UP: Leveling a playing field with a Startup Weekend & Startup America combination
Startup Weekend and Startup America are combining forces to create a platform for entrepreneurship. That’s f-ing awesome. More brains, more resources, and more support – all good.
But does UP really matter for entrepreneurs?
As an entrepreneur, I often have asked myself does it matter that there are conferences like TC Disrupt or Launch; does it matter their are coworking spaces like CoLoft or 1871; does it matter there is a place like San Hill Road or the Silicon Beach/Prairie/Alley; or does it matter that there are publications like Techcrunch, Geekwire or Tech Cocktail?
Yup, it does matter. Starting a company, growing a company or joining an early stage company aren’t really established things yet. It can feel isolating to do these things and as a member of all of those circles above, without support networks, these activities won’t happen as much. Turns out we need each other.
UP Global: It’s like a trade association for people like us.
I feel fortunate to have been the participant in several “startup ecosystems” – all of which were at various points in their lifecycle. In the past 8+ years, I’ve gotten to see four ecosystems up close and personal:
- Seattle, where I truly got my start as a startup lawyer, an exec at recently acquired Appature and board member/early fanboy of Startup Weekend
- San Francisco, where we setup and grew Zaarly, and found some of our investors who believed in the company
- New York City, where we opened and then closed a small office for Zaarly, but met as much of the “scene” as possible
- and now Washington, DC, where I have been a part of the community, taught as a professor of entrepreneurship at Georgetown and now starting up something new that will be based here
Each of those places are unique communities that in different ways have created support networks for entrepreneurs, startups, startup employees, investors, etc. That’s why I’m bullish about UP Global (and not just because I’m a board member, 30x participant in Startup Weekend, member of the DC-region Startup America team, and a fan of this ecosystem). I’m bullish because we’re at the start of a great movement called Entrepreneurship that is going to need a bunch of support networks in established places like SF, emerging places like NYC, Seattle and DC, and new communities like Des Moines, Tucson, or even international communities to make each community reach it’s potential.
We aren’t competing against each other; we’re competing against those who don’t believe in the power of entrepreneurship
Having started a company and chosen to base in it in San Francisco, does that mean I think SF is the best? In fact, not at all… but I do think it has the most established community organizations and support networks to help entrepreneurs and startups thrive.
It’s without question that San Francisco is the premier region for high-tech, high-growth startups. That’s an amazing place and that hasn’t changed. Anyone who tells you otherwise is kidding themselves – the Bay Area dominates, it should dominate and if you want to really experience the Candyland of Startups, move there. The reason SF is so strong is that the entire region – even those not remotely involved in tech – embrace it. It’s like how Hollywood embraces film, NYC embraces fashion, and finance and Orlando embraces tourism.
However, not everyone lives in the Bay Area who wants to build companies, tackle big problems, or solve generational challenges. God love the dreamers and I’m glad that entrepreneurship is alive and well in many many places.
Just as important as the people trying to build the next Facebook or Amgen or Tumblr are the people building the ecosystems that support those entrepreneurs. The Startup Weekends and Startup Americas are just one example of these support organizations. That’s what Startup Digest, Geek Wire, TechStars, Steve Blank, 1871, 1776, Tech Wildcatters, etc. etc. etc. are doing. They build an ecosystem – our trade association, if you will. These organizations are the ones who make sure startup ecosystems last.
Today is a celebration and a challenge to us all
It’s a great day to celebrate the platform for entrepreneurship being built – but it’s also a day to remember we have a long ways to go. Nearly four years ago, I left my big cushy law firm job because I was given the opportunity to “try out” entrepreneurship at a safe place called Startup Weekend. I am thankful for the support of all the ecosystem – and realize that I didn’t do it alone. And now I get the opportunity to build more companies that I hope will change the world (even just a little bit) – and help support other entrepreneurs trying to do the same. And I want the help of organizations in Kansas City like the Silicon Prairie News, the Startup House or One Million Cups, in Seattle like Tech Stars, the HUB, or Geek Wire, or in DC like DC Tech Meetup, Tech Cocktail, 1776, Georgetown University and many others to support us – and to help spread the word to the rest of the community.
That’s why I’m excited. And I hope you are too.
So congrats to the hard work of Marc Nager and the Startup Weekend team, and their commitment to continue to build a platform for entrepreneurship. Congrats to the hard work of Steve Case, Scott Case, and the entire Startup America team, and their work in building communities across the country. And finally congrats to entrepreneurship – it’s here and it’s only going to grow. That’s great for us all…
Now let’s go build some amazing stuff. And let’s be sure to support each other along the way.