One of my goals from the beginning was for the Bootstrapper Breakfasts to foster a community of practice around entrepreneurship. I think a real community of entrepreneurs is very different from a team of entrepreneurs forming a startup.
Here are some things we have tried to do cultivate a geographically diverse learning community for entrepreneurs.
- Encourage a scientific approach to entrepreneurship where founders are clear on what they have observed, hypotheses they have formed, and ways that they plan to test these hypotheses.
- Share lessons learned from success and failure (the latter may be much easier in small group conversation).
- Foster collaborative problem solving by soliciting diverse points of view, resist the temptation to treat any one book or set of books as scripture or static best practices. Instead search for better practices on an ongoing basis that recognize new technologies, new demographics, new attitudes/zeitgeist.
- Recognize that the substantial success of a startup may represent the closing of an opportunity window for identical or even similar startups, consider how the lessons learned from a major success can be repurposed to new situations instead of used as a blueprint or treasure map. Look for new opportunities that success of a major startup enables in the business/ and technology ecosystem enables.
- Recognize and reflect the unique strengths and opportunities that exist in each local geography/region. Don’t try and clone Silicon Valley’s model but develop on that leverages the local business ecosystem. For more on this see “Federated Entrepreneurship: Play Your Own Game“
It turns out that 8-16 people having one conversation for 90 minutes can make stronger connections than 60 or 120 sitting in classroom or theater seating listening to a single speaker. These smaller group interactions are much more introvert friendly and tend to do more to foster team formation and development than pitch fests, speed dating, or cocktail party networking models. I have found the network weaving model developed by June Holley and Valdis Krebs offers a number of useful models and metrics for fostering a healthy regional community. See the list of papers at http://www.networkweaving.com/june.html
I welcome questions, suggestions, and observations in the comments or us the contact form for a private reply.