After spending the last year living and breathing Chicago startup community, I can say without a doubt that a startup community is created by “a million cups.”
As I said in my first post to start off 2011, a startup community does not come from massive events, nor does it come from publications like Technori. It doesn’t come from cramming 50 startups into a space together or bringing in a major keynote or having a billion dollars in investment.
These are all components of a community, but none of them can stand alone.
A true community is built upon a million cups of coffee (or pints of beer). A million meaningful interactions between people in which all sides walk away feeling they were heard, learned something, and built a meaningful bridge.
It can be two strangers sitting down at Argo Tea to discuss how they can partner with each other on a new project. Maybe it’s 10 awesome people sitting down at a dinner table and making introductions all around. It’s dragging someone across the room at an event and saying, “You need to talk to my friend Adam…now go!”
In 2011 we did a phenomenal job as a community in coming together and sharing those million cups with each other.
In 2012, the theme transitions to how our community can sustain this momentum, form a cohesive identity, and solidify itself as a global startup hub.
A startup community is only sustainable if it is driven by a common purpose and built upon members’ mutual appreciation of one another’s well being and success. If that is too wordy for you, how about this: Sustainable communities care.
They care about where they are going and how they are going to get there. They offer help without needing to be asked. They rally around others in times of both success and failure.
You Cannot Live on the Momentum of the Past
Community building is similar to winning a war. Just as the sum of all battles eventually leads to victory, it is the sum of thousands of individual efforts that push the community forward.
Just because you win one big battle at the beginning doesn’t mean you get to kick back and relax. Even though there are thousands of us in this startup community, people are constantly moving on as others move in to replace them. It’s an ever evolving mix of people.
We cannot rely on the same people who went above and beyond in 2011 to carry the weight in 2012 as well. We need a constant stream of fresh faces to volunteer, start new organizations, and expand the mentor network. Now is the time to step up.
Chicago as a Global Startup Hub
If you haven’t noticed by now, we live in a tremendous global city at a perfect moment in history for entrepreneurs. The foundation was laid in the last few decades, momentum has built in recent years, and some of the last pieces will fall into place this year. The resources at Chicago entrepreneurs’ disposable are world class.
Within 100 miles, Chicago has the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies anywhere in the U.S., making it a hotspot when it comes to B2B tech. There are billions of dollars in investable wealth yet to be tapped among Chicago’s many successful business leaders. The city also has one of the largest pools of marketing and sales talent anywhere in the world, making it one of Chicago’s most powerful assets for startups.
Several of the top universities in the world are right here, including the University of Illinois, which produces the most sought-after computer engineers in the country.
With quality of life and affordability indexes that consistently place it in the top 100 cities in the world, Chicago is a great place to hire, bring in talent, and retain people for years.
All of this adds up to 2012 being our defining moment as a startup community. We have the chance to build something special on a global level: a startup hub with distinctly Midwest roots, focused on generating real businesses, and with an exceptional quality of character.
Technori looks to forward to building it with you.