Being involved in tech and in business you constantly think about scaling things, economies of scale, scaling a business, scaling a process, scaling a website, ect. Doing something at scale is good, but there are some things that aren’t intended to scale.
A great example of this is Venture Capital. I had a VC Law class from Brad Bernthal and Jason Mendelson last semester based on a book co-authored by Jason and Brad Feld, Venture Deals (great book BTW). I remember Jason very clearly making the point that venture capital is not something that you can duplicate on a massive scale, that the expertise required to find and invest in good deals takes experience, and sometimes some massive failures, and it just can’t be transferred from sage to apprentice.
Another great example is leadership.
When I first came to boulder I knew I wanted to get heavily involved in the community both on and off campus. One of the first things I realized was that CU didn’t have a student club that felt like a community of entrepreneurs. It had several great clubs and orgainizations that provide a lot of value (NVC, GEA, CEO, etc.), but nothing that (1) meets on a regular basis, (2) around a regular format, and (3) for ALL CU students. After floating the idea for this type of club to Paul Jerde from the Deming Center, Brad Bernthal with Silicon Flatiorns, and Jill Vanmatre with ATLAS, I decided to start StartupCU.
The club has turned out to be one of the most valuable things I’ve been involved in, but building the club has been hard. We’ve had meetings with as many as 50 students (none of which had to attend for a class) and as little as 20. I’ve found that the people who keep coming back are the ones that I’ve made a one-on-one connection with. Reaching out to them, showing them I want to help, inviting them personally to the meetings, these are the things that have worked. The mass email and flier campaigns bump the numbers slightly, but connecting with people individually has led to the consistent base that comes to every meeting.
This principle has become very clear to me and I think this is why Boulder is poised to become the next startup hotspot in the US. Anyone in the city will give you some of their time if you just ask. I’ve had hour long meetings with Lawyers for free. I’ve been coached on my code architecture from what in other cities would be considered a competitor. This city understands the importance of this one-on-one interaction.
Think of TechStars for instance. This accelerator, which is now #1 in the world, was started on the premise that great entrepreneurs can become better through mentorship, or in other words, one-on-one leadership. And it is true. I recently applied to be a part of the class of ’13, so put in a good word for me!
So don’t get so caught up in the beauty of scale and forget the one.