David Cohen’s tips for startup community leaders (Video)

At the midway point of his keynote speech at the Silicon Prairie Awards on Aug. 30, TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen got the crowd inside the Joslyn Art Museum's Witherspoon Concert Hall involved. "If you love it (in the Midwest) … stand up," Cohen said. "If you don't think you're going to be (in

David Cohen of TechStars delivered the keynote speech at our inaugural Silicon Prairie Awards, an event celebrating the region’s startup community.

At the midway point of his keynote speech at the Silicon Prairie Awards on Aug. 30, TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen got the crowd inside the Joslyn Art Museum’s Witherspoon Concert Hall involved.

“If you love it (in the Midwest) … stand up,” Cohen said. “If you don’t think you’re going to be (in the Midwest) in 20 years … sit down.”

Cohen then asked those who are not active entrepreneurs to sit down. He followed with another instruction: “If you don’t really want to be a leader of the entrepreneurial community in this area, could you just also sit down.”

Then Cohen took stock of those still standing. “Okay, everybody look around,” he said. “The people who are standing are the leaders of this entrepreneurial community.”

Stressing the importance of these individuals in the community, Cohen encouraged those sitting down to let those standing lead, to get behind them and to follow them. “Everybody else feed into the system,” Cohen said.

“That’s the key,” he added, “to build this community long term.”

To the leaders, Cohen delivered these tips (beginning at the 14:00 mark in the video below):

  1. Quality over quantity – “It’s not about how much (startups) build. It’s about how awesome their thing is.”
  2. Engage the whole stack – “You have to figure out ways that meaningfully engage service providers, venture capitalists, angel investors, experienced entrepreneurs, first-time entrepreneurs, in things that are very meaty and interesting to do.”
  3. Focus on neighborhoods – “If you focus as leaders on your neighborhood, you can make a big difference.”
  4. Attract fresh meat – “Figure out how to attract more people to this community that can impact the startup ecosystem, like developers, like experienced executives from somewhere else, like The Valley or New York.”
  5. Visible entry points – “I was talking to somebody that visited Boulder, and they said they were blown away by the speed at which they got connected to the community. When they sent one email, they got introduced to 15 leaders of the community very easily.”
  6. Inclusiveness – “Anybody who wants to be part of the community, you have to let them be a part of the community.”

In addition to advice for startup community leaders, Cohen also shared strategies that led to the success of TechStars, his Boulder, Colo. startup accelerator, and shared his thoughts on the new wave of startup communities emerging around the world.

For Cohen’s full talk, see the video below. For a full video and list of winners from our inaugural Silicon Prairie Awards, see our post: And the Analog goes to…”.

Startup Communities: For more on the topic of startup community, check out TechStars co-founder Brad Feld‘s  upcoming book “Startup Communities.” Cohen’s talk cites concepts presented by Feld, such as leaders and feeders.*


Credits: Photo by Malone & Company. Video by Event1 Video.

*Update Sept. 11 – Added note referencing “Startup Communities.”


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