Introducing: Startup Community Leader Of The Year

Startup Community Leader Of The Year, Startup CommunitiesNibletz, the voice of startups everywhere else wants to know who you think the startup community leader of the year is. Who is driving entrepreneurship, innovation, and change in your community? Who is serving as a catalyst among the people in your community?

Now we love Tony Hsieh and Brad Feld, but they are very well known community leaders who actually speak about community leaders all the time. We want to know the names of the people in your area that we may not know. Is there a person who takes startups under his or her wing and helps them get to the next level?

Is there a startup founder that has taken his or her good fortune and spread it around the startup community?

We are taking nominees from now until November 15th. Just email your pick’s name and up to three paragraphs about why they would be the Startup Community Leader of the Year. On November 15th we will put the top 10 nominees up for a nationwide vote.

The Startup Community Leader of the Year will get a chance to speak at Everywhere Else Tennessee, February 17-19th 2014, free room during the conference at the Sheraton Downtown Memphis thanks to our friends at the Marston Group, and three extra VIP attendee tickets, one for whoever nominated that person and two for the winners friends, relatives or other startup partners.

Start sending your stories and  nominees to, and we’ll get the top 10 posted for voting by November 15th.  Remember we’re looking for strong community leaders in your local community and that’s about the only rule. Oh and you can’t nominate yourself.

The address for nominations again is Don’t forget to add up to three paragraphs about why this person is your nominee for Startup Community Leader Of The Year.

Make sure you’ve got your ticket or Startup Avenue booth!

Startup Communities Guru Brad Feld To Kick Off Early Stage Symposium In Madison

Brad Feld, Startup Communities, Everywhere Else, Madison eventThe Wisconsin Technology council has booked Startup Communities Author/Guru, Foundry Founder, and Techstars Co-Founder Brad Feld to kick off their “early stage symposium” event on November 5th in Madison. Feld will be speaking to the group of entrepreneurs and innovators via telepresence at 8:30am the morning of Tuesday November 5th.

As an added bonus all of the attendees to the early morning kick off lecture will also receive a copy of Feld’s book Startup Communities, which serves as the unofficial bible to building and strengthening your startup community/ecosystem.

Feld has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he helped start Mobius Venture Capital and previously co-founded Intensity Ventures. Feld’s role in TechStars began in Boulder and has since spread to six other locations while helping to spark the growth of tech business accelerators nationally.

In addition to his investing efforts, Feld has been active with several non-profit organizations and is chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, co-chair of Startup Colorado, and on the board of UP Global. Feld writes the widely read blogs Feld Thoughts, Startup Revolution, and Ask the VC.

“We’re excited to have Brad Feld address this year’s symposium and to help set the tone for a continued conversation about Wisconsin’s evolving startup scene,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which produces the two-day conference.

The rest of the event will feature:

• Presentations by more than 20 companies selected for the Wisconsin Angel Network investors’ track. Investors from across Wisconsin and beyond will attend.

• The annual Elevator Pitch Olympics, which provide 90-second presentation opportunities for 15 or more additional companies. A panel of investors will judge the contest.

• More than a dozen panel discussions or plenary sessions featuring leading entrepreneurs, investors and others tied to the tech sector.

• “Office hours,” offering the opportunity to meet with subject experts on a variety of topics in small discussion groups or one-on-one.

• SBIR/STTR awards luncheon to recognize grant recipients from the past year.

• The annual “First Look” forum featuring selected campus-based technologies.

• Exhibit hall showcasing more than 40 Wisconsin companies.

• A first-night reception, two luncheons, two breakfasts and other networking opportunities, including an investors-only dinner.

More info on the event can be found here.

More on Brad Feld can be found here.


No You’re Not Better Than Silicon Valley: How To Support Your Entrepreneurial EcoSystem

Workforpie, Guest Post, Cliff McKinney, Startup CommunitiesCliff McKinney is the CEO and cofounder of WorkForPie and a community leader in the Memphis startup community. This post, which also appears on his personal Tumblr, can easily be applied to any town, any city, everywhere else.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Memphis lately. Where it is, where it’s been, and where it might go. What I think should be done to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem here is perhaps a post for another day. Today though I thought I’d share a few words about how to support an entrepreneurial ecosystem. No doubt this applies in Memphis, but I’ll try to leave it general enough to apply to most any growing ecosystem. I’ll try to limit things to five general themes:

Theme One: Be Successful

Brad (my cofounder) and I talk a lot about how we might help Memphis. We do a lot of small things that we hope add up. We both serve as mentors to local entrepreneurs and lead user groups, but we always come back to the same general idea: the best thing we can do for Memphis is to become wildly successful. Doing that will bring in more investors and more interest, more jobs, and even a couple new angel investors. This goal trumps all the others, as it should. If our efforts to be successful leave us no time for all of the other stuff, then so be it.

This should be paramount for you and your company too. If you have to move to be successful, then move (but come back and invest later). If you have to put another company out of business to be successful, then do it. If taking advantage of some opportunity means others won’t have the chance, that’s okay too. It’s okay to be competitive. It’s okay to want to be better than the next guy. The success of your company is what matters most. Never forget that.

Theme Two: Give Time

I’d love to give money to my local ecosystem, but as a poor entrepreneur I just can’t afford it. What I can afford is my time, and I’d like to think that in some ways that is more valuable to local entrepreneurs. My office is always open, and my phone is always on, and I’m happy to give local entrepreneurs an earful (and often more than they bargained for) anytime they ask. Brad leads the local Python user group, and I lead the local Startup Meetup. It’s something we both do for fun, but we also do it because we feel obligated to give back to a community that has given us a bunch and that continues to support us.

Giving your time means a lot to local entrepreneurs—especially those who are just starting out. You don’t have to lead a startup meetup. Just make it a priority to attend once a month. Email startup CEOs and offer your help. It only takes a little while, and the good karma you’ll earn is totally worth it. Do what you can. Every little bit counts, and giving something, no matter how little, is always better than giving nothing.


Theme Three: Be Honest In Your Support

So here comes the first controversial part of this post. Truth is, I don’t think supporting local startups means blowing smoke up their asses. I’m a big fan of honesty, and if a local company has a terrible business model or distribution model or team then the fact that they’re local shouldn’t preclude you from saying so. In fact, I think you’re more obligated to say something if they’re local. It’s what I give, and it’s what I expect from the people I really respect.

I gave a little talk during the Seed Hatchery demo day last year. I won’t bore you with the details, but the general theme was that the companies at Demo Day weren’t competing with Memphis companies, or even Tennessee companies. They were competing with every company everywhere. If we didn’t treat them accordingly, then we were doing them a disservice. I’m hard on the local companies I mentor. I don’t call them out publicly, but in private I do as much as I can to convince them that this isn’t a mutual admiration society. You can’t build an ecosystem by calling a local company awesome when it’s clear to everyone else that it’s not. It just doesn’t work that way.

Theme Four: Pay and Get Paid

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a founder was thinking that someone deserves some kind of discount or special recognition because he or she is a friend. That should never be the case. If a local company does awesome work and they charge companies $150/hr for it, then I expect to pay $150/hr. I honestly don’t care if the company is in Memphis or even if it’s run by my mother or my spouse. If the service is valuable to me, I expect to pay for it. If it’s not, and the company happens to be local, then I’ll take the time to tell them why, and if they correct the issue, I’ll pay for their service then.

Now (but not always) I feel the same way about the services I provide. I trade value for value. I have something valuable, and I expect companies to pay for it. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business. The only time we consider offering some discount for our services is when working with some company at a discounted rate is somehow highly valuable to us through the association. Despite the fact that they have millions more dollars than all of my local startups combined, I’m more likely to work with some company like Facebook at a discount than I am to discount our rate for a local company. I want to establish my value, and one of the most important places to do that is in my own hometown.

Theme Five: Talking Shit Hurts You More

It’s important to be proud of your city. The best way to show that pride is to talk about all the wonderful things your city is doing to support entrepreneurship. The worst way is to talk trash about other cities or other ecosystems. I’ve heard people say things along the lines of “our city is better than Silicon Valley because….” When I hear that, I almost immediately assume the person saying it is an idiot. Your city is not better than Silicon Valley. That’s why you’re comparing it to Silicon Valley. If your city was better than Silicon Valley, in any way whatsoever, then they would be comparing themselves to you. Honestly, the same goes for any criticism of another ecosystem. If you’re talking shit about them, then you’re wasting time you could be spending making your city better.

On the other hand, I happen to think that it’s completely okay to criticize your own ecosystem, and even startups or leaders within it. But, if you do, make sure you’re actually talking directly to the person or company in question. If they can’t take it then they probably need to hear it even more. And nothing sucks worse than hearing criticism secondhand. I’ve had more than my fair share of secondhand criticism and it sucks way worse than hearing it from the source.


See this guest post by McKinney’s co-founder Brad Montgomery, on “Minimum Working Thing”


Tony Hsieh, Founder Of Zappos And Downtown Project On Startup Communities [video][sxsw]

Tony Hsieh,Zappos,Downtown Project,Vegas Tech,startup,startups,startup communities,sxsw,sxswi

Tony Hsieh proudly points out that he is wearing a Zappos t-shirt. (photo NMI 2013)

Tony Hsieh isn’t just a guy who created a household brand, made money and then decided to give some to charity. Although his Downtown project, an effort to revitalize downtown Las Vegas, is funded largely by him, he is quick to point out that it takes a village to raise a startup community.

At South By Southwest over 200 people who identified as being part of the Vegas Tech community made the trek (on their own dime) from Las Vegas to Austin to be part of SXSW. More than double that number are participating in rebuilding the downtown area of Las Vegas that “tourists don’t really see” according to Hsieh.

Hsieh and other investors have pulled together $350 million dollars to build up the community around the old city hall building, which in six months will be the new world headquarters for Zappos. Hsieh originally thought that Zappos would build it’s own campus around the block city hall is on, but than decided that doing so would be too inward focused. While Google has a lot of real estate in Mountain View and Apple has a lot of real estate in Cupertino, both company’s campuses, for the most part, keep to themselves.

“Those campuses are really insular and don’t really integrate or  contribute to the community around them” Hsieh said of Nike, Google and Apple.

Hsieh is hoping that, by recruiting statup companies, small businesses and others to the downtown area, an ecosystem will flourish and surround his own company with creative, forward thinking people.

The Downtown Project has committed $50 million to invest in small businesses, $50 million to tech startup companies, $50 million to arts, education and music and $200 million to real estate. They are trying to deal with the statistic that when a cities size doubles productivity goes up 15%, but when companies get there productivity generally goes down.

Hsieh and company have already recruited 20 startups to downtown Las Vegas. They’ve also been able to get commitments from folks that love what they are doing in Las Vegas but for some reason can’t move there. Many people have committed to speaking to the Vegas Tech Community, holding office hours or doing other community minded things.

This entire plan was demonstrated in high gear through many events at SXSW where people were packed wall to wall. It wasn’t just the 200 Las Vegas people either, people from startup communities across the country and around the world were clamoring for the opportunity to hang out with the positivity bubble that surrounds Vegas Tech.

The Vegas Tech community was also on hand throughout SXSW Interactive to show off what the community is like in hopes that the SXSW Las Vegas event this summer will be a huge success.

Check out the video below of Hsieh speaking on the Startup Communities panel at SXSW 2013.

Vegas Tech threw an awesome party at SXSW click here for photos and video

We’ve got a ton more startup coverage from SXSW here

TechStars’ Katie Rae On What Drives An Entrepreneurial Community

Entrepreneurial and startup communities are growing everywhere across the United States. The recent The Startup Conference event highlighted entrepreneurial communities “everywhere else” outside the major hubs like Silicon Valley and New York.

We’ve recently started up our “Sneaker Strapped Nationwide Startup Road Trip Part Deux”. During our first journey, that started at SXSW 2012, we visited over 60 startup communities across the country. Since going back on the road we’ve visited Atlanta for Startup Georgia’s kick-off, Nashville for Spark Nashville and Arkansas for Think Big Arkansas and the kickoff of Startup Arkansas.

Katie Rae,TechStars,Startup Communities,startups,Grid New HavenLast month, Katie Rae, the Managing Director at TechStars Boston, spoke at Grid New Haven. Gris is a hub or startup community catalyst, that’s part of Connecticut’s “innovation ecosystem.” They hold several programs including CEO Boot Camp, Startup Weekend New Haven, Launch New Haven and several speaker sessions designed to help entrepreneurs on their journey.

On January 24th Rae spoke at Grid New Haven and offered what she thinks are the four backbones to a great entrepreneurial community. In addition to being the managing director at TechStars Boston (one of their most successful accelerators) she is also a founder of Project 11 a firm that invests in and helps early stage startups.

Check out her video below and add these things to your list of important things for startup communities.

See Startup Community Activist, and Startup America CEO Scott Case on the importance of Startup Marketing here.

Scott Case: “If You Build It They Will Come, BULL SH!T”

Scott Case, Startup America, Startup Arkansas, Startup Tip,startup communities

Scott Case, CEO of Startup America addresses the audience at Think Big Arkansas, Startup Arkansas Kick Off (photo: NMI 2013)

If you’ve ever heard Scott Case, the CEO of Startup America and founding CTO of speak than you are very familiar with the subject of the headline. Case often talks about the movie Field of Dreams and it’s most popular line, “If you build it they will come.”

A lot of startup founders have the same philosophy, they think that no matter what they do as long as they build it people will come. It goes along the same lines as growing organically, or magically.

Sure there are huge grand slams every now and then but most of them either come from founders with long pedigrees in startups or because they caught the backing of name brand venture capitalists and angel investors early on. For others, gaining traction requires marketing. For bootstrapped (or sneaker strapped) startups that often times means grass roots marketing, crowdfunding, and good ole donations.

When speaking, Case follows the Field of Dreams example with, “if you market it they will come” a valuable lesson.

In the video below he talks about his first big venture into entrepreneurship. He built a product in 1994 that was packaged software and still available to this day. He talks about buying a full page advertisement in the biggest industry publication for his product. The problem though, the phone never rang. That’s when he set out to learn marketing.

This is a valuable lesson for all startup founders and the video is worth watching. Case was delivering the keynote at the recent Think Big Arkansas event in Conway Arkansas, a similar message to the one he delivered the week before that in Atlanta and the week before that in Memphis at The Startup Conference.

In talking with Case we discussed “canned speeches” and how I’ve personally seen Case speak over 30 times in the last year. The thing about him though, is that he doesn’t do the same canned speech at every event, but he often resorts to the Field of Dreams story, because it’s not a valuable lesson, but the most valuable lesson.


Now go watch this hilarious video from the Startup Arkansas kick off.

We’re on the sneaker strapped nationwide startup roadtrip part deux, find out how you can help here

Arkansas Thinks Big Everywhere Else

Arkansas, Startup Arkansas, Think Big Arkansas, Lee Watson, Startup Communities

Lee Watson organizer of Think Big Arkansas and Startup Arkansas (photo: NMI 2013)

Hendrix College in Conway Arkansas was bursting at the seams with young entrepreneurs and seasoned corporate executives. They’ve come together this morning to celebrate the kick off of Startup Arkansas and to Think Big Arkansas.

Event organizer, Lee Watson, did a great job of bringing startup community leaders from the entire state in to Conway for this event.

Scott Case the CEO of Startup America and founding CTO of Priceline will be keynoting today. Brad Feld, the author of Startup Communities should be at the event in the evening as well.

The morning session kicked off with entrepreneurs and event organizers from

Mike Smith, Innovate Arkansas (photo: NMI 2013)

organizations like BarCampConway, Startup Weekend, Innovate Arkansas, Ark Challenge, Made By Few and many others, to talk about what’s going on with their organization and how to bridge it all together in one cohesive unit.

In a pre-event dinner Thursday night Startup Arkansas Regional Champion Luke Coleman reached out to myself and Scott Case to address the problem that there are “cliques” in each part of Arkansas. Noooooo I had never heard of that before????

Case was able to give him some great advice which was summed up as “do you want the good news or the bad news first”, of course Coleman elected to take the bad news first which was “every region in Startup America has been in that same spot”, the good news? “Every region in Startup America has been in that same spot”.

Tennessee is no stranger to where Coleman sees a huge opportunity for growth, however in Tennessee we’ve done a great job of overcoming our hyper local focus and celebrating the victories in each of the 9 accelerator regions. It’s not uncommon to see a van or bus ful of Memphians at a Nashville or Chattanooga startup event, and vice versa.

Friday morning the parallels continued, confirming the main theme of the recent everywhereelse conference, startups and startup communities everywhere else have commonalities in problems and growth areas.

At the beginning of the event Arkansas Regional Champions Dave Moody, along with Coleman, brought 5 attendees up to the mic to share their ideas for a better community.

Abbey Keever with RedClay echoed one of Scott Case’s favorite themes,which was don’t try to be the next Silicon Valley. Keever, an experienced business woman and the fearless leader at RedClay, said she would love to see Arkansas expand in startups in their biggest areas, of course retail (Walmart) and logistics (Walmart and JB Hunt).

Most every startup community we’ve seen is starting to get their patriarch companies or at least their industries intertwined in the growth of the community.

Other ideas included keeping the dialoge open and holding vertical specific summits to give entrepreneurs access to closer related resources.

If you haven’t seen this amazing video from Thursday night, Go here now!

2 Of Nashville’s Startup Community Leaders Talk About The Yes Mentality

Spark Nashville,Marcus Whitney,Nick Holland,SouthernAlpha,Startup Communities

Southern Alpha’s Editor In Chief Walker Duncan (L), Nick Holland CEO of, Marcus Whitney CTO Moontoast (photo: NMI 2013)

Thursday night was a big night for Nashville’s startup community. New online publication Southern Alpha, which covers high growth technology for the south east, held their inaugural Spark Nashville event. The event organized by Southern Alpha Marketing Director, Kelley Boothe and Editor in Chief, Walker Duncan, was a huge success.

Spark Nashville consisted of three main parts, a fire side chat with Duncan, a pitch contest for Tennessee startups and time for networking in a startup exhibition.

For this first event, Duncan had a fireside chat with community leaders Nick Holland and Marcus Whitney. Both men are seasoned entrepreneurs who’ve had measurable success with their own startups to date.

Holland was the founder of what is now one of the biggest agencies in Nashville CentreSource and Whitney began his career with Emma and eventually spun off and cofounded MoonToast, a social agency that has clients as big as Universal Music Group. Whitney was named the CTO of the year this year by the Nashville Technology Council.

Duncan had come up with some great questions for both guests who are now frequent mentors and advisors to budding young startups in the Nashville community. Holland has an open door policy with all entrepreneurs, a recognizable figure that stops and chats with anyone with an idea. Whitney is a managing director at JumpStart Foundry and a regular, accessible face at community events, as well as at the Entrepreneur Center.

While both guests talked about the struggle and how hard it is to start your own business, they also both talked about the importance of peer groups and finding people to say yes. Sure every entrepreneur wants to find the people that say yes, “yes we’ll write you a check”, “yes your idea is great”, “Yes we can sponsor you”. As you’ll see in the video it’s actually an important foundation in a successful startup community.

Both Holland and Whitney acknowledged that once you go out and prove yourself, roll up your sleeves and prove you’re not afraid to work hard, and not afraid to try, the yes’s get easier.

Holland likes to steer clear of negativity and people who resort to no rather than to hear an idea out. When someone pitches Holland on an idea for a project or an event, if he can wrap his head around it he’s looking for ways to say yes and get it moving rather than to say no.  “When I get inspired by somebody it’s infectious and I do whatever I can to say yes”.

Early on in the video Whitney talks about his first experience pitching Holland. Nick had already had some success with CenterSource and Whitney was about to embark on the first BarCamp event, he went to Holland for $1,000 to sponsor. Whitney was a scrappy young and hungry entrepreneur with a great idea, and Holland said yes.

The duo have worked together to help bring Startup Weekend to Nashville as well. They also both support just about any cause or event that’s good for the startup community. When startup community leaders are this supportive it is infectious and the community builds.. wait for it.. organically.

Watch the video below:

Chicago On Today: A New Startup Launches Every 44 Hours


It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago Silicon Valley based PandoDaily sent a reporter to Chicago and he came back suggesting that their startup scene was sleepy. Fast forward to February 2013 and we’ve been tracking the startup communities rapid growth here.

Earlier this month NBC’s Today Show reported some amazing facts about Chicago’s startup community:

More startups launched in 2012 than any previous year.

A new startup launched every 44 hours.

197 of those were digital startups.

59 companies raised more than a million dollars.

We’ve also made three different trips to Chicago this year as part of our “sneaker strapped startup road trip”. We attended a kick off event at Chicago’s huge 1871 incubator, Chicago TechWeek and the Startup America Regional Champions Summit. On each trip we got to spend more time with Chicago’s seasoned startups like Groupon and Belly and some of their community’s newest players like KlutchClub and SpotHero.

Chicago’s startup ecosystem even caught the eye of TechStars founder David Cohen and Foundry Group’s Brad Feld, who recently announced a merger with Excelerate Labs to form Techstars Chicago.

We are looking forward to what Chicago has in store for 2013. Chicago is my kind of startup town.

Chicago, Chicago startups, startup communities, startup ecosystem, builtinchicago, today show

Startup Communities: Celebrating Victories

Brad Feld, startup investor, co-founder of Techstars, co-founder of Foundry Group, Marathon Runner, and huge startup community evangelist offers lots of great advice in his recent book on startup communities. One of the things that he speaks about when talking about startup communities is celebrating a startup community victory.

Earlier this morning we reported that Memphis startup accelerator grad Restore Medical Solutions has raised a $2.5 million dollar series A round.

That’s a huge victory for not only Restore Medical Solutions but for the Memphis Startup Community.


Original story

Come to Memphis for the biggest startup conference in the US

The Kolo Project Is Building A Startup Community In Saskatchewan, Canada

The Kolo Project,Saskatchewan,startup,startups,startup communities,startup interview There’s been a lot of talk about startup communities these days. Most of it has been fueled by Brad Feld’s latest book in his startup revolution series “Startup Communities”. In the book he outlines what it takes to build  great startup communities like the one found in Boulder Colorado, where Feld is based.

Of course communities across the country are taking heed. Most of the startup community stake holders I know personally were either downloading or buying Feld’s book back in September when it was published. What’s great about Feld’s book and startup communities in general is that they are popping up everywhere.

When most people think about startups and startup communities in Canada we look to Toronto, Ontario, Calgary and even Vancouver. Well the Kolo Project is a startup in itself, that is laying the foundations for a startup community in Saskatchewan.

Taunya Woods-Richardson is just one of the entrepreneurs that’s leading the efforts in Saskatchewan and she refuses to consider herself the founder. After all it’s a community they are building.

We got a chance to talk with Woods-Richardson about the Kolo Project and what’s going on in Saskatchewan. Check out our interview below.

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