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5 Tips For Joining A Startup Ecosystem That is Perfect For You

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1 June 2022?! Already? Any month of the year that starts with a J always brings about somewhat of a shock – whether it’s January and you get shocked it’s the start of a new year or June when you think “we are almost halfway through the year” as your arms slowly lift to place your palms on your head! Or June when you realize that we are now firmly in the second half of the year – what we all sub-consciously recognize as being downhill from here onwards!  Regardless of the month you will definitely be going through this ebb and flow of shock and dismay.  It’s no different for me this year!  I’m lying here as I type this on my phone thinking, it’s already halfway through the year and boy – what a year it’s been. Not only have we reached this mark as a planet halfway through its 365 day orbit around The Sun, but on a personal note; I have officially been a full-time entrepreneur for 6 months! Let that sink in, because I needed to. That’s why I’m lying down!

In the past 6 months I’ve gone from resigning from my job, starting to build a tech product, losing momentum, working with a big client, getting my first funding from the government, traveling to Silicon Valley, winning a global award while in Silicon Valley, getting to party with the biggest DJs in the world, start a blog(with a post once every 6 months!), deplete all my savings and most importantly – earn the opportunity to become part of the most amazing group of people I’ve ever come across throughout my career; The SkinInTheGame WhatsApp group!  This is a group of South African founders and venture capatilists who’ve come together to make sense of this thing we call the SAn tech ecosystem!  In themselves wanting to make sense of it, they’ve allowed to me as well. That’s why this post(of which there will be many more going forward!) is about community.  The importance of Community when you’re trying to Startup and Grind, let’s get into it…

Now, a blog post about Community wouldn’t be much without me starting out with mentioning the Princess of Community herself: Malebo Nkosi – creator of the Community Living YouTube Channel and brand and now officially a startup founder!  Shout out to her for having decided to begin her journey as a full-time entrepreneur.  A large part of this blog is really about many other people just as her who will be are deciding to venture into full-time entrepreneurship. Whether it’s permanently or it’s temporarily – in the world we live in today where side hustles And being overworked are the modus operandi for most people, full-time entrepreneurship is actually somewhat of a Sabbatical.

5 Steps to Joining A Startup Community That is Perfect For You

1. Find People In The Same Entrepreneurship Phase As You

In order to truly lay the foundation of explaining the importance of community as a budding entrepreneur I saw it fit to contrast the space someone such as Malebo is in with that of Zanele Matome – one of South Africa’s most prolific Startup Founders who is, as OP pointed out quite poignantly, very understated!  Zanele started Welo Health(www.welo.health) in 2020 and since then she has gone on to secure 100s of 1000s in funding without diluting any of her equity in her company.  Community starts with people who you look up to that are within reach.  We may sometimes be tempted to want to get mentors and gurus and think that will result in a clear path to success in the startup space but couldn’t be further from the truth.  Trying to get a mentor earlier on may result in there being a disconnect so vast that it would be somewhat of a chasm between yourself and the other person because they may possibly not be able to relate to the challenges which you are currently facing.  This is not an indictment on people who have been successful entrepreneurs, no not at all, it is an understanding that you need to have as a startup founder. It is the understanding that the most critical thing you need in someone when starting up is; someone who has the time to have  regular sessions or discussions with you.  Not because they have free time but because you both request time from other because you have something or things to learn from each other.  Mutual benefit is the foundational step when joining a startup community.

2. Skills

The second step to becoming part of a startup community is skills. To me, “That which you don’t have but can acquire given the time” – that’s a skill. Not a talent or expertise. And skill is what you pick up from people who have capabilities which you need in your journey to success as a startup founder.  The best way to learn a skill efficiently is from another person who has already acquired the skill. YouTube or online learning or even traditional education(reading, attending lectures etc.)  will show you how to do something and you may grasp it so well that your understanding reaches a point of mastery. But, a skill is when someone shows you how to use that knowledge or ability to meet your immediate goals for needing to learn that skill in the first place.  This is why I encourage skill exchanges – with these someone who already  uses the skill you need will teach how you can also use it because they cut out all the unnecessary bits which are not relevant to you.  This worked for me when I needed to apply accounting to my business. After going through videos and lessons and blowing the dust off of my Engineering Economics textbook from university and having a having downright information overload, I was benumbed and couldn’t do much with it all. Journals, ledgers, balance sheets and accounting ratios meant absolutely nothing to me until I sat down with my friend who is accountant who took me through exactly what I needed to learn.  In exchange I taught exactly what she needed to learn in order to build her own online store and launch her e-commerce business.  To experience the richness of Skill Exchanges, 4uture Skillx(Future Skills) is definitely the platform to start with by visiting www.4uture.co.za.

3. Have A Clear Goal For Joining A Startup Community

The third element you need in being part of a startup community is a clear reason or goal for participating in the community.  For me, my goal was clear. When I resigned from my job I picked up the book: “The Secrets Of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to get it”.  I had a clear goal to learn anything and everything I needed to learn about venture capital.  I got so into attaining this goal that I actually ended up going to Sand Hill road itself in Silicon Valley – more on that on a future post!  If you have a similar goal of specifically learning about venture capital here are 5 books I suggest you get copies of in order to get started and get a great understanding about the startup and venture capital industry:

1. The Secrets of SandHill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It by Scott Kupor (Managing Partner at Andreesen Horowitz)

2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

3. Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City by Brad Feld

4. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Reis

5. The Startup of You: Adapt, Take Risks, Grow Your Network, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman(LinkedIn Founder) and Ben Casnocha

Reading about your goal allows you to see that which you want in writing. It also allows learn to learn from the possible experiences you might have yourself if you go along a certain path.  The most important part of having your goals in writing is “jargon” – by going through several books (at least 5) you get to know the terminology used in the the space you are interested in becoming a part of.  This will prove immensely valuable as you begin to reach out to people and it allows you to hit the ground running when you join the community or ecosystem you want to be initiated into based on your specific goal.  With the knowledge, jargon and goal in hand you can confidently join your desired community and actually begin contributing to it from the get-go.  This leads us to the second-last step in becoming part of a community and arguably the most important – contributing!

4. Join A Community You Can Contribute To 

The fourth and most critical step in choosing and becoming part of a community is contributing because by contributing you get to clearly define and take up space within the community. The one thing you will see when you join the community is that even though you might specifically be there to learn, others will be able to learn from you from the start. This is the nature of community that is just right for you. Being just right is absolutely critical when it comes to communities because you will never find a perfect one. This is due to the very nature of communities – they are made up of finite, imperfect beings called humans – and having been one all your life you know people can be well: people! When joining a community you have to be able to very quick to discern if it is an egosystem or an ecosystem. To be able to tell the difference the two you need to check out Jennifer Crocker’s piece where she says: the egosystem, promotes self-centered, self-interested, and egoistic behaviors, and the ecosystem promotes connecting to and caring for others—and describes their characteristic features. Egosystems involve self-image goals, zero-sum views of the relation between self and others, and feeling “at the mercy” of others. This makes you feel that you are unable to contribute anything. Whereas ecosystems involve compassionate goals, non-zero-sum views of the relation between self and others, and feeling “at the source.” and this is what allows you to feel as though you can and are making a contribution to the overall community. With that being said and you now having a clear understanding on to become part of a vibrant community – the question is: how do you start? Which brings us  to the last point to becoming part of a startup ecosystem.


The fifth and final step to finding the right startup community is to just start.  As there are many options to start with, it’s best first have a clear understanding of what you want to learn from your community.  Here are some extremely useful training programmes:

  1. Fundable Startups – according to the Silicon Valley Podcast this is “the best startup training available”
  2. Startup School – downside of this is that it comes at a cost, upside on the other hand is that you can get a bursary from Investec to attend!
  3. Alison – Empower Yourself – pick from your choice of specific businesses you’d like  to startup.  What’s great is that you also get a certificate upon completion. 

With the necessary skills at your disposal you can start following startup communities in your city online.  Based on their content and the people in the community you can choose to reach out to the organisers or prominent members and take it from there.  If you are in university or any tertiary institution you can also join clubs or societies within your institution.  If you are working or are in a professional space look out for competitions and events such as hackathons that you can participate in.  With the many options available to you you really need to give a couple of things a go until you find the sweet spot.  On thing you can be sure of is that when you find the perfect community for yourself – you will just know as it will feel just right. 

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