Want to Get Involved? Just Ask

Having just returned from a Global Entrepreneurship Week event, I’m abuzz with all that I heard. The event was called “eKC Explained” and was an exposé of why my hometown, Kansas City, has become such a hub for entrepreneurship over the last few years.  It was held at the historic Union Station in a huge auditorium and featured a panel of 20 experts in the entrepreneurial ecosystem – everyone from business owners, serial entrepreneurs, community builders, program managers, arts enthusiasts and the like.

There were several important themes mentioned – technology, innovation, collaboration.  Wouldn’t you know it?  The most common theme:  NETWORKING!  No surprise, of course, but gratifying nonetheless.  To a person, they all talked about the importance of connections, community and relationships.

Below is a sampling of some of the most relevant comments related to networking:

“Network with purpose.  Tell others what you need and they will deliver.”  — Kelly Pruneau, Network Manager, Women’s Capital Connection

“What can large companies do for entrepreneurs?  Open up their Rolodex.  It’s free for the corporation and highly valuable to budding entrepreneurs.”  — Kevin McGinnis, Vice President – Development & Operations – Pinsight Media, Sprint

“What can we as a community do to support you?” — Nate Olson, Community Builder and Co-Founder of 1 Million Cups, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

“When the glamour and excitement of Global Entrepreneurship Week wears off and entrepreneurs return to building their businesses, life won’t be quite as glamorous.  Those entrepreneurs need a support system, they need the community to rally around them to help achieve success.”  — Joni Cobb, President and CEO, PIPELINE

“This is a place for serendipitous collisions.” [i.e., population density that lends itself to entrepreneurs “colliding” with potential investors, collaborators, advisers, customers, etc.]  — Alexa Nguyen, Co-Founder, Handprint

“Just ask.  Sure, you need to do your homework and come in prepared, but there is not one person in this community who is unwilling to sit down with you for a cup of coffee to see how they can help.” — Davyeon Ross, Serial Entrepreneur, Co-Founder, ShotTracker

So, how are things looking in your community?  Whether you are an aspiring or established entrepreneur, an intra-preneur for a larger company, an investor, a customer or a friend of any of those other categories, be sure to support your community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Not sure how to get involved?  Just ask.

3 thoughts to “Want to Get Involved? Just Ask”

  1. Awesome post Alana.

    At a recent event that was part of Denver Start-up Week, Bart Lotang, CEO of Full Contact, coined the term “doertacracy” in describing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in CO. A doertacracy is an environment in which “you don’t need someone’s permission to do. If you want to get involved in something, just start doing. If you can get stuff done, you are welcome here. Start doing, don’t ask permission, don’t wait to get the ok. By the time you have the answers you are looking for from someone or something, is the same time you could have spent finding the answers by doing.”

  2. One more thought, perhaps more relevant to networking. This post brought to mind Brad Feld’s concept of Give Before You Get: “In order to give before you get, adopt a philosophy of helping others without an expectation of what you are going to get back. It’s not altruistic – you do expect to get things in return – but you don’t set up the relationship to be a transactional one.”

    Brad goes on to say: “As a partner at Foundry Group, I interact with hundreds of entrepreneurs each week. I’m an investor in a few of their companies, but many of the people I intersect with are entrepreneurs whose company I’m not currently invested in. While a few of these companies are potential investments, the vast majority of them are companies I won’t end up being an investor in. Yet I try to be helpful to everyone who crosses my path, even if it’s an answer to a simple question, feedback on their product, or simply a response to their email that what they are working on isn’t something I’d be interested in investing in. Sure, I’m not perfect at this, but the number of entrepreneurs who have helped me in some unexpected way because of my approach to them dwarfs the energy I’ve “given.”

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