Big Boulder: Boulder and the Rise of Entrepreneurial Communities

Brad Feld from Foundry Group talks about Boulder entrepreneurship and how Boulder built an entrepreneurial community, and the lessons Boulder has learned along the way.

Brad Feld

What makes Boulder the special place that it is? Many people don’t engage fully in experiences anymore when they are able to get lost in the noise of an urban sprawl. In Boulder,  people are held hostage in a dense startup community. The dynamic of Boulder is that everyone realizes how visible they are and can be.

Internet has changed the way we think about society to a very broad, horizontal network. It can be chaotic and messy and many companies are trying to generate the mess or organize it. This shift began in the mid-90’s and then accelerated. In 2000 and 2001 when the bubble burst, people feared web technology was to be feared and could no longer be wildly successful as it had been. In actuality, the world was just ten years early. There was a period of time after the burst when it was especially painful to be an entrepreneur. In 2003 at the beginning of the web 2.0, many realized they weren’t done creating. Since then, there has been a steady drumbeat of activity in Boulder that brings us to where we are today. Brad shares the four principles he believes have made Boulder the tightly-knit success it is:

The Four Principles to Build an Entrepreneurial Community

  1. Any startup community has to be led by entrepreneurs. Government, big companies, universities, and non-profits can’t lead.
  2. You have to take a very long-term view. If you look at Boulder between 1995 and 2000, you’re not impressed. But if you back up to the 1970’s and then look all the way to today, you see the progress.
  3. Be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage in any way. That engagement isn’t a hierarchical structure by any means and it’s important be welcoming to everyone. Assume good intent and allow people to lean in and participate.
  4. Create geographical meaning and activity for the engagement mentioned in the third principle. In Boulder, a visible example of that is TechStars and Startup Weekend, which both began in Boulder.

Give before you get is a contant theme in Boulder. When you remove the expectation of getting something in return, you create powerful, positive force in a relationship. The four principles Brad describes can benefit any community.

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