Building and fostering a startup community

In 2009, Ken Bautista and Cam Linke founded Startup Edmonton to bring together tech founders to share in the experience of building products. Since that time, we’re continually learning about how to best support Edmonton’s startup communities.

Drawing on the experiences and recommendations of leaders like Brad Feld and through our own trial-and-error approach, the most important lessons we’d like to pass along are that no two communities are the same and trust an entrepreneur-led approach. Each community has different needs and that’s ok. In fact, that’s better than ok, that’s awesome. The diversity in approaches means that rather than duplicate our efforts, startup communities can continue to learn from one another, foster connections and evolve.

When we began work on the Startup Alberta project in 2014, the original request of us was to create a unifying language and community approach to support founders across the province. As we began to tackle the project, we realized that building tools that help founders create the best communities for themselves was most likely a more beneficial result of the project.

Over the years we have used a lot of hacks, tools, apps and processes in our work building community. We’ve distilled the best of what’s working for us now for you here and we’re always available to answer questions or work through a challenge. 

As part of the project we're thrilled to provide two guiding documents: Supporting Startup Communities Framework and Startup Communities Organizer Handbook; access to mentorship sessions with Stephanie Enders, Manager - Startup Edmonton; and we're building a community tool that Alberta-based startup communities will have access to free-of-charge as first customers. 

Supporting Startup Communities Framework

  • What Is Community? 

  • Why Community? 

  • Where To Begin? 

  • Recommended Readings

Click to download: Supporting Startup Communities Framework.

Click to download: Supporting Startup Communities Framework.

Startup Communities: Organizer Handbook

  • Best Practices

  • Templates & Resources

  • Startup Edmonton Code of Conduct | SAMPLE 

  • Credits 

Click to download: Suggestions, formats, tools and templates to help foster community meetups in your town or city. 

Click to download: Suggestions, formats, tools and templates to help foster community meetups in your town or city. 

BUILDING a Community tool - Guest blog 

In 2015, we began a conversation with Lift Interactive about the possibility of building a community tool from the ground up to meet the needs of the amazing volunteer community leaders that create the robust meetup calendar of events in Edmonton. Through a lot of discussions and ongoing interactions with the community, members and meetup participants, we knew that the current tools available weren't solving a lot of their problems.

  • How can we create context for people exploring community? 
  • How do I bring people together under a shared interest in meaningful ways? 
  • How do we show the interconnections between communities that are part of a larger network? 
  • How do I find interesting groups that are worth attending? 

Current tools create silos between groups and it can be challenging for supporters to get information on the heath, diversity or gaps in startup communities in their towns and cities. It is our hope that the tool will make it easier for governments, educational institutions and economic development agencies to get real-time insights into startup community activities taking place and act as a starting point for how they can begin to better engage and foster the work of entrepreneur-led efforts. 

Lift Interactive is leading a guest blog as we power through a seven-week design sprint together and bring this product to our beta market. In addition to accessing resources to help guide your support of startup communities in your town or city, you'll get a front row seat for the process of building customer-focused software. 

Week 3

Our third sprint was focused on Events within Gather. The main piece of functionality that we spent time on is the events calendar. Calendars can be a tricky thing to render on a site, and we’re now able to display events on the calendar view of a Group. While we’re still tweaking the calendar to be more mobile friendly, and to dynamically update our event listing, the core has been developed and tied in to our Group and Event models.
Users are now able to RSVP to events, see their list of RSVP’d events, and see updates on events.
Group Admin’s can create events, see who has RSVP’d, and post updates.
During this sprint we also worked through some of the functionality from our future Dashboard and Network sprints. As we mentioned in our last post, rearrange the order of development is necessary sometimes to develop in the most efficient way possible.
Our next sprint will be focused on the Discovery capability of Gather. Right now, our homepage links off to some listing views of networks, groups, and events, but we’ll be fine tuning the homepage to better facilitate discovery.

Week 2

Our second sprint was primarily focused on the development of Groups within Gather. We completed all of our Must Have user stories for Groups, and along the way built out some other models and screens within Gather. Our approach is to focus on a specific part of the app during our sprint, but sometimes it makes the most sense to build out some of the related items that are targeted in other sprints. By keeping our sprint approach flexible, we can still aim our focus on a specific part of the application, while building things in an order that makes the most sense. At the start of the project, we have a high level view of dependencies that don’t necessarily become clear until we are knee-deep in development.
At the end of this sprint, users are now able to see all the basic details of a group- membership, events, updates, and descriptions. Group administrators are able to create and manage groups and group updates.
As we built out the rough structure if this group functionality, design patterns are starting to emerge that will be reused across the rest of the application.
Our next sprint will cover Event functionality, and is tightly coupled with the group functionality we have developed. Since Events must belong to a group, these 2 sprints will be working on a lot of the same design and code.

Week 1

This week kicked off our first full sprint of development. We’ve been using Asana to track high-level user stories for Gather. Each major area of functionality is assigned a task, and we have subtasks for all the user stories within that area. We’ve grouped our user stories into priorities: Must Have, Should Have, Could Have. During each sprint we will complete all of the Must Have stories, and as time permits, work through the Should Have and Could Haves. This list of requirements becomes our prioritized product roadmap long term.
This week we worked through some basic technical project setup and got the site up and running on a development domain. This way we can be frequently pushing code updates and having our team and stakeholders reviewing our progress. We focused on the Accounts portion of Gather, and you are now able to sign up for an account, log in, and manage your profile. 
Next up, we’ll be tackling the Groups functionality. This is the core of the site, and will be the basis for most of the other functionality on Gather.

Intro Week

Building a product is always an exciting challenge. In the early phases, the ideas flood in from all members of the team as everything seems possible. Eventually, as ideas get tried and tested, reality must set in. Things need to get made, not just imagined.

That's the point we're at right now with Gather App. We've planned, prototyped and designed how we want this community building service to work. Now we're doing what it takes to make it a reality. We're embarking on a seven week sprint process to build all the core functionality. This development effort will provide the foundation for the app's long term success.

Stay tuned for updates on how it's going. - Lift Interactive


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