Helping Hand

I’m struck by how open the startup community is in silicon valley. There seems to be an unending supply of people who are willing to take time out of their day to give advice, lend a hand, or otherwise be almost unacceptably nice. Beyond the obvious, I think it’s a key component of why Silicon Valley is able to churn out such a high amount of innovation year after year.

One example is Bob Dourandish from Revenzy.com. I met him at the SV New Tech Meetup for all of five minutes before he offered to take a look at our site and offer some advice on how to market it. Since then, he’s spent more of his time discussing our ideas and even wrote a very nice blog post mentioning us. Any benefit to him? Marginal at best. Sure, maybe he gets one more alpha tester for his site and a mention in this blog, but that’s hardly going to line his coffers anytime soon.

So what’s the motivation behind these selfless acts? Cynics, game theorists, or fans of B.F. Skinner would say that every selfless act has at it’s heart some selfish motivation. Pride, a feeling of importance, or perhaps some favor in the future. However I think it’s much simpler. When it comes down to it, people around here want to belong to a community that actually supports them, and that sort of community fosters it’s own behavioral incentives. After all, who wants to belong to a community where people are only after themselves? Certainly there are many such communities that feed upon themselves until everyone is left with sub-par equilibrium behavior, but they are not communities where anyone actually wants to belong. (A more jargony way to say it? There is a universal benefit to this particular commons, and very little incentive for free-riders to crash the party.)

Another fine example is Jason CalacanisOpen Angel Forum. Jason has taken it upon himself to destroy the pay-to-play system of Angel investment forums, something which has only marginal benefit for exceedingly high costs in his own time and energy. The main benefit to him? Being part of a community that he actually wants to be a part of.

In part, this sort of behavior may be due to the unique nature of the market here. Many entrepreneurs wind up constructing services for other entrepreneurs. In the past two weeks I’ve seen sites which set up an easy alpha user program, sites which offer email integration, chat clients, etc. etc. All pieces which someone else can use to create yet another infrastructure product for someone else. The open source philosophy has morphed into the open API philosophy which has created a stand-alone ecosystem of entrepreneurs. The philosophy of that ecosystem ties everyone together to such a degree, that helping our your neighbor is almost always a win win situation.

In practical terms, let me return to the first example. Bob and I started with a simple conversation, and in a week we’ve been able to toss around ideas for two seemingly unrelated products (startupSQUARE.com and Revenzy.com) and are brainstorming ways to make them work together. With some work, we can figure out someway to integrate his social auctioning system into our site to create a way for entrepreneurs to pool their purchasing power and receive discounts from larger vendors. An integration which could wind up helping the community even more.

It’s a great time to be in San Francisco, and I hope that Manuel, Marcel and I at startupSQUARE.com are able to give as much to the community as it’s giving to us.

Cheers,

Tristan Kromer

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startupSQUARE.com is a small, dedicated group of entrepreneurs and coders who are interested in solving problems and having a positive impact on the startup community. We want to enable entrepreneurship by creating a space where co-founders can meet one another and brainstorm the next big idea. Then we help turn those ideas into businesses by matching them with funding, tools, and services in a virtual marketplace.

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Author

Tristan Kromer's Profile Pic

Tristan is an entrepreneur that loves solving problems and getting his hands dirty. He manages the primary business functions of startupSQUARE.com and is strongly committed to the customer development process. An entrepreneur at heart, he has been involved in a variety of ventures for the past 13 years including IT security, music, real estate, and marketing. His most recent position was working as the General Manager of SECUDE International LLC in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tristan will gladly play you a game of chess.


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