When you start out as an entrepreneur, one of the first things you’ll want to do is understand the entrepreneurial landscape – in particular, where to turn to find answers to the millions of questions you’ll have.
Though this isn’t fundamentally different from many other professions, I wanted to give a rundown of sources and strategies that will help you quickly immerse yourself in the startup world.
IMMERSING YOURSELF IN THE ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITY
Where to turn:
- Local Email Lists
- Twitter Lists
- Individual Bloggers
- Larger News-Blogs
- Mentors & Peers
Local Email Lists
One of the first things you should do is sign up for StartupDigest in your city. It’s a curated list of entrepreneurial events in many major cities, and you can use this as a basis for finding networking events and discovering which are the major entrepreneurial groups in your city.
For example, organizations that sponsor a good number of events in Philadelphia are the Philly Startup Leaders (PSL), Philadelphia Area New Media Association (PANMA), and co-working space Independents Hall.
Sign up for the email lists of what appear to be the major groups in your area and those you’re interested in – it may be a firehose at first but you will at least get a feel for what is and isn’t helpful to you (that’s what email filters are for anyway).
For example, the PSL email list is easily one of my favorite entrepreneurial resources in Philly. More than any other email list I subscribe to, PSL’s members are never shy to shoot questions out to the group, or hesitant to share their own experiences and solutions.
Another way to find local groups and events (though it’s not focused solely on entrepreneurship) is to search Meetup for entrepreneurial groups in your area.
One of the most important things to do, when you first start out, is figure out who are the big names in your industry. One good way to do this is to find Twitter lists with titles like “[Your City]-entrepreneurs-and-vc”. A good starting point is to find the leaders of the local groups I mentioned in the last section, and check out what lists they’re on.
To get started, I recommend checking out Mass High Tech writer Galen Moore’s @galenmoore/vc list.
(This, of course, assumes you’re on Twitter – which is an important piece of building your identity in the entrepreneurial community.)
The startup world changes quickly, and much of the best and most up-to-date information is contained in the minds and blogs of the industry’s thought leaders. You’ll hear “check out this blog post by Fred Wilson” much more frequently than “check out this book”, by entrepreneurs and investors alike.
Here are a few frequently referenced, reputable blogs that I recommend:
- Fred Wilson – AVC
- Chris Dixon – cdixon
- Venture Hacks
- Dharmesh Shah – OnStartups
- Mark Suster – Both Sides Of The Table
- David Skok – For Entrepreneurs
If that’s not enough, you can take a look at OnStartup’s Top 40 Startup Blogs
As opposed to the more personal blogs listed above, the following blogs are well known, and more like traditional news sources:
- TechCrunch – The best place to read breaking news on new startups, heavier bent on the west coast. Very well known, often gets great guest posts
- VentureBeat – Similar to TechCrunch, but with a little less attitude
- Inc. – A magazine (not a blog), but a great online resource for entrepreneurs, from general startup success stories to management and financial advice
Quora is a good place to shoot out questions about startups, and receive answers from other individuals, often reputable members of the entrepreneurial community. It’s basically a vastly better, tech-heavy version of Yahoo! Answers.
You can ask or search for any question you like, and topics range from high-level to company and even event-specific answers, e.g.
- Should I develop my site with Java or PHP?
- Who are the most prominent Super Angels in Silicon Valley?
- Why did about.me sell so quickly?
- Is it bad to follow too many people on Twitter?
Mentors & Peers
Though I’ll go into this in more depth in a later post, one of the most important ways you can get up to speed quickly is through mentors and fellow entrepreneurs.
Mentors can be investors or serial entrepreneurs with decades of experience, or they can be friends three months into their first startup. Building a company is an incredible learning experience, and anyone who’s spent significant time working on a startup is bound to have useful advice for a new entrepreneur.
If you’ve got a great business plan and a little luck, applying to an incubator is one of the best ways you can quickly build up a huge number of outstanding mentors, and get workspace among a group of peers building their early-stage startups.
So Get Going!
Starting a business is both extremely fun and extremely hard, and one certainty is that you’ll have a ton of questions. I recommend getting comfortable with the resources I’ve mentioned above, so when you do need an urgent question answered, you know where to turn.
Welcome to the community!