No Startup Community is an Island

Prior to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, people had really weird ideas about how to grow an economy. They didn’t understand that trade was the great creator of wealth and prosperity. Instead, mercantilism prospered. People would try to hold onto things like gold and created tariffs to protect local industries.

There is a common misconception among us those building startup communities that parallels this backward view. They have an “us versus them” mentality. One community wins and another loses.

I think that’s backward.

There is power in networks. The old-school view of community building looks inward. The real power comes when you build bridges to outside startups communities, making the whole more powerful and benefiting each node.

Austin currently has about 14 daily flights to San Francisco bay area. San Antonio has three. The result is that Austin’s tech community is much more tightly integrated and appealing to companies that are already part of the global startup community.

And one last point: the kind of growth that comes from natural connections is more lasting then artificially created additions to a startup community. All the times where people have paid to have startups relocate to a city at the cost of another city, I’ve seen it go wrong more than it’s gone right. When it happens organically, that when it seems to stick.

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I’m an entrepreneur and seed-stage internet VC living in San Antonio, Texas. I blog at

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