On Friday, March 27th, my classmates went to Starting Gate to present our framework for factors that affect the vibrancy of startup communities. This meeting was with 30 members of the Kalamazoo community, including the mayor of Kalamazoo, Bobby Hopewell. My classmates explained what we have found in our travels to Austin and Boulder that has and has not succeeded in startup communities, and how that compares to what Kalamazoo currently has to offer.
In our framework there were a few major things we found in startup communities; they are culture, institutions, capital, and community members. Culture is the acceptance, diversity, social aspect, and quality of life. Institutions are government, accelerators, incubators, universities, and corporations. Capital is the variety of funding and the amount of passion. Community members are the keystones, entrepreneurs, and the consumers. These are major factors that help to create a flourishing startup community, but the amount of each category changes wherever you go depending on the history and path a community has taken to develop.
Below is the framework that was presented during the meeting (via Prezi):
This framework was developed from our individual experiences in this course, which included trips to Austin, Boulder, Chicago, Detroit, and Grand Rapids. Each one of us had our own experiences during these trips. So to be able to derive a commonly agreed upon framework about factors that foster a vibrant startup community, we had to work together as a team.
Prior to March 27th meeting, my classmates and I got together to discuss the important factors in startup communities and create our framework. We all gave some input about what we felt was important like community or culture and as a group we decided what we perceived was the most important. It was an interesting experience working with so many people and trying to keep distractions to a minimum, but we all managed to agree and create our framework. It did get somewhat frustrating at times trying to stay on topic, but one of the members of the group would always bring us back to the project at hand. We picked our major factors based on the feedback we had obtained from the companies we visited with and what we had seen within the communities.
During our travels we noticed that many of the places that we visited brought up the community and how it is very important in regards to startup communities. Like in Boulder, the community was very close and friendly and I feel like that is a big reason why they are so successful this comes back to the idea of community members being very important. It it great for the friendliness and the sense of trust developed because it allows for more collaboration to take place and better ideas to be produced. We also observed while in Boulder they talked about a “stay factor” and how their culture and institutions greatly contributed to this. The college or the mountains bring people in, and once they have visited Boulder they do not want to leave which emphasizes the idea that culture a dull institutions are very important also. Almost everywhere we visited mentioned capital and its role in the startup community, every business needs some sort of capital so it can prosper so this backs up the idea that culture is also very important in startup communities.
It was great working on this assignment with all of my classmates, and I was very pleased with how we peacefully settled any disagreements and our ability to work together to create our framework. The end result was a more robust framework that included all of our perspectives gained from the trips / course.
During our meeting at Starting Gate, the class talked about how Kalamazoo needs to improve on its openness to ideas and the acceptance of other people. Our community sees failure as a bad thing instead of a learning experience so we do not benefit from it. As we grow as a community, I hope to see some of these things changing and for us to become a successful startup community. In Boulder and in Austin there were a few things that we referred to as a “stay” factor. That is something that brings people into the community and keeps them there. Kalamazoo does not yet have an obvious stay factor and that is also affecting our community. All of the factors that we discussed would help people become proud to call Kalamazoo their home and it would draw more people in for a long term stay.
The meeting was open to questions after the presentation and my classmates received some great feedback. There was a lot of agreement between my classmates and the rest of the group about our framework. Most of the people who attended the meeting agreed that the Midwest is not as accepting of failure or entrepreneurship as other places seem to be. They also did not think that there is a major keystone present in this area. Our stay factor was challenged by an individual during the meeting. Others thought that we were missing things in our framework because we had only been exposed to a few places.
The class has greatly grown in the amount of participation given with each meeting. During the meeting a few of my classmates presented an idea for a co-working space in Kalamazoo called DASH. They were blessed to make a few connections in the meeting that will hopefully help Dash become more than just an idea. I was disappointed to have missed this meeting but I am glad that I was able to experience some of the interaction after the meeting. It was great seeing my fellow classmates mingle and make some great connections. I really feel that my classmates benefited from this meeting and that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.