Let’s Up Our Game in the Startup Community

Last Friday, I presented at the annual conference of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, on how lean startup, customer development, and business model canvases are disrupting the entrepreneurial process, and why we need to stop teaching business plans. The next day one of my DePaul colleagues, Javier Monllor, tweeted a nice compliment in reference to my talk and that of a recent DePaul grad, Domingo Meneses.

replied back that we all need to up our game, and I wasn’t just referring to doing so in the classroom.


It’s debatable whether there are more entrepreneurs today than there were a few years ago. But what’s not debatable is that today’s entrepreneurs are smarter and are getting smarter earlier.

Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given the immediate access to virtually any content on the Internet and the fact that entrepreneurship has become a staple of our educational system, from grad schools to grade schools. Add to the mix how readily available mentoring is, the rapid growth of entrepreneurship support organizations (both online and offline), and the coverage of startups on television and in mass media publications.

All this poses a challenge to those of us who are educators, advocates, and advisors of the startup community. We have to stop recycling the same topics and the same conversations.

They’re already out there, in the form of regular events and conferences, countless websites and blogs, and books that keep covering old ground: how to raise money, “how I did it”, the top 10 tech startups, how to find co-founders, the emerging startup community in [name the city], how much funding [name the startup] raised, why [name the app] is going to disrupt [name the industry]…blah, blah, blah.

Instead, we have to start breaking new ground. The responsibility for doing so falls on everyone in the community, particularly those of us who have been around the block a couple times. If we don’t lead the way, no one will.


So what should we have more conversation on?

What about the countless startups that are struggling mightily, hanging onto their last threads as they stare down failure? How about all the non-tech startups out there? Why don’t we talk about the impact of emotional intelligence on success and the workplace? How about the lives of entrepreneurs’ spouses and life partners? Why don’t we hear about the struggle to maintain an entrepreneurial culture as a startup grows?

The spirituality, beliefs, and superstitions of entrepreneurs. The need to create strategic partnerships. Why and how startups fail. Why partnerships and founders’ relationships go bad. Stories of startups fighting, winning, and losing against big business competitors. How few entrepreneurs are really great leaders. How and why some entrepreneurs lose everything – net worth, marriages, emotional stability – yet still do it again.

The list goes on and on. Sit down with any seasoned entrepreneur for an hour and you’ll be amazed at what comes up in conversation. This is about as deeply personal a business experience as you’ll find out there. It’s emotionally charged, financially risky, and incomparably fulfilling.

There’s so much ground to cover and there’s no better time than now.


So I’ll thrown down a challenge to everyone out there: write a blog post, give a talk, assemble a meeting on something new, something fresh. Tell me about it and I’ll promote it to the best of my ability through my blog and social media. I’ll talk about it with people I meet, share it with my students, and use it as an example of the changing conversation in the startup community.

We have to start somewhere. Let’s start by collectively upping our game.


  1. Pingback: People Changing the Conversation in Chicago’s Startup Community | ramanations

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