Start-up Community Culture

March 11th, 2014 by hoha Leave a reply »

Recently I had the chance to listen and participate in a discussion regarding an entrepreneurial ecosystem embedded within a particular culture. The point was made that there is a need to separate start-up culture from the larger culture. I believe this to be true as you consider start-ups and entrepreneurs in the business of creating new social institutions. The larger culture isn’t used to new things and so you need a different kind of environment that is supportive. Basically, entrepreneurs are responsible for convincing the world and the people in it that the start-up has the right to exist and that what it does is valuable enough to support with various forms of legitimacy. It helps to have a subset of that world to help ease into the larger one.

The conversation got side tracked with what to do about it (what entrepreneurs move straight to action?). But I believe we jumped too quickly to supposed solutions without fully understanding the problem at a deeper level (also not an uncommon thing for entrepreneurs to do).

A culture is a bunch of shared underlying beliefs about what is important and appropriate that shows up as norms or practices. In a start-up culture I feel like how failure is seen and handled is the gauge for how supportive a culture is to entrepreneurial growth. In healthy start-up cultures failure is valued experience or a badge of honor. Other entrepreneurs recognize that failure is the expected result for most of us. The individual entrepreneurs celebrate the effort and courage regardless of the outcome.

In the talent market of a successful start-up culture it means employers or better yet other start-ups recognize that an incredible set of skills has just come available that can crush it for the next little while. Unhealthy start-up cultures avoid hiring former entrepreneurs for fear that they’ll leave again.

In the right kind of culture that is exactly what you want anyway. You want that entrepreneur to leverage those costly lessons and contacts in the next venture as soon as possible. The measure of a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem may very well be how quickly an entrepreneur becomes a part of another start-up.

Unfortunately, if that isn’t something we are currently looking for and so what happens is a gradual and often silent departure from the community to avoid the shame of failure and the awkwardness of no longer belonging. If we continue to have more entrepreneurial events as our solution to building a start-up culture then at least take the time to scout for talent and ways to help each other. As we make that our focus in our respective start-up communities we’ll begin to focus on the important things that underpin a great start-up culture.


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