Leveraging the power of Metcalfe’s Law

Two of my key takeaways from Brad Feld’s presentation in Missoula were that Startup Communities are, by nature, a network (not a hierarchy) and that they should be inclusive.  Having spent much of my life in hierarchies (first in school & then in corporate America), I’ve learned to think and operate in terms of that framework & I’m having to work consciously to break this mental model in my new world as an entrepreneur.  The inclusion part is less challenging for me as I am very extraverted so it feels natural.

Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a network (of any kind) is equal to the square of the number of users connected to it, this drives home to me the value and power of both points above.  One of the most stunning parts of my entry into the world of being an entrepreneur has been how generous & open the community of success is.  Over the course of the last few months I have met more people in Bozeman than I did in the previous twelve years, and in turn I have tried to become a broker for extending the network by connecting people in order to increase the squared power.

Last week Montana Senator Jon Tester organized a Small Business workshop in Bozeman, in advance of that two members of his team, Alison O’Donnell and Pamela Haxby-Cote reached out to me for a meeting to learn more about StartupBozeman.  While it would have been easy to just do a coffee meeting as requested I was fresh off the Missoula event and decided to put Brad’s advice into practice:

Seated clockwise around the table (starting to the left of my empty chair at the lower right corner) are:

Theresa McKnight, Executive Director, Montana State University Innovation Campus

Gary Gannon, serial entrepreneur & principal at his new venture VisualLifeWeb

Shannon Hughes, InnovateMontana

Jennifer Shyrock, Director of Resume Manager at Submittable (the first Montana company to be accepted into YCombinator!)

Pamela Haxby-Cote, Regional Director for Senator Jon Tester

Becky Smith, Chair at Vistage International and founder of BlueOceanInnovationCenter

Alison O’Donnell, Senator Tester’s Senior Economic Advisor

Jake Cook, Co-Founder of Digital Wax Works

Brit Fontenot, Bozeman’s Director of Economic Development and Community Relations

We had a pretty good cross section of “everyone gets a seat at the table” and had a lively discussion about the vibrant community in Bozeman, what each of the players can bring to the table & what gaps we saw in helping Bozeman achieve its full economic potential.

We came away with a plan to keep the momentum going and a short term project to help start the ball rolling, looking forward to working together…