Building Startup Communities One Story At A Time

By Chet Kittleson, Regional Manager at UP Global

If A Story is Told but Nobody is Around to Hear it, Does it Make A Sound?

What is it about a city like New York or San Francisco that has entrepreneurs everywhere mesmerized? Is it the number of startups they're pushing out every day? Is it the amount of money that these startups are being bought and sold for? Are their entrepreneurs smarter? More educated? Better raised? What is it that puts the New York's of the world at the center of everything?

Through my job at UP I've been given the opportunity to immerse myself into entrepreneurial communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and up through Canada, and what I've found is that it all comes down to our ability to tell our story. From entrepreneur to entrepreneur, city to city, country to country, without a compelling story our audience fades fast and we fail to get the job, we don't receive the press that we feel we deserve and we can't recruit the talent or the capital that our city so badly needs to progress. Without a story, we honestly don't really exist. What I keep finding time and time again is that there are stories everywhere you look, but so many out there are failing to tell them. (Can you guess who hasn't failed here? Hint: Rhymes with shew shork... What about Lan Brancisco?)

"In a knowledge economy, every major metro area is basically competing with every other one to attract high-potential talent across a wide range of disciplines. The top markets -- places like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles -- are not only creating amazing ecosystems of companies, schools and startups, but are also among the most skilled at promoting themselves as the place where the future is being created. That cycle tends to reinforce itself over time, so there's a real urgency to getting it right," says Chris Devore of Founders Co-Op.

'We Make Seattle'
This is why I was so excited when I heard about a new initiative, 'We Make Seattle,' being led by some of Seattle's finest creatives: Bryan Zug, Scott Berkun, Dan McComb, Adam Baggett and Sara McNally.

'We Make Seattle' is a "...grassroots project to tell our story better as a regional community of creatives and entrepreneurs," says Bryan Zug of Bootstrapper Studios. "Despite being named the #1 tech city in America by "The Atlantic" and consistently being ranked as one of the most livable cities, we're frequently overlooked as the place to go for people with big talents and ideas. 'We Make Seattle' is an initiative aimed at changing this."

'We Make Seattle' Kickstarter Video

What Bryan and his comrades are looking to create, assuming they can get the support of the Seattle community to stand behind them, is the story of Seattle in video form. They're not compiling a list of facts to prove why this city is amazing. They're creating a narrative that will visually show why the city and the people of Seattle are different. What makes them special? Why should the world know who they are? Bryan and his team at 'We Make Seattle' are tired of answering these questions, and are taking action to show people in a way that can be universally understood.

Brad Feld of Foundry Group has done a remarkable job at cultivating and creating a story to tell for his ecosystem in Boulder, Colorado. I reached out to him to ask why he thinks this matters. "Every city is an entrepreneurial endeavor and has an original story. If you go read the story of the Denny Party, you see a story with vibrant characters creating a new city that has grown into an amazing place over the past 160 years. That story continues today, as Seattle continues to be an amazing place to create new companies. It's time they start sharing this story with the world."

What's A Community Project Without Community?
'We Make Seattle' is running a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the making and marketing of the video. Why do they need to raise money? Why don't they bootstrap it in their spare time or find a high paying sponsor that is looking for exposure? The beauty of crowdsourcing extends far beyond an efficient and inexpensive way to raise money. My favorite thing about this new(ish) wave of raising capital is that the community can actually play a role in determining whether a product, service or initiative gets developed. What's a community project without the community?

No matter where you live or what you're doing, follow the guys from 'We Make Seattle's' lead and work on your story. Whether it's your company, your family, your city or yourself, dig deep and find out what it is that you have to share with the world. You might be surprised at how far that alone will get you.