Being part of the game while being an outsider


Any recommendations on being part of the game while you are an outsider, living far away from any startup hub*? I try to keep myself up to date with what's going on by watching podcasts, reading news, blogs, etc., but I'm an outsider. I'd like to move to a startup hub, but it's impossible for me at the moment (visa-impossible).

I have a day-job to pay the bills and in my spare time I keep building stuff, maybe some day one project will succeed. I'm working alone because I don't know people here interested in joining forces to work in a startup and when I attended startup events it was very depressing. They don't know who Jason Cohen, Dharmesh Shah, Jason Calacanis. Saying things like "Mark Suster and Howard Morgan liked my product." has absolutely no weight around here because they don't know them. They ask instead for a business plan.

So, any ideas on what can I do to be part of the game while I'm such an outsider?

* I think the great hubs are, of course, the valley, maybe Seatle, New York, Boulder and in Europe I think only London qualifies.

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asked Feb 2 '11 at 21:19
J. Pablo Fernández
412 points

5 Answers


Well my startup is located in Utah - not really known as a startup hub, but we do have some good companies here. My cofounder and I didn't really know any of them when we started out but we made an effort to get out of our office and network when possible. Through that we heard about a local Y-Combinator/Techstars-esque incubator that we were accepted in to and made a lot of good connections. We've since raised some more money and things are going well.

I wouldn't really worry too much about who other people know. I'm only semi familiar with most of the names you listed. If you feel people are too ignorant, take the time to help educate them. Once you really get in to some of this startup stuff you find there is a lot of information, but if you don't know where to look in the beginning it's not always the easiest info to find. Try seeing if you can give talks at your local meetings and talk about Customer Development or something like that.

I'm not sure what your goal is. Being "part of the game" isn't really a goal in itself. Really all that stuff is more the flash and glitz of startup life. Build a good company and people will take notice regardless of where you live. Being in some of these hubs also introduces a lot of artificial noise I think. Look at the advantages of your location and try to play off those instead of lamenting all the disadvantages.

It means you have to adjust some of the things you read about because it's generally written from that perspective of being in Silicon Valley, but companies come from all over the world. I'd say the biggest thing is to start making connections where you live. Who are the successful companies? I bet the founders/leaders would give you some time to discuss the local situation if you ask.

answered Feb 3 '11 at 01:42
Ryan Elkins I Actionable
894 points
  • I mostly can't make local connections/conferences because I don't speak the local language. For me the environment is important to keep me motivated and to find people to work with. Thanks for the answer. – J. Pablo Fernández 13 years ago


Perhaps you could focus on virtual relationships. Start commenting on the blogs of some entrepreneurs you respect. At some point the conversations can get more personal. I have "met" many people this way who continue to be sounding boards and advisors.

answered Feb 3 '11 at 07:59
Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points
  • Yes, I presume this is what I need to do and I was asking for advice on how to do it, other than commenting on blogs. – J. Pablo Fernández 13 years ago
  • I don't know if it is an "other than". If you want to get noticed by someone, you have to do something they can take note of. If you impress them by what your comments add to their blog, it is an opening for you. – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago


Sorry if this is a stupid answer, but "Don't be part of the game" and you'll do just fine.

answered Feb 3 '11 at 12:12
The Dictator
2,305 points
  • I don't think I'm doing just fine by coding by myself with no contact with anybody else. Even if I'm doing fine, I want to do better. – J. Pablo Fernández 13 years ago
  • Actually that's kind of my point I don't think being in the game is going to make a difference. Reading blogs etc. is something else but when it comes to network it's only good for marketing + getting acquired, getting invested etc. (and for many of these you have to move or need to be famous first :) ) – The Dictator 13 years ago
  • I agree with fx - in some sense the whole ecosystem of the mISV and startup space is a bit incestuous and caught up in its own hype. Being part of it may feel good emotionally, but it may not actually provide any real value. – Tim J 13 years ago


The location is just a small set-back, there are startups & startup hubs everywhere, some connections are even purely virtual.

Ryerson University in Toronto saw a need and established the Digital Media Zone, maybe you should create something similar in your home town. The company I currently work with,, was established because the founders could not find any other service providing international, unbiased & quick feedback on their startup ideas. Solving your problem only works if others are having the same issue, so start working on the idea and see if there are any interested locals.

As for online connections, social media can be superficial at times, but I have connected with many amazing entrepreneurs and have kept in touch with them. I joined the team after they found me online, and am now working on another startup with one of the contacts I made. It is definitely possible to make meaningful connections online, and even work together.

Having control over your startup is a huge benefit of going solo, but having a great team outweighs it. You need a team for perspective and different skills sets, so you should focus on networking off & online. Engage more people and look to make friends, not just contacts. It's important to spread the word that you are looking for a team, but don't dismiss anybody if you think they aren't a good match because you never know who their friends are.

answered Feb 4 '11 at 12:49
Danielle G
36 points


Being part of a community can make a huge difference. So it's worth investing some of your time and efforts into supporting what there already is or opening new doors.

Where I live, someone had tried to get an OpenCoffee startup networking meetup off the ground, but it never really got into its stride. I like OpenCoffee a lot when you have the right mix of people, and I like the Pitch & Mix format we founded here by learning from that experience.

For casual co-working, sometimes all it takes is to 'adopt' a cafe with good coffee and reliable WiFi. Or maybe you can get a Jelly going.

My guess is that you're not the only person in your area to have the kind of aspirations you do. But you may be the only one sufficiently motivated to start building community.

It won't happen overnight. But it won't happen ever unless someone takes the first step.

answered Feb 4 '11 at 08:07
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points

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