Launching a startup is an incredibly daunting task. Part of what makes building a startup challenging is that as a founder, you often encounter a huge variety of critical tasks that you’re experiencing for the first time. In my experience working with thousands of early-stage startup founders, CEO often translates to “Chief Everything Officer.”
When I meet startup founders that are getting stuck, I find that introducing them to resources readily available in our community is a quick way to get them moving again. Most of the time, these founders are surprised to realize their local startup community has built out a support network that they can leverage as needed.
Local business and startup communities are incredibly rich ground for help. Whether you’re new in town or starting your next venture, it’s likely you could benefit from reaching out to folks in your community who’ve already been where you’re headed (and you may even be able to give back in kind).
As the CEO of Embarc Collective, a startup hub in Tampa, I have countless examples of the importance of collaboration, perspective, and resilience in order to lead a successful startup. Here are three things I wish all new founders new when engaging with their local startup community.
1. You Don’t Have Try to Recreate the Wheel While Looking for Efficiencies
As anyone who’s been in the startup world knows, 20 percent of startups fail in the first year. To ensure you’re not among this number, focus on what you know (or need to learn as a founder) and look for trusted experts for help on the rest.
For example, if you’re a brilliant software engineer who’s focused on scaling a product, don’t try to write your own legal contracts. There are already people in your community who have the specific skills and experience with young companies like yours.
So, rather than trying to economize by cutting corners, network with other local startup leaders and when you’re comfortable, ask who they’d recommend for the services and support you need to get off the ground.
Your focus should not be on reinventing the wheel to gain relatively minor efficiencies; instead, learn from the mistakes and wins of other founders who may be further ahead of you in the development of their businesses – and careers.
2. Collaboration Is Healthy – Seek It Out When You Need a Hand
Launching a startup is mentally and financially draining. Even after you’ve launched, keeping your metaphorical boat afloat and funded can get overwhelming.
By finding a community of fellow founders within your local startup community, you can get much-needed reminders that you’re not alone and even better, can garner the guidance and confidence that you can make it through your current challenges. The mental support of peership is something I heavily rely on to be my best as a leader.
Reaching out to others for advice and peership, whether that means mentors, other founders, or support organizations, is one way to offload the weight of running a business.
Beyond the support of fellow founders, be proactive about asking for the resources you need to achieve your startup goals. Local startup communities are created to help companies grow. If you have a need, there is a desire to help you find a solution.
3. Build and Broaden Your Perspective by Engaging with Your Community
Within your local startup community, you’ll likely find a few peers who you connect with. Maybe you work in totally different spaces, but you’ll be amazed how much you can learn and the wisdom you can share. Engaging with different perspectives will reveal blind spots in your thinking and approach to problem solving that you may not have discovered otherwise.
For example, imagine you’re a founder and want to tap into a new business vertical. You don’t have much exposure or contacts in the industry. By networking within your community with other business leaders in the space, you may find an opportunity to receive coaching on how to launch in that new industry. This way, you can expand your network, gain exposure, and learn tangible skills that can help propel you forward.
By collaborating with each other, founders can also gain an understanding of how they – and their businesses – impact the entire local business ecosystem and elevate it within the region.
Invest Time in Your Local Startup Community
As someone who runs a startup hub, I know just how hard it is to grow a local community. Between earning buy-in from stakeholders to ensuring your own business remains viable, founders have to keep many plates spinning every day. However, the events and activities happening in your community are for your benefit.
Make it a habit to dedicate some time each month to engaging with your local startup community and take advantage of the programming that is built to support founders. (Just don’t overdo it, you still have a company to build.)
The payoff that comes with investing your time in building relationships within your local startup community will pay dividends as your business grows. So, start small. Reach out to a local entrepreneur whose work you admire, attend a panel discussion with local tech leaders, or attend a networking event at a tech incubator. That hour of your time may change the trajectory of your business.