Chicken or Egg Founders vs Ecosystems

Hosted By Matt Watson

Full Scale

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Chris Heivly

Today's Guest: Chris Heivly

Managing Director - Chris Heivly

Durham, NC

Ep. #1164 - Chicken or Egg: Founders vs Ecosystems?

In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, Matt Watson and Chris Heivly, talk about a common question in the startup sector: founders or ecosystems. – which comes first? Listen to them discuss why startup ecosystems are important in your community. Matt and Chris also talk about Chris’s latest book, Build the Fort, the role of corporations in building startup ecosystems, what founders need the most, and more.

Covered In This Episode

The entrepreneurial ecosystem supports startup founders but wouldn’t exist without them. So which comes first? Chris Heivly simplifies the complexity of this issue.

Listen to Matt and Chris as they tackle the problems of building startup communities and an entrepreneurial system. Learn what Chris took away from Techstars and his journey as a serial entrepreneur in North Carolina. They also discuss the role of corporations, the startup community in Durham, remote work, and more.

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  • Chris’ journey with Mapquest (1:28)
  • Becoming a serial entrepreneur in North Carolina (4:13)
  • Learning from founders of Techstars (6:05)
  • The fast-rising startup community in Durham (7:30)
  • Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem (9:20)
  • Recurring problems all cities have in building their startup communities (10:49)
  • What most founders need (15:41)
  • Success will be through a thousand nudges (17:30)
  • The role of corporations in building startup ecosystems (19:45)
  • Build the Fort (22:42)
  • The importance of having a startup community in every community (26:13)
  • A front door to the startup community (30:40)
  • How remote work affects startup ecosystem (33:55)
  • The power of your network (36:09)
  • Who should read Build the Fort (39:50)
  • 1 Million Cups and rally (41:07)

Key Quotes

The problem in every place to a certain degree, is that there’s a certain set of leaders who think that you can engineer a successful set of, you know, businesses. Or you know, a founding company says that it’s like building a company. I can engineer that success. And you and I both know that building a company, let alone helping 100 people build their companies, is all over the place. There’s not one way to do it. There are so many variables.

– Chris Heivly

We think of startup communities as more like a network of people, there might be a few super connectors, and they’re super nodes. But it’s not hierarchical. There’s no kiss the ring, there’s no king of the community, right? There’s no someone that owns it or is responsible for it. And so, you know, we see a lot of that behavior, sometimes in entrepreneurial service organizations that have been around a long time. They somehow lose their mission of serving founders and are serving themselves for the betterment of their organization and miss the very founders they’re supposed to serve.

– Chris Heivly

I think what most founders need more than anything, it’s not necessarily mentors, or capital, or hiring employees, or talent, or any of those. It’s customers. They need customers, like, if they get customers, they can usually solve a lot of the other challenges, right? And, and that was one of the frustrations I had too with one of my last companies is, you know, a lot of the like bigger corporations and stuff like that in town, it was hard to get them to, like, try our software or be a customer and stuff like that. And that’s a big way that they could have helped the local ecosystem was help me know if they can be a customer of those local companies, like, that’s the best thing they can do.

– Matt Watson

Regardless of what city you’re sitting in, you should have some type of startup community kind of going on. And if it’s not, then you should allocate some time to do it. It’s that important, right? If you have any doubts, you know, call me, and I’m going to talk to you, but like, having, you know, the idea of an economic development group, you know, the job creation is through convincing T-Mobile to move from Kansas City to Paducah, Kentucky, right? Those days are long gone. It’s not going to happen. You’re not gonna get, your economy’s not gonna be diversified. You better have a startup community to build these organic, bottom-up kinds of things. And if you don’t, if you’re not intentional about that, the best entrepreneurs are going to move out of your city and go to places that are doing better.

– Chris Heivly

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Rough Transcript

Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!

Matt Watson  00:00

And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson. I’m joined today by the Chris Heivly, who was one of the cofounders of MapQuest. He’s really big in the entrepreneur space, as you’ll see him in a lot of different places. He has a awesome new book that we’re going to talk about today called Build the Fort. And I think we’re especially going to talk today about building ecosystems for entrepreneurs, which I think are super important. That’s the only way that any any of these other cities will ever be the next Silicon Valley is by building the ecosystem and the founders and the success within them. Before we get started, I do remind everybody that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by Hiring software developers is difficult, Full Scale can help us build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. Please visit to learn more. Chris, welcome to the show, man.


Chris Heivly  00:53

Hey, Matt, thanks for having me. Can’t wait to talk founders and shit.


Matt Watson  00:58

That is the best way ever to put it. So I’m hoping you have like a map that can help us build an ecosystem. Do you happen to have any maps?


Chris Heivly  01:08

Yeah, I tell people, there’s a funny little line. There’s not a map and maybe there’s a compass.


Matt Watson  01:15

There you go. So I mean, I guess I have to ask you briefly about MapQuest and that background and was that like 20 years ago now, how long ago was was the MapQuest journey.


Chris Heivly  01:28

So the MapQuest URL, the website, was launched in February of 96.


Matt Watson  01:34



Chris Heivly  01:35

We’re at 26 to seven years. But the MapQuest story starts, you know, a good seven, eight years before that.


Matt Watson  01:44

Oh, wow. Even, even back into the early 90s.


Chris Heivly  01:47

Yeah, because like a lot of things. Were just a series of pivots that landed us on this brand new thing called the worldwide interweb, right? It didn’t start as an internet site. It started with, you know, helping to build technology to build better routing for Triple As and you know, all the auto clubs, maybe not you, but your parents use Triple As. Go from Kansas City down the Dollywood or whatever, wherever you are heading. And it started there. And then with CD ROMs for consumers, and eventually it just ended up. We we launched Mapquest website, and it just took off. So that’s where the near and he was just following it series of technology.


Matt Watson  02:29

And then was it sold to AOL? Is that who acquired it?


Chris Heivly  02:32

Yeah. So we took it public first. I left the board right before that because they needed adults on a board of directors to take it public. Sure, you’ve witnessed that a few times. And I was probably 35, 36. They took it public. And then AOL bought it off the public markets a year later for 1.2 billion.


Matt Watson  02:51

Okay. And then, most or all younger people today, I’ve never heard of it.


Chris Heivly  02:57

You know, I did. I did a keynote a few weeks ago, and afterwards, a bunch of people came up, including two college kids, one of my buddies was standing next to me. And they said, you know, Hey, did you did you actually have any big exits? And I said, Well, this thing called MapQuest and, you know, crickets. Yeah. And, and my buddy’s, like, Are you kidding me? I’m like, no, I see it everywhere. 25, 28 or younger? Never a good chance. I’ve never heard of it.


Matt Watson  03:23

Yeah, no, I mean, I definitely used it, you know, 20 years ago, or whatever. 20, 25 years ago, for sure. But it’s just amazing how things change with in technology. And, and you joke before we started recording that you hadn’t used it for a long time either.


Chris Heivly  03:36

No, well, Google Maps rocks. Yeah, by the way, Google Maps was launched nine years after MapQuest.


Matt Watson  03:43

Yeah. It just goes to show that you’ve got to continue to invest in innovation and grow the ecosystem, which is what we’re here to talk about today. So we should we should probably talk about that and building ecosystems in different cities. And I guess my first point for you is, you’re in North Carolina, right? And you’re not in Silicon Valley, or New York or all these places. So how did you end up as a serial entrepreneur in North Carolina, and I’d love to hear more about the ecosystem there.


Chris Heivly  04:13

Yeah, I can’t wait to share. So you know, MapQuest, by the way was birthed in one of the largest startup hubs in the world, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Okay. Okay, home to about 55,000 Amish people. And so, Matt, I’ve never lived in Silicon Valley. Though I’ve spent countless days and hours and airplane flights there. I’ve never lived in New York City or Boston. So I’ve always operated in what you might refer to as like tier two or second level cities. Me too. I’m happy to be kind of a bigger fish in a smaller pond. It has its advantages. It has its challenges, but you know, every place does but you know, that’s where my muscles have been built. Not unlike you in Kansas City. So, you know, we were in Chicago ten years, took me ten years to figure out that it’s really cold about eight months of the year. Right? You get a little of that in KC. So I moved to North Carolina about 16 years ago, primarily for sun. There was also an ecosystem called the Research Triangle Park that many of us have heard about. And I said, well, that sounds like a pretty good place. It’s about two hours from the beach. Let’s just pick up and see how that works. So the interesting ecosystem story for me starts with Y Combinator in TechStars. And 2009, I’m reading about, you know, they had both launched the Note 7, and by 2009, we’re starting to read about their programs. And Matt, I just said, if one startup is fun than ten at a time, it should be a complete blast.


Matt Watson  05:51

Or a complete nightmare.


Chris Heivly  05:52

Yeah, well, it’s, it’s their nightmares now. Yeah. Ultimately, as the founder of your company, I just get that I still sleep the same, right?


Matt Watson  06:02

So were you ever involved in in those programs?


Chris Heivly  06:05

Yeah. So I was very lucky to be introduced to David Cohen, and Brad Feld to the four founders of Techstars. And then oh nine, they gave so freely of their time to me. They, David Cohen kind of gave me their playbook for how to run an accelerator. And Brad was starting to think about why makes up for a community and he shared that freely over a series of conversations. I then put my own accelerator into play two different ones between 2010 and 2016. I personally invested in about 42 companies through our accelerator and probably another eight, separately. And during that time, you start learning about not just how to do your thing called the accelerator, which was a blast, by the way. I never felt it was a hassle. I just I loved I was so in my element, Matt. But I also kept in touch with those those guys, and I’ve always admired, you know, Brad’s a prolific writer and, you know, doesn’t, you know, and then you have an entrepreneur house and KC for a while it’s yes. So, you know, I’ve become very good friends with both of them. And that’s kind of the seeds of how my kind of startup community slash entrepreneur ecosystem stuff got started. And I applied it for and still do for 10 to 12 years in Raleigh, Durham.


Matt Watson  07:30

So you have your own accelerator in in Raleigh there.


Chris Heivly  07:35

I did until 2016. Okay, so we still have those 42 investments that we’re managing, but we haven’t been active, frankly, the ecosystem grew up very quickly around us, and we weren’t that needed anymore.


Matt Watson  07:48

So are there other accelerators that popped up instead?


Chris Heivly  07:52

Yeah, yeah, for sure. And, and what’s, you know, yeah, yes, I would consider Raleigh, Durham, a clear top 10 US. You know, the Ark has been fast and furious. And, you know, two or three unicorns, we it’s been, it’s been a great journey over the last 10, 12 years.


Matt Watson  08:11

Have there been some companies that were founded there that we would know?


Chris Heivly  08:15

You know, all depends how, how geeky we want to get. We had a company called ChannelAdvisor, which has been public for a number of years that helps eBay resellers, you know, manage that better. It’s a billion dollar company. We have Republic Wireless, which spun out of another company, which does kind of Wi Fi, you know, phone now bought by someone else recently. Yeah. So I don’t know, you know, depends on how geeky and geeky you want to get, you know, good good exits, a number of like, really good 200 $300 million dollar exits, which for emerging ecosystem is very powerful. Yeah. So they may not be as well known, but they’re very good ecosystem drivers.


Matt Watson  09:02

Well, and I think that’s the key is you mentioned ecosystem. So my, my first company, we sold in 2011, to, which is owned by Cox, automotive, and we had about 300 employees here in Kansas City when we sold it. And now, you know, 10 years later, Kansas City is kind of a hub to automotive technology companies, and it has built that ecosystem. And so if you are wanting to hire people today, and from wherever you are in the United States, like I need salespeople that know how to sell the car dealerships or whatever, like you like, who lives in Kansas City that worked at these companies, right? And that’s where those ecosystems build. And several of the people that I worked with, and my first company went on and started other companies. One of them I was the first investor in that company is worth like over $50 million and doing fantastic. And so that that’s what that’s how those ecosystems get built. Right? You have one success to leave gets the other successes and building up the talent and all that kind of stuff, which sounds like that, that has been one of your favorite things to do over the last many years.


Chris Heivly  10:08

Yeah, I mean, you know, not to get too squishy on you. But you know, part of my work in the last 12 years in Raleigh, Durham, but more importantly, the six years I’ve spent in the last six years flying around the world, helping ecosystem leaders kind of do a better job of building their ecosystem is now I get to impact 1000s of entrepreneurs right through that, as opposed to just a handful that I invested in, or went through my accelerator, or the one that I was doing. And that’s at this stage in my life and career that feels really darn good. The other thing I would add is no one knows how to do it. So it’s still like that blank sheet of paper that we both enjoy. So I’m still figuring out a lot.


Matt Watson  10:49

And yeah, so somebody from Kansas City calls you and says, Hey, Chris, can you come out and help us build our ecosystem? Like, what do you do?


Chris Heivly  10:57

I get on an airplane, and I come out and help them. You know, we I just start, you know, talking to them about what’s working, what’s not working. Between 2017 and 2021, I joined Brad and David at Techstars. And we created a new business under the umbrella of Techstars. Around ecosystem development, we kind of build a playbook recipe, it’s more of a mindset, you know, because there’s not an exact thing that works for every community and engage with 15 cities around the world and learned a lot. So you know, we have a process that we bring in, I still do it on a small project basis just by myself. Because I’m just sitting on airplanes, it’s not that much fun anymore at my advanced age. But yeah, I tell them, I say what’s, what’s working, what’s not working? Who’s, who’s doing good stuff? Who’s , who’s in the way? And how can I help, maybe break some of those log jams, like jams of thought lodge log jams of activities? Those kinds of things.


Matt Watson  11:58

Are there usually, like recurring problems that all the cities have, and a lack of talent or lack of corporate support to the startups or like, are there certain themes you always see?


Chris Heivly  12:09

Yeah, I jokingly say, same problems, different weather. Yeah, and so most of its mindset, so you know, the book, the current book builder, for the startup, community builders Field Guide, is all about kind of trying to inject a kind of a thought process, a mindset, maybe even a framework about how to think about your role in that. And that there’s a couple of principles that are really important. The problem in many places, let’s just be honest, the problem in every place to a certain degree, is that there’s a certain set of leaders who think that you can engineer a successful set of, you know, businesses or you know, founding company say that it’s like building a company, I can engineer that success. And you and I both know that building a company, let alone helping 100 people build their companies is all over the place. There’s not one way to do it. There’s so many variables. And so mostly what I do is go in and try to change their approach to how to do this. I obviously the book is a big part of that. But part of me as a consultant or coach is to say, I need you to think a little different. I need you to cede this, this control that you think you have to have. Because by controlling things you vary you by trying to control founders, you know, the best founders don’t want to be controlled. There’s there disruptors, you’re you’re pissing off or pushing away the best founders in the area by trying to organize super organized and super control thing. So lighten up on that. So that’s the big problem across every city. So what was the long winded but you get the point? I hope?


Matt Watson  13:53

Yeah. So what what did the cities do that try and control it, you know, or put like barriers in their way? Are there things that the cities are doing that are causing problems?


Chris Heivly  14:03

Well, it’s usually the individuals in certain cities, the individuals in certain roles, think that you think somewhat hierarchically that to get access to knowledge and capital and things, you have to kind of earn your way to, you know, to meet somebody, or they highly curate in introductions, or they hold back information that might be useful in order to, you know, make money themselves or something. Those are all inhibitors to progress. We think of startup communities as more like a network of people, there might be a few super connectors, and they’re super nodes. But it’s not hierarchical. There’s no kiss the ring, there’s no king of the community, right? There’s no someone that owns it or is responsible for it. And so, you know, we see a lot of that behavior, sometimes in entrepreneurial service organizations that have been around a long time. They somehow lose their mission of serving founders and are serving themselves for the betterment of their organization, and miss the very founders they’re supposed to serve. So you see various elements of that individuals. And mostly because they don’t know about it.


Matt Watson  15:12

Well, I can definitely see that where a lot of startups, a lot of entrepreneurs, they just need support. They need referrals and the networking introduction, the angel investors, introductions to all the different things that can support them. And you know, if everybody’s kind of gatekeeping, all of those things, because they’re not a good enough of an entrepreneur, or they don’t have the pedigree or what, they’re not old enough, whatever it is, right, then it’s like, you’re not necessarily hurting them, but you’re not helping them. And so by not helping them, you’re hurting them. You know what I mean?


Chris Heivly  15:41

Exactly, exactly. And, you know, you know, that, especially in the early days, and especially for first time founders, you know, there’s doubts, and there’s fears, and I don’t know what I don’t know. And anytime you kind of create friction, or slow down that process, you risk them losing the very thing they’re trying to do, and they fold up the tent, and they go home. And you know, you want more of those people not less. So, you know, get out of your own way, serve out like one of the little tricks that I do, a lot of times when I go and speak, as I say all the current active full time founders go to this side of the room, everyone else go to this side of the room. And then I say to that last side, you have one job, help them succeed. If you want to oversimplify things, there’s only two people in this world founders and everyone else, and everyone else is your job is to help the founder, you do that more over and over and over again, there’ll be more successful, make more better decisions, get more customers faster, get more capital faster, all those things have a positive lift, and your startup community will flourish.


Matt Watson  16:49

Well, I think what most founders need more than anything, it’s not necessarily mentors, or capital, or hiring employees, or talent or any of those, it’s customers, they need customers, like if they get customers, they can usually solve a lot of the other challenges. Right and, and that was one of the frustrations I had too with one of my last companies is, you know, a lot of the like bigger corporations and stuff like that in town, it was hard to get them to like try our software or be a customer and stuff like that. And but that’s a big way that they could have helped the local ecosystem was helped me know if they can be a customer of those local companies, like that’s the best thing they can do.


Chris Heivly  17:30

I really great that you appreciate you bringing that up. Because in the book, I outline that everyone has a role to play. And they may be at different levels and different ways that you can do that. But like you mentioned earlier, like a corporation, being a first customer, giving them space to convene and get people together. Being the beta customer, you know, just giving, you know, product feedback, or, or marketing feedback. You know, corporations have the, you know, tons of talent, all baked in at that, if you just kind of get them connected to the startups can help little mini decisions, how to do Facebook ads better. Imagine some guy doing Facebook ads for your local consumer products company coming in and spending an hour a month just talking to founders about what’s happening, and what’s the best way to be effective. All those little things. Matt, one of my favorite lines is success will be through a thousand nudges. So don’t discount that your little nudge can be valuable because that on top of the whole other 999 are what can really propel a community and its founders forward.


Matt Watson  18:40

Absolutely. I do remind everybody that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit full where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs and see what developers are available to join your team today. Visit to learn more. So one of the other things I’m a big fan of is kind of I don’t remember what the term for this is, but it’s like, you know, entrepreneurship that gets kind of starts from the corporate and then get spun out a corporate right. So it’s like most big companies have lots of things that they would like to do, they’d like to have this new business unit or new product or whatever. But they can’t do it. Like they can’t they don’t have the agility to do it. They can’t get out of their way there would be too much red tape. And that’s one of my favorite types of entrepreneurship that I wished more cities and bigger corporations would do like here where we have T Mobile here and AMC theaters and Garmin and some different places. Right? And it’s like, you know, do they have like things that they wish they had an entrepreneur could come in and help do if they can figure how to work with the community to do those things.


Chris Heivly  19:45

Yeah, I mean, you know, what’s, what’s beautiful about the the essence of the community is that there’s lots of people with different talents at different stages in their life with different motivations and needs. And when they’re all connected, I think it has it gives the environment them More of those things can happen. You know, I’ve been working on this, this some thoughts over the last couple of weeks about where corporate innovation and startups communities where they can interact. And, you know, obviously, startups break rules, and they don’t follow rules. And the typically the best ones don’t are, you know, well suited for corporations. But they do have a lot of mindset differences that can that what’s missing in most corporations, corporations have time, money, space, right, existing customers. And so I think, you know, in a lot of places, these venture studios are a platform by which those two things come together, sometimes Indianapolis has one of the best ones, and how those two things can come together and help, you know, take those ideas. And both parties can benefit from that by leveraging the best of what each group is good at.


Matt Watson  20:54

Yeah, we saw, we had some startup accelerators here in town, I don’t remember what they were called anymore, that were doing specific stuff around fintech. And there was one there was there was one that there’s a couple different ones. And they were very themed, right. And so for like the FinTech, one, there was a local bank here that was throwing it and they wanted to invest in all of them and partner and all of them. And I call it kind of hold it the same way. Right? Like they’re, they’re almost creating, like, they want to invest in these new products and new business ideas. And it was a way for them to bring all their expertise to that kind of like a venture studio. But it was more like an accelerator, I think. But I think that’s a great way for them to do this as well.


Chris Heivly  21:34

Like I said, there’s so many ways, in my past, I ran a corporate venture fund for three or four years in the late 90s, I learned about how to be a venture capitalist. And, you know, the way that I viewed it is I can go invest in companies that you can’t see yet I called them over the horizon, you can’t see the shift yet. It’s coming your way. By the time you see it, it’s too late. But I can invest in those things. You could learn a lot, and maybe even by investing, acquire partner, whatever, like you get give you so many options. So there’s lots of different ways that corporations can can work and by the way, no better than in their own community. Because even all of those founders who might some of them, you know, as you know, many of them fail, they become potential hiring. Right, right. It’s a talent, it’s a workforce development play at some point. So that’s, you know, a nicely well integrated, very collaborative, supportive community of all the actors, corporations, on their employees, government, you know, ambassadors, founders, university researchers, when all of those things work together, great things happen.


Matt Watson  22:42

So tell me more about your your book Build the Fort. I guess, first of all, tell us the story, the name.


Chris Heivly  22:49

So yeah, it’s it’s one of my favorite stories. I’ve, you know, obviously, we did MapQuest and I, there’s a gentleman, Marshall Clarke, and I have worked together three or four times over a, probably a 20-year period. And whenever we sat down to start talking about a new idea, we, and by now we talk in code, Matt, that I’m not unlike, I’m sure you and and your, your podcast partner. You can finish each other’s sentences. Well, our metaphor for building a startup was building a fort. And when I later, we laugh about it, and where we’re going to steal the wood, and you know, whose dad has a tarp and a hammer. When we took that metaphor and broke it down, what we’re really trying to do is to say, how do we simplify things? How do we, how do we act like we’re 10 years old? So Matt, where’d you grow up?


Matt Watson  23:42

In this? I was born in Oklahoma, but I’ve always basically lived in Kansas City.


Chris Heivly  23:45

Yeah. So when you were kids, did you build forts when you were 10 or 12?


Matt Watson  23:49

Heck, yeah. And I have four little boys that build them every day now.


Chris Heivly  23:52

Exactly. And the idea is, you know, if, if I asked you, you know, think about us being ten and we’re neighbors and I say, Hey, Matt, you want to build a fort? And you say, Heck, yeah, heck yeah. It took you about three nanoseconds to decide that. Well, the adult version is like, well, I don’t know if I know anything about fort building. I don’t know, where we’re gonna get the wood. And we have no money, right? Like, doesn’t that sound like the adult perspective, right? So the whole idea of build a fort is simplify, simplify, simplify. It’s a metaphor that I’m using for all my books. Excuse me, my first one was How to Start Anything. The next one is actually How to Build Your Ecosystem. But it’s just kind of breaking it down to five simple lessons or rules. And the first one is just share it with your friends and everyone else, share your idea, just like, hey, do you want to build a fort? And I think it’s a really great metaphor, and it seems like everyone has built forts when I’m on stage, and I’m keynoting. And, you know, I asked how many people have an idea 98% of hands go up, right, so everyone has an idea. So I’m trying to hopefully simplify that fear and the magic that you and I are well aware of.


Matt Watson  25:02

I think it’s a great analogy. And like I said, I have, I have four sons. And their favorite thing to do is build forts. Like if they could do anything today would be build a fort. So


Chris Heivly  25:12

I’m so envious of them, right? Wouldn’t you like to go back to their, how simple things were just a build a fort?


Matt Watson  25:18

So my last company Stackify, when we, at one point, we’re building out the office and stuff and but instead of buying cubicles, we bought giant Legos. And we built we use those to build like walls between desks and stuff, kind of like cubicle walls, because the company was called Stackify, and whatever, it was just something kind of fun to do. And anyways, we sold that company a couple years ago, and we, during COVID, we closed the office and all this stuff. And so I have like, 1000 of those blocks in my basement.


Chris Heivly  25:48

I’m coming over road, truck.


Matt Watson  25:51

And the boys every almost every day, they’re down there building something down there. Everybody loves to build a fort.


Chris Heivly  25:56

Well, it’s very creative, it exercises a certain part of your brain and tell them never to lose that kind of 10 year old mentality of building forts, it’ll work more than life.


Matt Watson  26:06

Absolutely. So tell us more about the book and, you know, other lessons that that we could learn from the book?


Chris Heivly  26:13

Yeah, I mean, I think the first thing is, you know, regardless of what city you’re sitting in, you should have some type of startup community kind of going on. And if it’s not, then you should allocate some time to do it. It’s that important, right? If you have any doubts, you know, call me and I’m going to talk to you, but like, having, you know, the idea of a economic development group, you know, the job creation is through convincing T-Mobile to move from Kansas City to Paducah, Kentucky, right? Those days are long gone, it’s not going to happen. You’re not gonna get, your economy’s not gonna be diversified. You better have a startup community to build these organic, bottom up kind of things. And if you don’t, if you’re not intentional about that, the best entrepreneurs are going to move out of your city and go to places that are doing that better. So that’s the why. The how is it’s really what the books about, I said, the mindset, one of the more interesting things that I think you can that someone can glean from that is, every community is at like a different stage of maturity. So I’ve laid out four stages. And the key to that is not to compare yourself to Kansas City to St. Louis, or Chicago, or Nashville. But to understand that, if I’m sitting around this level, I should be focusing on these things. And it’s only when I get more mature, what I may be focused on a greater number of things. So I outlined seven drivers that every community should focus on. Not that it’s linear, but I’m kind of gonna do them in somewhat of an order. First thing is you have to have really good leadership that sets the culture of entrepreneurship in the town. Second is you need to develop founders, and you never done inspiring new founders to jump in, then mentorship, then investors, and then corporate, university, and government. And, again, not that I have to wait to do all those those three at the end. But you got to have a good pipeline of founders going before you can try to recruit and bring more capital. And capital always lags right when the founders are. So I talked about how to do an audit of your community, work on that with three or four other people fight and this is all build the fort stock, right? Build a Ford have an audit, figure out what you’re good at, figure out where you’re that maybe benchmark yourself against others, and then figure out how to go forward and what kind of things you can do. So it’s very field guidish.


Matt Watson  28:47

So do you do most cities also just struggling knowing what all the resources are? Like, knowing that we have this accelerator, we have these funds, we have the startup but then it’s like we have these founders, these startups are even in town, like most of them really struggle with that, or in this day, have they kind of figured out how to map that out? Are there websites that help map that stuff out? Or


Chris Heivly  29:09

Most communities are not at that stage yet? I mean, you know, Kansas City is what you’ve exhibited, and felt is actually fairly mature, even for your size. Right. So, so maturity and its ecosystem has nothing to do with size, right? It’s that it’s operationally optimized, right? You have you have, you have various ways that entrepreneurs can start, you have programs and you have a culture where people, you and I get introduced, and we have a coffee, and I asked you what’s what are you, you know, challenged by and I help you, right, that’s both a cultural as well as a specific advice kind of thing. So that’s why you have to build these foundations. Most communities have not built a solid enough Foundation. They might be starting some of the activities. They might have a local accelerator, they might have a co working space, but they’re kind of still siloed and disconnected. And, you know, this is a power Our move, right? The bigger your network and the tighter the network, the more you can get the things you need faster and quicker. And so many places are still very disconnected, very siloed. And then layer on some bad things, many of these places, you have certain individuals organizations saying, I’m the guy, or I’m the woman, or I’m the organization. And now you’re actually like you said earlier, you’re actually being counter productive. Yeah, you’re you’re preventing. And by the way, you and I both know this, the best founders see that bullshit and say, I don’t have time for it. So they either disengage locally, or they pick up and move.


Matt Watson  30:40

Well, I don’t know, if such a thing already exists. But I wish there was a website that was like, the startup or something. And you could put in your city, and it would tell you like all the different things that are going on in your city, you know, not necessarily, you know, call Chris. And here’s his phone number. But you know, these are the different events. These are the organizations that are here, like, oh, we have Kauffman, and we have 1 Million Cups, and we have pipeline, and we have this accelerator, we have all these things. But there’s just so many pieces to it. And you know, when you meet other entrepreneurs, it kind of blows their mind when you start telling him like, oh, there’s these 50 things that exist in Kansas City you can take advantage of. And then like, where to start with all of it. But one of my favorites, that is definitely a different state by state are things like tax credits or grants. And there’s a lot of those to that people just have no idea that exist.


Chris Heivly  31:29

Yeah, so if I can, I’d love to pick up on kind of the idea of a front door to the startup community. And many cities have, okay, versions of that, or some versions that, here’s my kind of alternative thinking, belief. I back to this network thing. If you find three people to start with, and those people introduce you to three other people, you’re at nine, and those people introduce you to three other people and you’re at 27. Right, I’m going to guarantee you within those first set of probably 15 to 20 meetings that you’re going to hear about every accelerator co working space grant program, whatever. So I’m not arguing against the front door. I’m more saying the best way, the quickest way to do it is just put yourself out there. Yeah, ask three people and ask them to connect you to three other people and then be willing to get out and do that kind of thing. It’s one of the secrets to being good entrepreneur, is you don’t mind having a cold call coffee with someone right?


Matt Watson  32:27

Interviews, too. And I’ve learned a lot over the years that I would meet with people. And I have no expectation of that, how they like how they can help me. But you just never know like who they know, right? Like there’s a couple of degrees of separation. And I have a good example of this. I’m gonna guess if I asked you do you know anybody who is a plumber, electrician? Or does H back work? Do you know? Anybody? know lots of people? They’re all one of each. They’re all potential customers for me. Can you introduce me? Yeah, of course. There we go. See, just like that. That’s all you gotta do?


Chris Heivly  32:58

Yeah, I spend probably half an hour a day, on average, making introductions to people, even if they didn’t even ask me. Right. So I just think, Matt, we call those serendipitous sparks. You never know when you connect those two people. And so when I talk about the cultural foundation that needs to be there, it’s things like I’m willing to make an introduction, without asking permission or getting double opt in or having a reason I just think you two should meet.


Matt Watson  33:26

Right? Yeah. So the follow up to my weird question, I’m the CEO of a digital marketing company for home services. So it’s like, my point is like, everybody knows somebody who’s a plumber, or age back or something, like I have an uncle that is like, everybody knows somebody. But But point is, it’s like, those are the random connections, right? You just never know who you’re gonna meet, and who they know and all that stuff. But my next question for you, though, is talking about ecosystem building. And it’s super important. But how do you feel like remote has changed all of this?


Chris Heivly  33:55

Yeah, I think it’s going to be unbelievably good for building startup communities and entrepreneurial systems. And the reason is that those very talented people that have been sitting in San Francisco at Facebook, right, or at Google in the New York office, these powerhouse hubs and the remote work and you know, this desire to maybe go back where I grew up, or go to where my wife’s family is, because now I’m popping out kids. You’re seeing that everywhere. I mean, we’ve been seeing that in Raleigh Durham for 10 years easily, right? People coming from New York, Atlanta, are tired of the big cities, no judgement, right? Great part when you’re in your 20s, maybe not so much when you’re in your 30s Right. So as each of those people kind of parachute into these, they become potential agents, right? They bring with them experiences, their network, right? We just talked about making introductions, right? All of those are super additive to a community where that may not have been as connected or easily as connected prior to this and I think COVID completely accelerated all of that. And now I see power. And what would typically be a tier two or tier, even a tier three city, you’ll see people moving back, and they just raise the whole knowledge experience level up tremendously. Now, we just got to make sure that they’re roped in, right, that they’re connected, and that they have a good first mentality.


Matt Watson  35:21

Like Kansas City, we have certain types of talent we have a lot of and then there’s certain types of talent that super hard to find, like so for example, if I want to hire somebody who had a ton of experience running marketing, or product marketing for SaaS companies, not a whole lot of people in Kansas City have done that there’s a small handful, right. But in Silicon Valley, there are probably a lot of people. But you know, if the company like my company embraced remote like, well, now I can hire somebody anywhere in the US that has that skill set. And that would help us grow tremendously. And I think that’s the thing is companies have to a lot of companies are embracing remote. You know, you hear now mumblings about remote going away and whatever. But especially for startups, if they continue to embrace remote, it’s those key, the key talent that they can’t hire locally, they’ve got to accept hiring remotely.


Chris Heivly  36:09

Man not going to sound like a broken record, it all comes back to the network that you build and activate when you need it, you know, or you build it, you don’t build it when you need it, you build it, and and leverage it. And I gotta be honest, I didn’t really kind of understand or learn that till probably 15 years ago. But I now understand the power of that of that network. And I’ll give you a perfect example. After spending five years helping cities all over the world, build their startup communities, I decided to get off the airplane and I want to go back to my town of Raleigh Durham and see what I could do. I saw a gap, I wanted to pull an event together, that was really celebration of founders. It was called rally during startup week, we ran to each one the last two years, I reached out to a bunch of people. And I said, Would you like to join me in this journey, it’s all volunteer, they brought some of their friends in, we’re up to about 20 to 22 volunteers who meet every other week, we divided our tasks up. And that happens because I activated my network on an idea I had. And because I previously help support and you know, give advice or made introductions, people were, oh my god, I’d love to attend this, this, this ought to be fun and impactful. And that’s why you do this thing called Network. This is why you have those coffees, this is why you do the introductions. So you can go hire that guy in Portland, Oregon, who has been a fantastic product manager who has no interest in moving, but really loves the company that you’re working on. Right?


Matt Watson  37:41

So how do you? How do you get those local people to support the entrepreneur, entrepreneurs, community, because part of the part of the issue I have is like I go to a local startup event, and maybe I do a little presentation about my company or whatever, and it helps with publicity and all that it’s great. But then afterwards, I have 20 people that come up to me that are accountants, lawyers, a wealth management, it recruiters, it’s just a bunch of people trying to sell me stuff. And I feel like that’s, that’s part of the issue is is, is a lot of people that are involved in community, they’re only they’re only doing it because there’s something in it for them. You know, like there’s not very many people like you that are like, You know what I don’t I don’t really have a vested interest in this, I just do it because I do it. I enjoy it. And I’m giving back. So I was recorded a podcast today also about influencers. And people wanted to building authority in the space. And a big part of what we talked about was you can’t just go out there and sell, sell, sell, like nobody wants to listen to that you’ve you’ve got to give you’ve got to teach people tutorials, educational content, you give, give give, and I think that goes directly with what you’re saying.


Chris Heivly  38:46

Yeah, I mean, it totally has, I think the to the to work. I mean, there’s so much noise out there, if you’re not authentic, and you’re not building this long tail of connections. I’m not sure how you cut through the noise and you get what you need to get done. You know, I said earlier success through 1000 nudges that happens for you to write, you know, I’m promoting this book, probably ended up doing, I don’t know, 20 3040 podcasts, interviews with with, you know, you know, the Oklahoma star, I’m making that up, right, like, you can’t pick and choose the tactic that’s going to make you explode, right. I really believe in the long tail. And I think that applies to everything. I view the world as a network, I view the you know, I view the world as building as many meaningful connections as possible. And those will benefit me in the long run, especially, and they’ll benefit other people which started it feels good.


Matt Watson  39:40

You just never know. So tell us more about your book. And for those who are listening, you know, who was the right person that should buy this book?


Chris Heivly  39:50

Yeah, thanks. So you know, if you care about kind of your startup community or entrepreneur ecosystem in your town, that’s regardless of whether you’re or future founder or current founder and investor, a high-net-worth family that kind of, you know, wants to see their community succeed, and economic development and the government, city, state, county, federal. If you’re a university instructor about entrepreneurship, or a researcher that’s going to come up with the next mind-blowing idea that you want to commercialize. You see where I’m going here, government, if you’re a corporation, who knows that your success is based on a thriving local economy, which means I think I hit just about everyone tonight. I think, you know, I’d love to see it, take a read of the book, and see, and then act on it and say, alright, what can I do to engage me and my organization or my entity in my startup community? How can I just show up and go to a coffee at 1 Million Cups? Or, you know, or happy hour event celebrating someone raising a bunch of money? How can I show up and see if there’s something I can do to help them succeed? Because the indirect benefits to me will be apparent years later.


Matt Watson  41:07

Awesome. You guys have 1 Million Cups and rally?


Chris Heivly  41:10

Yeah, I mean, there’s hundreds of 1 Million Cups all over Yeah, came out of Kauffman. And obviously they started in KC but


Matt Watson  41:17

started in Kansas City. I was one of the first people to to pitch it that so yeah,


Chris Heivly  41:23

Yeah, I’ve done 1 Million Cups presentations, and probably at least six or seven cities just in the last couple years. So nice. It’s a, it’s a great vehicle. Again, the thing itself almost doesn’t matter. It’s just bringing people together that have a similar interest. That’s what it’s all about.


Matt Watson  41:41

Yep. Well, if you need to hire software engineers, testers or leaders Full Scale can help we have the people in the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit All you need to do is answer a few questions and let our platform match you up with our fully vetted, highly experienced team of engineers. At Full Scale, we specialize in building a long term team that works only for you. Please visit to learn more. So Chris has been awesome to have you on the show. I don’t know if he gave us a complete map of how to do this ecosystem. But it sounds, it sounds like your book might be that map. And if people are interested in supporting the local startup scene, they should they should definitely check out the book.


Chris Heivly  42:19

Well, thanks, Matt. I enjoyed being on your show. And I look forward to us connecting in the future somehow someway.


Matt Watson  42:25

All right, thank you so much.