Startup ecosystem leadership is one of the most difficult aspects of building your local community. Were you assigned? Does a startup exit qualify you? Do organizers of startup events give them an express ticket to the leadership group? Does the group even meet together? Is it a formal group or ad hoc?
In many ways we all have to earn our role in the startup community leadership team.
In my view the perfect leadership group is a combination of actors that represent a weird combination of skills, traits, experiences and personality. Each person does not have to check off all of these but one must have some combination of a few including:
- Lived part of the entrepreneurial journey,
- Make frequent investments in seed stage companies,
- Has a public reputation as someone who supports entrepreneurs first and their agenda second,
- Regularly convenes startup actors
- Represents government or NGOs that have a stated mandate and who have invested their time to understand startup ecosystems.
- Supports founders through events, storytelling, programs, etc.
You see, your local startup ecosystem is not a company, which means you can't just be assigned to the group. If you are an employee at the local Chamber of Commerce or in the mayor's economic development department, your role dictates that you should be involved but that does not make you a leader.
If you are interested in standing up a Startup Weekend, a hackathon or some type of mentor programming, you are not automatically one of the community leaders.
If you teach entrepreneurship at the local college or university, you may be the only one carrying the water there (and we are very thankful for your efforts) but back in the non-academic world of quitting jobs, moving back in with our parents, and using savings to live on, you have to show me how your experiences and intellect make you a local leader.
The secret to startup community leadership is quite simple, show up, put your time in, place the needs of founders before your own and repeat. That is true leadership.