5 Tips for Succeeding When Your City's Startup Scene Sucks
Ever watched The Social Network? Building a startup is exactly like that, except take away the fancy parties and the groupies, not to mention the pranks, easy money and the drinking. Yeah, the movie is actually nothing like reality at all.
But it’s not just the movies that propagate the notion of that alternate, sexualized startup universe. Certain areas like Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley do exude a certain larger than life feeling. Brandon Gadoci considers them places where talent, opportunity and financing all meet to make an impact, where hard work and success are properly aligned and people get funding based on a napkin drawing. They are places where magic happens.
You might not feel that same magic, though when you look around your surroundings. You might be trying to start a business in a 1980s industrial park next to a set of insurance companies. Your commute might pass by cow crossings instead of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Your startup scene might not even suck. It might not exist at all.
Of course, entrepreneurs don't need a scene or community to start a business because, after all, they have to trust in what they're building and be ready to support themselves.
But worthy ships aren’t built by one person: Access to mentors, capital, partners and friends who can talk business can be invaluable, especially when a new business owner is just starting out.
Here are five tips for developing these connections even if your area isn’t exactly a hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit:
1. Get in the car.
Be sure to travel to cities near you. For me, that means going to networking events, conferences and having lunch with folks in New York City and Boston.
It’s easy to discount travel as a waste of time (some say, Why not just use Skype?), but these interruptions can break up the routine, get an entrepreneur out of a rut and can be inspiring.
2. Take classes.
Local colleges are likely to have classes and seminars. A smaller community might not offer a course covering the exact right topic that relates to a specific business area but seminars can be worth attending for the networking opportunities and the chance to ask for feedback.
If your experience as a business owner or entrepreneur is rare in your community, volunteer your time. Schools are often more career-oriented than in the past and would likely appreciate the offer of any coaching or support. Kids also have alert minds. Their take on your ideas can be super valuable.
4. Mine trade associations.
Trade associations and like groups are usually terribly underfunded. You may not find any valuable content at first glance. Often these organizations are little more than coffee-shop discussion groups. Yet they provide points of connection. It can be a great feeling to join a small group, meet new people and maybe make an impact in developing the organization's mission and content.
5. Find a mentor.
The very thought of having of a mentor might make your skin crawl. Who, after all, knows your business better than you? But what a good mentor does is draw stuff out of you, more like a therapist than a business consultant.
When you’re forced to discuss your plans and thoughts, you can sharpen and validate business ideas. If your area doesn’t have groups of senior businesspeople to trade ideas with, consider hiring a very experienced businessperson to meet with you for a couple of hours every month.
If you don’t live in one of those magical places, make the magic yourself. Put in the effort to network and build community where you can. But also remember this: In the end, you’re the key person who ultimately makes your business succeed.