Two years into a PhD program, I realized that life in traditional academia was not the road I was destined for. I have a bias for turning ideas into action, which doesn’t exactly gel with the slow, methodical, and bureaucratic approaches taken at most traditional research universities. I was hungry for a community of thinkers and doers who would help me transform my love of ideas into something tangible. That’s when I found the Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV), an organic community of startup entrepreneurs dedicated to helping each other thrive.
Startup communities are popping up in cities around the world because of the undeniable power of community. But what is a startup community? Essentially, it’s a clustering of startup companies in close proximity so they can benefit from shared resources, shared energy, and shared success. The KCSV manages to weave about 30 startups into the fabric of a 10 block area in Kansas City. Imagine what happens when you put a group of world-class innovators and dreamers in such close proximity! Ideas are hatched. Businesses are launched. Old ideas are disrupted. And that is precisely the goal of a startup community: to put new business leaders in close community so they can learn from each other.
Why Are StartUp Communities Popping up Everywhere?
The answer to this is simple: entrepreneurship is sexy right now. Everyone from city leaders to CEO’s are loving the idea of launching startup communities because they have seen what happens in places like Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and the Silicon Prairie. Simply put: if you stick people who are equal parts dreamer and doer close by each other, they make stuff happen. Cities like Kansas City have been completely transformed by startups and the hip young professionals they draw in. But there’s another reason these communities are popping up everywhere. We in startup life call them ‘serendipitous collisions’. These are the run-ins that are created when you get yourself into a community of action takers. For example, I started my company, Social Change Nation, in the KCSV. I depend on an online presence to market my business and serve my customers, yet I knew very little about things like web development, design, etc. when I walked into the village. The good news is that in the KCSV I was never more than 10 blocks away from the answer to any business challenge I had. With 30 startups right by you, there’s always someone who has been there before you and can help you with a solution.
Why Have a Community Around an Idea?
Because a community is what transforms an idea into action. Remember how I told you that I was frustrated with traditional academia because we were full of ideas and low on action? A startup community solves that problem. I’m surrounded by founders who don’t take no for an answer and refuse to accept excuses. You have to get yourself into a community so you can act on all the knowledge you have gathered.
Expect the Unexpected
I’ve heard it said before that the only constant is change. I believe this is true more now than ever before, and it’s absolutely the rule in a startup community. Startups build themselves by capitalizing on change. Think about it – Uber was born because the near universal use of smartphones changed the way people wanted to get taxis. AirBNB did the same with hotels. This also highlights the larger importance of community: it keeps you on your toes. If you surround yourself with people who are constantly growing and changing, you’ll have no choice but to grow with them.
How Can you Build a Community Like This?
1.) Find like minded people. The only way I’ve ever found to grow is to find people that are just a step ahead of where I want to be and get them around me.
2.) Create moments for ‘serendipitous collisions’. We have Taco Thursdays, BBQs, and plenty of random run-ins on the streets of the KCSV. You need to create the same kind of opportunities for your community to thrive.
3.) Delegate. You won’t be able to build this on your own. Find some of those like-minded people who share your community vision, and put them to work.
What could you accomplish through community?
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