Communities across the globe are exploring initiatives on how to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem; and the simple answer is for us to adopt the “Open Door” policy used by the entrepreneurs of Boulder, Colorado.
Although research laboratories, technology transfer, capital access and university/private sector partnerships are obvious growth catalysts, during a recent Boulder visit, I witnessed first hand karma’s critical role in growing new ventures. It requires nothing more than the twist of a door knob and an open hand to shake.
Boulder has some of the highest ‘entrepreneurship density’ in the world. Why? Experienced founders being willing to take a meeting with anyone is a critical factor in how Boulder excels beyond other startup communities, and this practice can easily be replicated anywhere.
It’s something that David Cohen, the cofounder of widely celebrated tech startup accelerator program Techstars knows. (Find a full collection of my interview with him here.)
During an interview with Cohen, he shared deep insight about his experiences with new ventures. Post interview, Cohen continued helping, and he immediately connected me with David Mandell of office-sharing service PivotDesk to film an interview later the same day. Toward the end of the interviews with Cohen and Mandell, I asked each of them why Boulder’s entrepreneurial economy was so vibrant. Throughout our time filming with other Boulder entrepreneurs, everyone provided the same reason.
The Boulder startup culture implores a “give first, open door, take a meeting with anyone, how can I help” approach, said Cohen. Both Cohen and Mandell demonstrated an enormous willingness to meet with me, an unknown guy from Delaware.
Although Boulder is known for its exceptional outdoor lifestyle, a strong university and almost 30 research facilities, I believe the strength of their entrepreneurial ecosystem is largely a result of their enormous willingness to help one another.
When asked why Cohen chose to live in Boulder, he told the story of visiting several prospective cities with the other founders of his first company. Their car broke down in the middle of the road in Boulder and before they began to ask anyone for help, several people started pushing their car for them. Cohen and his cofounders at that moment decided on Boulder to base their first company, Pinpoint Technologies.
One of Boulder’s best exports — in addition to microbrews — is Techstars, now with six additional locations and seven internal corporate accelerators. Mandell credits Techstar’s success because in every new location the Boulder playbook is being adopted. To jumpstart the startup in your local community, encourage business people to subscribe to Boulder’s open door policy.
We celebrate the success of entrepreneurs growing new companies and occasionally exiting with windfall acquisitions or IPO’s, however there is a more important question to ask: How are you paying it forward and when was the last time you opened the door for someone new?
David Cohen created the Mentor Manifesto based on his work at Techstars that many of us in lesser-established markets should learn from and apply to our communities. Let’s encourage entrepreneurs everywhere to take meetings with those whom they do not know, speak at schools and universities, and most importantly mentor others. Communities around the world can ignite their own entrepreneurial ecosystem by adopting Boulder’s ‘Open Door Opportunity’ policy.