happy to be bringing my company to downtown Provo.
I’m also excited about what’s happening at the Startup Building. The building was named for the Startup Candy company (you can read about the company’s history here). The company has been through five generations of family ownership and is currently owned and operated by Jon Startup and they operate in the building next to ours. They have an impressive history. The plan for the building we occupy is impressive too. Franchise Foundry and The Innovation Network occupy the newly renovated lofts. The second floor will house Utah’s top technology accelerator, BoomStartup, in the summer and various young companies during the rest of the year. The second floor will also have a training room where we plan to offer content from various training programs. Some of this will be leadership focused, some of it will be technology focused, all of it will be great.
It’s exciting to be part of this project. I’m looking forward to seeing the transformation of the building and the block as we create a center for entrepreneurship and innovation in Utah County.