We’re experiencing a lot of bubbles right now as part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many professional sports leagues have restarted in bubbles to protect the safety of the players, staff, and officials. Many of us are living in our own bubbles and have reduced the number of places we go and people we physically interact with. Bubbles provide protection and it started me thinking about how every startup community is its own bubble.
Look, most people don’t care about startups and entrepreneurship. They care about their career, their hobbies, and other interests. They don’t even know the startup community and bubble exists, and that’s cool, because we will never know some of their bubbles that exist too. For those of us who are, and have been, chest deep in trying to create new products and companies to solve problems, this might seem odd to us. But most people are not wired like those of us who are drawn to entrepreneurship. It doesn’t make them wrong and us right or vice versa. It’s just the reality that we care about something most people don’t.
Those of us on the inside and who care about our startup bubble don’t get people that don’t know and care about it. Most people don’t know anything about customer product fit, MVP’s, and term sheets. Yet, we want people who don’t care about our bubble to care about it. We go out of our way sometimes to try to get people to care about it, and we scratch our heads wondering why everyone is not focused on startups and entrepreneurship. Don’t they know that the majority of technological and societal advancements are because of startups and entrepreneurs taking huge risks and placing enormous bets on a new way to approach a problem or re-imagining how something works? What is wrong these people? And then other people look at those of us inside the startup bubble asking similar questions about why we choose to be in this particular bubble when there are so many to choose from.
Becoming part of a bubble is a choice. They are picking their tribe. Stuff happens inside of the bubble that the people inside care deeply about and the people outside not so much. A startup community bubble is actually really easy to get into. The only requirement to getting inside a startup community bubble is to start showing up and participating. That’s it. Show up, do some stuff and you are in. However, being a valuable member of the bubble is another level entirely. If you are going to be a valuable part of a startup community bubble you have to support, protect, and respect others in the bubble even ahead of your own interests. Bubbles become a place where lots of people can co-exist because they are selfless, egoless, and empathetic to those they are sharing the bubble with. Cohabiting in a bubble isn’t easy and we all lose our way sometimes and make it more about ourselves than others or the bubble at large.
A startup community bubble is a complex and fragile bubble. Inside of every startup community bubble everyone is working on something different. Everyone has their own goals to accomplish for their companies and themselves. An outsider looking into a startup community bubble wouldn’t be able to make sense of the fact that everyone inside the bubble is working on something different with very different objectives and that one day everyone inside the bubble hopes to be able to have a company that is large and successful enough for the company to have its own bubble so they can leave the startup bubble. What outsiders can’t see is that the bond that ties entrepreneurs together inside of the startup bubble isn’t about pursuing fame and fortune. It’s about the shared journey. A journey, that unless lived and known cannot be understood and appreciated by those outside the bubble.
Startup community bubbles are imperfect just as every other bubble is. People get inside the bubble who are selfish, and ego driven. They put their own interests above everyone else’s, and they cause discontent. Most of the time these people get identified after a while and are asked to leave the bubble or they no longer have an audience inside of the bubble they choose to leave on their own. Some of these people are just not good people that are trying to take advantage of others inside the bubble. I call these people, Bad Actors, and I write about them in my book, The Founder’s Manual.
If you are reading this you are probably part of a startup community bubble and as such you have an obligation to make the bubble a better place, support your fellow entrepreneurs, and protect your fellow entrepreneurs from Bad Actors. Respect and empathize with your fellow entrepreneurs. Most people don’t, and won’t, care about the startup bubble you belong to and that’s okay. It only matters that you care.