Its exactly 2 days ahead of the day, 4 years back; I started a meet-up group in Bangalore, "Startups Club" and organised the first meeting at a coffee shop, which then existed in Koramangala, Mr. Beans. I had no clue of the word "Community". I did not think the word existed as well. But, here I am, when I take pride in stating that, "Startups Club is a community of entrepreneurs. An extended Family of Entrepreneurs, a group, you can depend on for knowledge, experience, support, customers and outreach", but it does not end there, is that enough to be a community?
The word Community means "a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common". This is what Startups Club Pioneers have slowly and steadily become. A set of entrepreneurs, living in the same world of entrepreneurship, having a particular characteristic in common when it comes to taking risks, being shameless and standing by each other.
Today, I come across so may Facebook groups, meet up group organisers, companies or entities offering services / products to startups, calling their users or registered database as their communities. It used to confuse me. At one point, I decided to not even use to word community for Startups Club. It would be so unfair for our Pioneers, who have added a heart to this group; who have stood by each other for good and bad; who have stood against the eco-system for each other; who have laughed and praised each other's successes; who have cried and shared sad moments in each other's failures; who have picked each other up from the worst of times and made the best of the toughest times.
How could we compare or use the same name for a group of this kind, to a list of email IDs and phone numbers? It would be unfair. But, once again, our Pioneers stopped us, when we thought we must not call ourselves a community, they corrected us. They showed us that just because others were wrong in calling themselves a community, we should not, not call this Family of Entrepreneurs, a Community. We are a Community, even if the eco-system likes it or not. So, here I am, the proud founder of the Community of Pioneers from Startups Club.
Some special stories, which makes this Community, what it is today and what we would be tomorrow.
- This year, Startups Club wanted to touch three countries, go international with its annual event, Demo Day. We had in fact posted the countries on our website and also opened out the applications to pitch as well. But at the Demo Day Finale 2016 in Chennai; between some major political and weather crises, we had our Pioneer Members travel from across the country to Chennai. Post the Finale, in a closed door session, our 50+ Pioneer Members met with our Board of Shareholders of Startups Club.
With investors from India and US, they literally argued and got their point through, why Startups Club and its Pioneers Community had to be focussed in India. On how important it is that Startups Club is able to reach deep into tier 2 and tier 3 cities and how they would all work towards building this stronger. The founders, Vivek Srinivasan, Khuzema Siamwala and I sat at the extreme end of the room and were overwhelmed to see the passion. The ownership of the Pioneers and the views they brought along to build this, their very own Community in India. After an hour's session, it was decided that Startups Club will remain in India for 2017 and we are so happy we did that. If this is not Family and ownership, what is?
- This happened some two weeks back and as I write this, I still get goosebumps and maybe a tear at the corner of my eyes. Its too fresh to be thought about without being emotional about it. A Pioneer in Chennai, had her family traveling to a temple close to Bangalore on a Friday, that very same day, we the founders of Startups Club were traveling to Vellore for a session with Student Entrepreneurs at VIT-TBI for the Young Pioneers. I get a message on the WhatsApp group for women entrepreneurs of Startups Club, from this Pioneer in Chennai that her family was in distress near Bangalore. If she had to travel from Chennai, it would take her a while before help reaches her family, my first thought, lets turn the car around, but the same problem existed for me as well. It would also take me that long.
Without a minute's hesitation, with no doubts that help would come, I reposted the Chennai Pioneers message in the Pioneer's Master group where Pioneers from across the country are present. Within a minute, a Pioneer who is not very active on the daily basis on WhatsApp, pinged me on PM. He got connected to the Chennai Pioneer, took all the information and within 30 minutes reached the spot. He stayed through the crises, made sure that they reached the hospital. He updated the concerned Pioneer from Chennai at regular intervals and also kept me posted, understanding that I was worried too. End of the day, all was well but for me, if this group of Pioneers are called Community, then community means Family, Trust and People, not email IDs and Phone Numbers.
- Finally, if you think that strategising Startups Club growth, caring and loving each other is what the Pioneers of Startups Club do, then you are totally mistaken. We build each other's businesses, including the Club itself. Every Pioneer, understands that each one of us are in this community to grow, each one of us are owners of ideas / startups. We need to do what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. There have been so many instances, when our Pioneers have started their journey as an aspiring entrepreneur with a rough idea in mind and now are successfully revenue generating startups, all through this community of Pioneers. We are entrepreneurs who believe in Shameless Asks! In getting what it takes to step forward, in collaborations with each other, in validating other Pioneer offerings with true facts and reasons, in ensuring we meet our monthly goals together.
Several times we have cross sold to each other just so that we all could ensure that our goals for the month are met to ensure the larger vision is achieved.
So, next time when you hear some one say, "I have a community of entrepreneurs / travellers / developers / adventurers etc, ask them right there, do you mean email IDs and phone numbers or do you mean PEOPLE"
If you want to be a Pioneer of this Family, lets do this...