A visible, collaborative ecosystem is key to a successful startup ecosystem

I was recently reading the Kauffman Foundation Uncommon Voices column, “How to combat the solitary side of the startup life”, and it made me feel pretty good about what all of us have been intentionally working on in Fargo Moorhead for our entrepreneurial ecosystem.  As the column states “…{to} support the entrepreneurial community, it’s essential that we aid in building a support network around founders to reduce the sense of isolation – a desperation that could unfortunately lead to talented entrepreneurs prematurely stepping away from promising ventures.” 

On a more-publicized and somewhat superficial level, entrepreneurial activity conveys excitement, coolness and buzz.  And while it does have some of that, the actual day-to-day efforts by the startups are a lot of hard, risky and uncertain work. 

A big part of my job as the EDC’s Chief Innovation Officer is to develop relationships with entrepreneurs, check in on them, ask them questions and provide connections to people and programs.  This year our organization enhanced our formal business visit questionnaire process.  I have been noticing a commonality with the startups on the answers to one of the questions and this Kauffman column made me think even further about it.  The question is “What are the community’s strengths as a place to do business?”.  Their answers are proof that focusing on a visible and collaborative ecosystem is working and is important to the startups.

To illustrate, I will paraphrase some of the responses from the visits:

  • We have such a great group of business leaders willing to collaborate and provide guidance. It always amazes me.  The willingness to help and have open and honest conversations.
  • Everyone I talk to, who listens, becomes a salesperson for our company.  And I do the same for others.  Fargo Moorhead has a critical mass of helpful people and connectors to make this a great place for startups.
  • The collaborative attitude among companies.  Even people who are technically competitors – we can still have conversations to help each other out.
  • We have a good network of people willing to help each other.  There is an open environment to share and collaborate.  Plus, we have good programs.
  • Coming here from another community, it’s just different here.  There is something in the city’s DNA about collaborating and genuinely wanting to help.

Creating an innovative, scalable company has its ups and downs, and comes with risk and sacrifice.  Just as I routinely check in with the startups to see how they are doing and if I can help, I invite you to do the same in genuinely asking an entrepreneur, “How are you doing, and how can I help?”.  As evidenced by the above responses, they appreciate it and that kind of support is why many are choosing to build their companies right here in Fargo Moorhead.

John Machacek “Johnny Mach”
Chief Innovation Officer

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