Some things you can do as a company to give back to your community
Captain's log, stardate d636.y38/AB
Over the course of the six years that we have been operating, we have compiled a few things you can do to give back to your community of startups of choice. By doing so, you will become leaders in the startup scene of your city!
Since we created MarsBased, in early 2014, we have been extremely active in the startups ecosystem in Barcelona, our city. We have become one of the most active actors in the ecosystem - or leaders of thought, if you will. I, as CEO and public face of the company, get invited to round tables, appear on press, speak in conferences and have been teaching sales, marketing & entrepreneurship to the new generations of entrepreneurs in Universities and business schools alike.
This almost happened overnight. As early as 2015, we were already doing most of this, even if at a smaller scale. However, we have taken the startup scene by storm. The need for some fresh air, in an ecosystem where the spotlight is always on the same people, made a few people see in us a glimmer of hope. We could change this.
Our approach has always been starting one thing at a time and then nailing it with a few iterations. Then, add another project to our belt.
Let’s break down the three things you can do to give back to your community:
Organise Startup Grind (or other leading events)
We have been organising events for one year prior to founding the company. We started organising Startup Circle in Barcelona, an event of our own, which we merged with Startup Grind Barcelona, later on.
Startup Circle was an event of our own whereas Startup Grind was a global brand, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. While it's always advisable to create your own brands, as a new company you're going to get better results by leveraging the power of existing global brands.
Startup Grind is now in over 500 cities in more than 125 different countries, but we're still missing a lot. If your city does not have a Startup Grind chapter yet, you might want to consider opening one.
On the other hand, if your city has got a Startup Grind chapter already, you might want to choose another franchise-like community (Ignite, Startup Weekend, FuckUp nights, First Tuesday, etc.) and become the organiser. These events are easier to deploy, as most of the hard work has already been done for you - branding, figuring out the business model, merch, communications, website, etc.
Running a global brand locally will help you to show to potential speakers and partners/sponsors that this is something already working around the globe. Maybe, they will know the brand already, paving your way for a potential relationship. Most sponsors will always choose an international brand rather than a local initiative.
By organising an event every month, you will eventually build a community around you, not only of entrepreneurs who attend your event, but also with your sponsors, partners, providers and the speakers you host.
Bonus tip: Organise an event for your target customers, to make it even more beneficial for your company.
Not our case, clearly, as early-stage startups and entrepreneurs are not our target customers. We sell to medium-to-large tech companies and enterprise, but we like to give back and help like we were helped in our early days.
Organise a Summit or a Conference
If monthly events aren't your thing, or if you do them already and want to take on a bigger challenge, try organising a bigger event.
A Summit (200-300 people) or a Conference (500+ people) pose a really good challenge for event organisers. These kinds of events require more logistics, a bigger venue, catering, a strong line-up of speakers and many sponsors and partners to help to cover the costs.
We started organising our annual conference in 2017. We felt like the community needed an independently organised startups conference coming from a grassroots movement. In Barcelona, all startup conferences are organised by big multinationals or public administration. We have been having the same conferences for ages, because all of these initiatives started well over 10 or 15 years even, so they've grown too big and new generations of entrepreneurs don't connect that well with them.
Since then, we have organised three big conferences, always around 800-1000 people. Sadly, we've had to cancel this year's edition due to the outbreak of COVID-19, but we'll be back stronger next year in May 4-5th, 2021. Save the dates!
Bigger conferences will give you the following benefits:
- Broader reach and impact in the community
- Possibility to bring international speakers
- Larger sponsorships
- Better exposure in press
Bonus tip: If possible, leverage your existing community and your monthly events to have them join this conference. If they're related, it'll be an easy sell.
Create an online community for all entrepreneurs & startups
Another extremely valuable for any startup ecosystem is a place where startups and entrepreneurs can talk online.
Some ecosystems have got Whatsapp or Facebook groups, Discord communities or even other tools available out there for these purposes, but most seem to have a Slack or two running. Some are more niche (like BCNEng - for engineers in Barcelona) while others are more generic, like ours, and open to everyone interested in startups.
Slack’s free tier can hold as many users as you want, therefore making it an optimal option with which to bring your community together but it lacks moderation tools. Since it's not part of their roadmap, other tools are catching up and gaining more foothold in this niche market, but we still think Slack is great for this kind of initiative.
In November 2015, we launched an open slack community for entrepreneurs in Barcelona called StartupsBCN and we’re over 1500 members. We’ve created channels to offer/ask for jobs, share your blogs and favourite articles, talk business & technologies or the mandatory #random channel.
You can join it for free here StartupsBCN.
We identified this necessity in our community because our attendees at Startup Grind needed to wait a month to see each other again. Sometimes, we would meet someone during the networking session but failed to exchange contacts, and the conversation was lost. Now, we’ve got a tool to make these connections happen.
Bonus tip: Bring the offline community you have built with your events to the online world with Slack (or whatever tool you've chosen!).
Curate free resources for your city
Besides events and meetups, there are other things you can help with. One of them is free online resources like curated newsletters for startup & investment news, like Barcinno or Dealflow (previously known as Novobrief) or an events-centric newsletter.
We chose the latter because Barcinno and Novobrief were already doing a kickass job and were established brands. However, we saw that Startup Digest had been abandoned for almost two years, when in 2016 we relaunched Startup Digest. Since then, it's become the reference when it comes to events listing for tech and startups in our city.
Other similar ideas could be to run a free jobs board or a curated newsletter for startups raising funds, for instance. There are a million ideas, so choose wisely!
Develop the Startup Map of your city
While it is true that most big cities have already a startup map, such as Berlin, New York or Chicago, some others don’t.
In 2014, we saw that there was no startup map for Barcelona. Therefore, we presented the option to the Barcelona City Council and their department of economic development Barcelona Activa, and they loved the initiative. We developed it in record time, and barely a month and a half later we were presenting the Barcelona Startup Map in one of the biggest congresses for entrepreneurs in Barcelona: BizBarcelona.
A startup map will help your community in many ways:
- Maps your city’s businesses.
- Gives exposure to new startups.
- Helps to extract data about the distribution of business types.
- Helps to extract data about the distribution of sectors.
- Passes a good deal of SEO onto the startups profiles.
- Gives investors a quick overview of the city startup scene status.
Bonus tip: Add the “developed by” to the site’s footer to give extra credit to your company.
With time, we've seen that complex tools like a startup map require extra maintenance and curation, which conflict directly with public administration policies, so better do it on your own.
How did we do it?
Here's a brief timeline of when and how we engaged with all these initiatives.
- 2013: We started organising events one year before incorporating the company, Startup Circle. That gave us interesting contacts and exposure.
- 2014: We launched Startup Grind BCN in March and released the BCN Startup Map in May.
- 2015: We merged Startup Circle and Startup Grind BCN. We launched StartupsBCN in October.
- 2016: We relaunched Startup Digest in Barcelona.
- 2017: First edition of our annual Startup Grind Tech conference in Barcelona, with over 800 participants.
- 2018: We launched Startup Grind Andorra and hosted the 2nd edition of Startup Grind Tech with 912 participants.
- 2019: We closed Startup Grind Andorra after a first good year to focus in Barcelona. Third edition of Startup Grind Tech.
- 2020: We pioneered SGVirtual the online events for Startup Grind. Barcelona spearheaded this movement for the other 600 chapters around the globe.
Besides the aforementioned initiatives, we collaborate tightly with all the universities, dev bootcamps, business schools, accelerators and incubators in the city to help them wherever we can: we mentor, teach and provide resources to the new generations of developers and entrepreneurs in Barcelona. We love giving back.
To find out more details about all of our initiatives, why don't you take a look at our Community Page?