February 21, 2017

Peer groups help define challenges faced by startups in Fort Collins

If you’re looking for the startup community in Fort Collins these days, the odds are you’ll find it at one of a number of peer-led meetups. Case in point, I recently attended a meetup of our local chapter of 1 Million Cups.  As entrepreneurs and investors shared their updates and ideas, the conversation that formed illuminated a number of challenges and opportunities facing startups of all stripes in Fort Collins.

The idea of a meetup isn’t new. In fact, Fort Collins has long had a number of high-quality gatherings dedicated to building community among groups like coders and other Internet professionals, filmmakers, makers and manufacturers, retailers, fine artists, marketers, and investors — to name a few. These groups act as the engines of industry intelligence. In an hour or so, a person can get a quick hit of useful information to take back to their business while discovering and strengthening the relationships that sustain and develop our economic, social and environmental health.

The thing I find most valuable about an open and inclusive meetup group is related to my own business philosophy: Have fun giving your time, talent and treasure back to your community and the world. A lot has been written about the incredible pressures an entrepreneur experiences while navigating hardscrabble markets and solving wicked problems. While nobody is going to shoulder the load on your behalf, your peers and colleagues do face the same pressures and can relate.

By gathering casually as friends and neighbors, outside of formal business negotiations, I think we not only access meaningful personal connections that motivate us to move forward in our ventures — but we also build an environment where opportunities are abundant and the solutions to overcoming common challenges are more readily accessed.  For example, the following challenges facing Fort Collins startups I learned about by attending the 1 Million Cups meetup.

The Infrastructure Challenge. Do we have the right infrastructure to serve our technical needs now and in the far future? A lot has changed on the demand side of the equation since I sat in the Tavelli Elementary library computer lab at the tender age of 10, waiting for the modem to connect so I could learn how to Internet. Demand for Internet access brought the investment that laid our early broadband infrastructure. Now, 20 years later, as some startups see constraints to what they can accomplish on our stretch of the information superhighway, folks wonder if we are making the right investments on the right timescale not only to solve for tomorrow’s usage (e.g. adding another lane for Internet traffic) but also for the demand we’ll see in another 20 years (e.g. building the hyperloop of Internet).

The Future Challenge. What is the future of the startup community here? How do we collectively define its features and assets? What are our shared goals? What is the plan for activating assets to meet goals? These questions are popping up in conversation all over as a reaction to major changes in the business environment. I take it as a good sign because answers to these questions are as critical to a startup as industry intelligence. Change happens. Knowing how to transition successfully through change (letting go, embracing discomfort) inevitably means the difference between spinning your wheels and moving forward.

The Power Challenge. A lot has been written about the nature of power, yet there still persists an idea that power is an external and can be given or taken. The ability to get all of what you want from the environment, given all that is available — now that’s real power, and it can’t be taken away. Here is where I have to credit the Colorado Change Leader Institute for teaching me to recognize that there are only two reasons I don’t get what I want: I want something that isn’t available now in the environment, or I disempower myself (not being clear about what I want, saying “I can’t” when I mean “I won’t,” etc.). We can all stand to spend more time focusing on what we really want, learning whether it is available now in the environment, and expressing our personal power to accomplish the change we want.

Those are merely three of nearly a dozen challenges I clocked people discussing directly or indirectly in the span of a single hour. Whatever challenges you or your startup are facing, you can bet there’s a peer group in Fort Collins ready to share their time, talent and treasure to help find a solution. I hope to see you there!

Andrew Schneider founded founded Create Places, an economic and workforce development nonprofit that provides support to increase creative and arts-related employment in Northern Colorado. He can be reached at 970-420-6626 or via email at schneider.andrew@gmail.com.

If you’re looking for the startup community in Fort Collins these days, the odds are you’ll find it at one of a number of peer-led meetups. Case in point, I recently attended a meetup of our local chapter of 1 Million Cups.  As entrepreneurs and investors shared their updates and ideas, the conversation that formed illuminated a number of challenges and opportunities facing startups of all stripes in Fort Collins.

The idea of a meetup isn’t new. In fact, Fort Collins has long had a number of high-quality gatherings dedicated to building community among groups…

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