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STARTUP

Build the Community Your Start-up Needs
 

Don't underestimate the benefit of people coming together around your start-up. Here's how ours nurtured our idea and built our company.

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Before starting a company, I had a very narrow perspective of community. Call me a hermit or an introvert, but I always felt that, within the context of building a company, being part of a community was not on the short list of essentials.

Wow, was I wrong.

When my co-founder and I decided to start Napkin Labs, we had no idea how lucky we were to be in Boulder, Colorado. As we began shaping our idea, though, we quickly discovered how rich and generous of a start-up community Boulder is.

Very early on, Brad Feld agreed to meet me and hear about our idea, and afterward he very thoughtfully picked a group of people from local start-ups for me to meet. That triggered a chain reaction of meetings with amazing people who were full of ideas and willing to help.

These were people like Andrew Hyde, Charlie Kelly, and Dustin Henderlong. They shared advice, invited us to all sorts of events, and even helped us find office space. Everyone we met had an amazing sense of paying it forward and a willingness to share their experiences.

When I think about our first six months building Napkin Labs, it was the time we spent over coffee with very smart people that was crucial in helping us shape our business and original idea.

Beyond having a community of advisors and fellow entrepreneurs, we also learned the power of our customer community. Our customers' willingness to share insights, stories, and help us grow has been staggering from the start. Napkin Labs has always been about helping brands collaborate more with customers, and our own experience growing a strong customer community really helped solidify this belief. Our customers have become an extension of our company; nurturing our customer community has turned it into a powerhouse of product development ideas and marketing buzz.

When groups of people come together around a start-up, great things can happen. For us, Boulder and our customers have been our fuel.

So don't take the concept of community lightly. Being a part of existing communities, and working to build communities around your business and mission, is more than nice to have.

IMAGE: See-ming Lee via Flickr
Last updated: Aug 15, 2012

RILEY GIBSON is the co-founder and CEO of Napkin Labs, a start-up that builds tools to help companies turn their Facebook fans into an army of collaborators for new insights and ideas. For more, check out the Napkin Labs blog.
@RileyGibson




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