SUPPORT | October 27, 2016

Startup Community Through Innovation Rainforests

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Entrepreneurial leaders came together from around the country – and from abroad – to gather at the 2016 Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers in Rochester, New York, to cultivate an understanding of startup communities across colleges and universities.

During the 2016 GCEC, held by the University of Rochester and the Rochester institute of Technology, Victor H. Hwang, Kauffman Foundation's vice president for entrepreneurship, joined in to lead discussions across a new paradigm that will influence how we engage in building startup communities over the next few years.

Every year, entrepreneurship centers across the nation, and now globally, get together to discuss best practices, collaborate, and share ideas for building their entrepreneurial student communities at the GCEC event.

Through the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, these community leaders have an opportunity to learn from each other in similar fashion to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress each year, which is a gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and researchers from around the world.

Many of the attendees at the GCEC event, if not all, are entrepreneurial leaders.

This means serial entrepreneurs, seasoned professionals across industries, with a pulse on the entrepreneurial movement.

Among the numerous topics discussed, a hidden gem was introduced this year. It was on building startup communities, or in Hwang's view, cultivating the innovation rainforest.  What makes this remarkable is not just the refreshing new view on the topic, but also the spirit in which that knowledge originates from.

Here is a short TEDx talk by Hwang on building innovation rainforests.

What really stood out was the consistent collection of feedback. Just as we teach the next generation the principles of customer validation and feedback, Hwang and his team also made it a point to collect data after every encounter, whether through his keynote as a group exercise or through extracting the common themes from them afterward.

Already half way through the book and our prior understanding of building startup communities is getting challenged and reshaped. For the startup community builders who have read books like Marc Nager's “Startup Weekend,” or Brad Feld's “Startup Communities,” Victor Hwang's Rainforest book will likely be a go-to resource in the years to come.

Global Entrepreneurship Network Board Member Jeff Hoffman also spoke along the same spirit as Hwang, touching on the importance of personal relationships, fairness, and the building of trust.

“Entrepreneurship is the toolset of change,” he said. “We are problem solvers, passionate, resilient, and driven.”

If the entrepreneurial ecosystem is anything like a startup, we are likely in the thrashing stages where we are learning to understand community best practices for the major impact yet to come.

As we continue to engage entrepreneurial leaders across the globe, across industries and verticals, GEN is committed to learn and adapt to continue to play a pivotal role in building one entrepreneurial ecosystem.

STEVEN A. RODRIGUEZ serves as Startup Community Manager at the Global Entrepreneurship Network, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Rodriguez oversees four… About the author