A core tenet of ecosystem building is making connections—connecting entrepreneurs to people, information, and resources that can help them move their business forward.
“An ecosystem that allows for the fast flow of talent, information, and resources helps entrepreneurs quickly find what they need at each stage of growth.” ~ Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook 3.0
The one-on-one connecting that ecosystem builders do is a critical part of our role in facilitating the flow of information. But, it doesn’t scale well—there’s a limit to how many meetings and one-on-one conversations we can take.
There is another mechanism that ecosystem builders can use to have a huge impact connecting their communities—create and maintain an online hub of information about your startup community.
While storytelling is an essential to building a successful startup community, creating and sharing content about your ecosystems goes beyond telling the stories of the entrepreneurs in your community. By sharing news about what is happening in the community, events, openings, closings, new programs, job opportunities, you create an online startup community platform that is a rich information source for your entrepreneurs, fellow ecosystem builders, entrepreneurial support organizations, and businesses everywhere.
Best of all, you can get started with even a very minimal budget. With this article, I want to inspire and motivate ecosystem builders to start, or amplify your efforts to create online resources to connect entrepreneurs and your startup community. Here’s some ideas on what to start with.
News – What Has Happened, What’s Coming Up
While I’m a big fan of storytelling about the entrepreneurs and the ecosystem, I think the term ‘storytelling’ holds some people back from publishing content online. You don’t have to write super engaging, Pulitzer Prize caliber content. While the engaging, heartwarming stories about entrepreneurs are great, we also need to share the more mundane happenings in our community. These can be as simple as putting together some simple facts together and sharing it for the community—what new program or workshop is about to launch, who organized a cool event, who spoke, what was it about, etc. These simple and basic articles don’t need to be super compelling and engaging from a prose perspective but they serve as important information for the community.
How do you get started? First, you need a website. If you don’t already have a website, create one and make sure it has a blogging functionality. WordPress is a great, free platform that’s great for blogs as well as larger websites. Start sharing short articles about what has happened in your community, even if the articles are only a few hundred words.
Tip: Don’t know how to create a WordPress website? There’s probably dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs and techies in your community who do know how. Ask around and find one that fits your budget. If you don’t have any budget, there’s likely even an aspiring solopreneur who will work with you for free in exchange for helping to promote them.
Videos of events are a treasure trove of content about your community. You can share videos that others have published by embedding the videos in a short article on your website. Also, make sure you have your own YouTube channel where you can publish your videos. A positive side effect of Covid is that with so many events now online, they’re super easy to record and then share later on your YouTube channel and on your website.
For example, our non-profit, StartupSac recently organized and held a series of three online webinars to promote innovation around a set of industry verticals that the City of Sacramento focuses on. We recorded these events on Zoom and published them on our YouTube channel and blog posts. The video of presentations from startups in our Digital Health event has already had over 5,300 views. I call that a win for them, as well as our startup community.
Tip: You can also transcribe portions of your events and webinars recordings and turn them into stand-alone text articles. These are great for improving your Google search engine rankings. For example, a panel discussion on Covid and and digital health yielded some great insights relevant to startups in digital health. I transcribed that and turned that into a stand alone blog post.
You can also become an aggregator and curator of all the happenings in your startup community and share it out. Keep an eye out for press releases about new programs launching. These are a great source of news for you to share. Subscribe to the newsletters of other organizations in your community who have programs for entrepreneurs. Share the events, workshops, etc. that they are organizing.
The bottom line, key takeaways from this is, if there’s a one stop hub of resources and information in your community (a website with lots of content), then it’s easier to allow for that fast flow of talent, information, and resources that helps entrepreneurs quickly find what they need at each stage of growth.
While I’m a strong advocate of having a blog/news section on a website as a hub for your ecosystem, the simple truth is that most people don’t tend to stop by your website everyday and see what’s new. You need to keep the community’s happenings in people’s minds.
While social media is a key in doing this, periodic newsletters are still one of the best ways to get your content in front of your audience. A key to remember here is to use the newsletter to direct people to your online hub of information and resources. The newsletter is just a mechanism to alert people about new information, articles, events, or other resources and then direct them to the online platform to learn more.
To get started with a newsletter, check out MailChimp. It’s free to sign up, and until your number of subscribers exceeds 2,000, it’s free to use and send as many newsletters as you’d like.
Another great newsletter resource for ecosystem builders to check out is the Startup Digest. Startup Digest is a weekly newsletter platform from TechStars. If your city or region doesn’t already have an active Startup Digest newsletter, make sure to check out this resource.
The ability to find events is critical in order for the people in your ecosystem to connect and collaborate. If you have a WordPress website there are a ton of free plugins available to implement an event calendar on your website. But, personally, I think it’s ultimately more powerful if there’s a calendar that can be shared and embedded beyond one website.
My current preferred way to share events in our startup community is through a simple Google Calendar. This can be shared and embedded not just on your own website, but other collaborators in the community can share and embed it as well.
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. While I loathe some platforms like Facebook, there’s no denying that social media can be a very useful tool in connecting and communicating with a startup community. Like newsletters, social media is a great tool to alert your community of new articles, news, events, etc. And, just like with newsletters, point them to your website to learn more so that they can more likely find additional information and resources on their visit.
In addition to a tool to share the news and resources that can be found on your startup community’s platform, social media communities like Facebook Groups, Google Groups, etc. are a great way to connect the entrepreneurs in your community. Our StartupSac Community Group on Facebook currently has almost 800 members and has become a great way for entrepreneurs to learn and share from their peers.
Other Ideas for Digital Resources to Share with Your Startup Community
The above ideas are a great place to start and focus your energy first. As you build out your online startup community platform, there are other resources that might be useful.
Startup Directory – Create and maintain a directory of startups. There are several free WordPress plugins that work great for this.
Resource Map – Document and map the assets in your startup community.
For more examples of inspiring startup community platforms, check out:
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash