Dallas/Fort Worth: What to expect from the startup community

There’s more to a startup community than starting and growing a business. Here are some tips for getting the most from your experience, and for engaging your peers.

Relationships are essential. If you’re new to startups and the community, then your job is to hustle to meet the people doing things in your space. Get to know the high quality individuals, the people that have a history of success within the focus industry of your startup.

I didn’t say “Go to every startup event imaginable and talk a bunch.” There are people in every community that do this, Dallas/Fort Worth is no different. Do not be that person. Time is money. More doing, less talking. Be quick and efficient, and always have a purpose when going to an event. Don’t confuse this with “Go take take take.” In fact, the best way to get to know the community is with one simple phrase: “How can I help?”

Be available. This is a “give before you get” community. This means when someone asks for a bit of your time, spend 30 minutes with them. I’ll do this with just about anyone, but I understand that not everyone will (that’s OK too). If you’re open to it, make sure that there’s a purpose and a goal before accepting the meeting. Asking for the desired outcome will bring focus to the meeting. Stay on topic, what either of you did over the holidays a time waster.

Do business, and be diligent with all referrals. When entering into a relationship of any kind, and especially in the startup community, be sure the person on the other end of the relationship is capable of the work, and is who they say they are. As the community grows, so too will the number of people looking to make a quick buck from those unaware. They’re in every community, not just ours (Boulder/Denver, and Dallas/Fort Worth are my references).

There’s nothing wrong with making money, it’s not about that. But make sure it’s done with integrity, and above board. This group is hard to spot, they talk a good game, but have a history of underperforming and making promises they have no intention of keeping – but they leave a wake. When entering into a new relationship, ask for references, and *call* the references. Developers, dev shops, marketers, hosting providers, it doesn’t matter what role they play, ask around.

Hint. If there’s any negativity in the references, be concerned. If two of the referrals confess “off the record details,” run. Always ask for a negative reference too. Life is too short, and building a business is challenging enough to do it any less than above board, with great people. Again, this isn’t a “Dallas startup community” thing, it’s *every* community. Thankfully this is a small group here today, but it’s incumbent upon you to be diligent.

Always be learning. If you’re new to the startup world, welcome, but you’re not done. Hopefully you’ll find yourself too busy with customers and sales soon to be hanging out at every startup event.

More to the point, if you’re a technical founder looking for sales and marketing, learn about it. Learn the “language,” learn what trends are, and do it to gain insight into your needs. I recommend the same if you’re great at sales and marketing, and need a “technical cofounder.” It’s a common need, and the ones that understand how to speak the language of technology will have much better luck finding a cofounder.

That’s all for now. What should be added to this conversation? Let’s engage on Facebook.

Build, make, execute.

* I’ve answered Quora questions (1, 2) if you’re interested. Simply, there is no better place in the country to start and grow a business.

Michael Sitarzewski

Michael Sitarzewski is the Publisher of Launch DFW, co-founder and CEO of Epic Playground, Inc., makers of inboundgeo. He is a veteran entrepreneur (and a TechStars Cloud alum) with a specific focus on Web-based software and services. Sitarzewski has been a part of the internet startup culture since 1994 and has had two exits along the way. After a seven years in the Boulder, Colorado startup community, Michael returned to Dallas, Texas, in 2013 where he’s focused on growing and increasing the visibility of the burgeoning Dallas startup community. He is the EIR at The DEC, a mentor in the RevTech accelerator, and leads several events in the Dallas area. Sitarzewski considers helping people understand and leverage technology his life's work.