Startups seem to be everywhere these days. Your Uber driver is looking for a technical cofounder to help him build his app. Your friend who worked in finance is hoping to get a corp dev role at Dropbox. The engineer and her designer friend are both ready to leave Facebook to work full time on their side project. Everyone wants to raise a seed round.
Not long ago it was believed by many people that in order to successfully build a technology company, that you had to move to the Bay Area. There are still some people who believe the Bay Area is the best place to start a company, but even those people would have to concede that it is not the only place to start a company.
In the United States, and around the world we are seeing vibrant, and burgeoning startup communities popping up everywhere. Boulder, Austin, NYC, Seattle, LA, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Berlin, London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Tallinn, Budapest, Kenya, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Tokyo, Beijing, Manila, and the list goes on and on. Innovation, technology, and the desire to build something that doesn’t exist in the world cannot be confined by geographic boundaries. Access to information has never been easier, and the ability to connect with people all around the globe so easily, and inexpensively has never before been possible. The cost of starting a company has gone down dramatically, so it is logical that people would venture out to start companies of their own.
When people tout the Bay Area as the only place, or at the very least the best place to start a company, they point to the fact that so many successful companies have began there, that there are deep networks/relationships, along with tremendous access to both talent, and capital. All of these things are true- but quickly changing, because it is not sustainable, or practical for every company to start in the Bay Area. We have to start building rich entrepreneurial communities all over the world. Entrepreneurs who leverage technology to redefine old industries, and create new ones are going to be the main drivers of growth for the next century. The story of a relatively small group of people, tackling hard problems is going to be the defining story of our generation, so we need to invest in building the best infrastructure to support these people now.
I believe that entrepreneurship is happening everywhere, and in order to give communities the best chance to survive, and thrive- it will take a concerted effort to nurture talent, an investment of time and money, combined with a commitment to teaching, and mentorship. It is because of this belief that the work that Techstars is doing feels really impactful to me.
Techstars is an accelerator that runs programs around the world (in many of the cities I listed above) for 3 months at a time- providing companies with capital, a space to work out of, mentorship, and most importantly access to a network/community of people who can help the companies as they navigate the complex journey of building a business. The power of the network is that when you ask a question, someone who has probably been through something similar not to long ago can provide you with some guidance.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer during Techstars NYC Demo Day at Webster Hall- it was incredible to see the culmination of months of hard work put in by the companies, their mentors, and the Techstars staff,. It was easy to see how much everyone genuinely cared about seeing one another succeed. Beyond potential investors, much of the crowd was composed of mentors who had been working with the company throughout the program, friends, family, and ex-colleagues. Techstars is driven by the idea of community, and it was on full display that afternoon.
More recently, Techstars has teamed up with companies such as: Barclays, Disney, Nike, Kaplan, and R/GA, and many others to run vertical focused accelerators. It is encouraging to see some of the world’s biggest companies recognize that the next big breakthroughs could emerge from a small group of friends who have just started to transform their idea into something tangible.
In the early stages of building any community it is often difficult to get people together to buy into the idea of helping one another, working towards shared goals, and dedicating one’s time to something that might not benefit you right away. It has been great to see how Techstars has been bringing together, and enriching startups communities around the world with their accelerator model, that is focused on the #GiveFirst motto. Entrepreneurship is happening everywhere, and we might just see more of it, happening faster (see what I did there? haha) if Techstars is there to help.