Ep. #998 - What is a Startup Ecosystem?
In this episode of Startup Hustle, hosts Matt DeCoursey and Matt Watson discuss startup ecosystems. Learn what startup ecosystems are, how they’re developed, their pros and cons, and how to use them in building your network.
Covered In This Episode
Startup ecosystems are communities made up of business people in different industries. They are an excellent way for founders to grow their professional network and connect with potential mentors and investors. It’s also a great platform for getting feedback on ideas and advice on growing one’s business.
Listen to Matt and Matt’s conversation about startup ecosystems and hear their stories about it. They discuss some of the common mistakes founders make in networking and joining communities. And they share tips on how you should seek help from the community and maximize their feedback.
Tune into this Startup Hustle episode!
- What every startup founder and entrepreneur needs (02:33)
- What are startup ecosystems (02:54)
- What startup ecosystems are made of (04:06)
- How startup ecosystems start (05:29)
- How the ecosystem affects the community (08:53)
- Great examples of a startup ecosystem (09:56)
- A glimpse of Matt and Matt’s past (11:32)
- Incubators and accelerators (12:57)
- Filtering feedback (14:10)
- Benefits of getting into an accelerator or incubator (16:07)
- Education programs supporting startups (17:21)
- Purpose of startup ecosystems (22:43)
- Everything doesn’t have to be built locally (24:01)
- Hiring remote workers or freelancers (27:28)
- How to find your local startup ecosystem (32:24)
- Building your professional network (33:26)
- Matt Watson’s experience on networking through LinkedIn and why it’s valuable (36:22)
- In-person startup ecosystem events (39:53)
- Getting feedback from your network (41:43)
- Be grateful for the valuable feedback you get (44:54)
- How to make it easy to help you (46:42)
The ecosystem is really important in regard to finding mentors, talent, and your first customers.– Matt Watson
When you get involved with the ecosystem, it’s to get involved with different people and figure out what they’re doing. In some cases, you need to understand the catch-and-release philosophy because you can also get stuck being pushed and pulled into things that are distracting.– Matt DeCoursey
You get to know people over time, and those become your believers.– Matt DeCoursey
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt DeCoursey 00:00
Hey, and we’re back. Back for another episode of Startup Hustle. Matt DeCoursey here with Matt Watson. Hi, Matt.
Matt Watson 00:06
Matt DeCoursey 00:07
Oh, I’m just studying the ecosystem, the eco friendly, eco conscious going through anomic. Going Green. I did. But that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about startup ecosystems. And that’s, I think that’s like a little fishbowl. Little plastic wrap on the top, a little light on the sides, a little dirt at the bottom. And that’s how you grow it. Right?
Matt Watson 00:37
That’s it. Okay.
Matt DeCoursey 00:39
Well, then, are we done? So?
Matt Watson 00:42
Yeah, yeah, good job.
Matt DeCoursey 00:44
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Now, I’m gonna give a trigger warning here because I have some pointed opinions about startup ecosystems. And I think a lot of people have been involved in many of them. So Matt, when you know, what are your opening remarks, sir?
Matt Watson 01:52
I think every entrepreneur, when they’re starting a business, they need help. There’s a lot of things they don’t know. What they don’t know; they need mentors. They need their first customers. They need partners. They need co founders and a lot of things right. And I think there’s a lot of things in the ecosystem that can help them do a lot of things that really help more founders be successful.
Matt DeCoursey 02:15
Yeah, the definition of a startup ecosystems is basically that it’s formed by people and startups in various stages. And you get a lot of different types of organizations. Some there in your hometown, some not. Some are going to come and some are going to go. And then the thing I mentioned with some pointed comments, there’s a lot of advice and information that comes of which a lot of it is a plus great, and some of it is F minus shitty. In my opinion, I see a lot of a lot of things in ecosystems where people that aren’t entrepreneurs are giving a lot of advice to entrepreneurs. And that’s where it kind of gets south with me. But like I said, most of the time, it’s great stuff. It’s a great way to get involved and interact with local entrepreneurs in and around your hood.
Matt Watson 03:06
Are you talking about all the lawyers that show up to startup events? Just because they’re trying to sell legal services?
Matt DeCoursey 03:11
lawyers, bankers? All of it, you name it? Yeah. Insurance Agents? Yep. Well, cuz yeah, you go to a lot of these events. And as the founder, you’re the show pony at the event. Come on down. Everyone see my show? Pony? Let me run them in front end, see if you can sell, sell them stuff and the wheat. You know, that’s where I get kind of cranky. And maybe I’m just all about it. But let’s talk about the good stuff first. So you know, you have the various elements of the startup ecosystem. And look, it starts with exactly that. The startups, the founders, their employees, their leaders, the the problems that they are tackling and trying to solve, and the innovation that they’re creating around it. That to me is the startup ecosystem. Now, there are many moons and things that that come around it and you know, Matt, do you know what a Venn diagram is? Right? Absolutely. Yes. Where some of the circles overlap. Some of them overlap. You have colleges, universities, program programs, everyone’s favorite funding providers, incubators, accelerators, agencies, consultants, freelancers. Oh, my. It’s a lot. It’s a lot. Way more service providers and organizations, mentors, media, blogs, government agencies, research organizations and talent. Oh, dude. You know, there’s a note on our setlist. So there’s way too much information in here, consider skipping some of it.
Matt Watson 04:48
So let’s go back to where you started. You know, I think it starts with the startups themselves and the ideas and 100 A lot of the very best startups the very best founders. come out of a byproduct of somewhere else. So for example, like my first company VinSolutions, there were two or three people that worked at VinSolutions that left VinSolutions and started other companies in automotive doing other things, right. And as part of a startup ecosystem, that part of it is really important. In Kansas City, we have a lot of ag tech stuff that goes on here. Like Monsanto is down the street there lots of veterinarian science, different all kinds of stuff like that agriculture related, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of cows a lot of corn and soybeans, everything else here. But we also have a lot of healthcare software, right? Yep. Cerner here and you got a lot of things that are offshoots of Cerner. So that that’s a big part of the ecosystem, too, is, is having success, having big, big anchors that create byproduct of it right for No, for the same reason that you would go to Hollywood to create a movie because everybody creates movies there. And it’s, it’s got the talent there, and it’s got all the stuff there. That’s a big key of the ecosystem, too, is is having those offsprings from the other companies.
Matt DeCoursey 05:59
And you know, one of the things over the years of the show that I’ve noticed, especially when we go to do the top startups in different cities, and you know, we’ll pick, you know, 10 to 12 startups, and you can immediately spot the theme. And kind of like you mentioned, for those of you that aren’t aware, you know, Matt’s first foray into entrepreneurship ended up in $150 million exit from a company named VinSolutions. Who did you have 500 employees at the time? Or was that how many they have now?
Matt Watson 06:32
When we sold it was closer to 300. I think now, it might be even closer to 1000.
Matt DeCoursey 06:36
And so yeah, so now with that we’ve seen there’s been all kinds of fun and interesting companies that have some tie to VinSolutions. Maybe they worked with or around or whatever. And they have created very robust companies. And you see this trickle down economic factor of other people that are starting other stuff. So you know, we noticed that in different cities, it’s kinda like Matt mentioned in Hollywood, like, hey, if we’re gonna make a movie, where are we gonna go do it? Hollywood is the first option. Now, I used to urine if you notice, I used to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and they actually have a movie industry there. It’s like a little mini Hollywood. And it has nothing. I mean, it’s it’s like Hollywood east, or something.
Matt Watson 07:19
That’s where you go to make western movies or what?
Matt DeCoursey 07:21
Where are you going to make city slickers Part Two, you know, something like that. Now, here’s the thing is in a lot of our cities, like we have these little kind of sub things. So I feel like Kansas City’s startup ecosystem is kind of like Santa Fe, New Mexico is Hollywood. Like, you can still have a lot of great stuff. Now. Actually, Matt, you know, I was actually in two national commercials as an extra.
Matt Watson 07:45
Oh, wow. Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey 07:47
Well, there’s that trickle down effect. So you know, I’m kind of like, you know, I’m like, hey, this thing’s there. Now, I didn’t go seeking that it kind of sought me I worked at a ski area. And like these talent, people came up, and they like, took your pictures, and they’re like, you know, what, we’ll give you $1,000 to come hang out for two days, and run behind a Ford truck at the time that we think that that’s necessary. And you’re like, Yeah, I made it. But but the ecosystem has an effect on the things that are around it. This is how jobs are created. This is how funding comes into cities. And there’s a whole lot going on with that. And you know, there’s like I said, there’s, this is a really deep topic. And a lot of stuff comes into it. Now, I think for a lot of people that want to get started in something, this is an ideal thing to get involved in. I think if you if you want to be an entrepreneur, not okay. There’s a difference between that and a wall entrepreneur. Right? Yeah. If you want to be an entrepreneur, getting involved in your local startup ecosystem is a great place to start.
Matt Watson 08:49
Absolutely. And I think that’s one of the biggest keys. That’s the reason Silicon Valley is is what it is, right? You have all the companies that just create more companies. So
Matt DeCoursey 08:57
yeah, and you know, I think you certainly know people I know people that at some point have, much like the Beverly Hillbillies loaded it all up in the back of the truck and headed out west, because yeah, that’s where that’s where the action was. And you know, so that, so let’s use the valley because this, okay, I mean, Silicon Valley is the easiest example of like the marquee startup ecosystem. If you talk to people that are there, you would you could look at it from the outside, you’re like, all these big funds, all these big companies, all these founders. And you know, there there’s a very welcoming environment, because everybody’s so close, like, you could reach up. I’ll talk to founders, I’ll say, what was it hard to get in front of people that other people in the ecosystem and whatever? And they’d say no, because people were very welcoming. You’re right up the street. They’re like, hey, I want to see if you could do immediately like I’m at XYZ coffee shop, come on by in an hour. And, you know, for us in Kansas City that would require booking a flight, hotel, the travel like all of that. So the The adjacent being adjacent to what’s going on. It’s like if you want to go back to the Hollywood example, if you want to, quote get discovered, you probably have now now there’s a caveat to that. That’s where people might be, there’s more people looking, you’re in and around, it’s adjacent come on by for your audition. But at the same time, the bigger the ecosystem, and the more obvious the more players that are there trying out of those auditions.
Matt Watson 10:28
Well, this part of the ecosystem is really important in a lot of things in regards to mentors and talent, finding your first customers to to getting, you know, networking to all of it, the more of that kind of stuff that’s going on the the much easier, it’s going to be to find a mentor from that industry or get connections, all that kind of stuff. And the all of those things are really important to every ecosystem.
Matt DeCoursey 10:53
Yeah, and so you know, and with that, I love incubators and accelerators that a lot of these ecosystems offer, because all right, let’s go let Matt Can we can we turn on the Wayback Machine? Are you? Are you gonna? Hang on? That’s what the Wayback Machine sounds like. Because it’s old man. It’s squeaky. Right? So here we are. We’re back at our youthful entrepreneur when my hair is thicker already. Wow, you have hair center. I look better, man. I feel good. I feel good. I don’t have any stress yet. But here I am back in the beginning. And I’m like, Man, I really want to start a business. I’ve got a great idea for me. That is that’s actually isn’t how it went. I kind of a lot of us kind of stumble into or accidentally discover the business that we ended up opening. I believe you were working at a Sears selling computers when that happened, right?
Matt Watson 11:48
Yep, absolutely. I was seeing a car dealer. happen.
Matt DeCoursey 11:51
But you come in to all this and here’s the thing. You think you don’t know shit. You might think you do. You might know some things. But really in the end, I look back at I didn’t know shit. Right? So the introduction and I never participated in an incubator and accelerator as a company, you and I don’t think you did either. Did you know we’ve both been mentors and worked adjacent to some of them later in the years. But incubators and accelerators are programs that help startups succeed and provide them with mentorship, guidance, training, strategy, partnership, funding. They’re instrumental getting startups, especially early stage ones off the ground like pipeline entrepreneurs. That’s a thing here in Kansas City. Great program. Melissa has been a guest host on the show. That didn’t we didn’t we do some hemp?
Matt Watson 12:46
Yeah, one thing that to the Helzberg.
Matt DeCoursey 12:48
Oh, the Helzberg mentoring program. Yep, I did have a different time after that, too, for
Matt Watson 12:55
those programs are great for helping, you know, early stage founders learn, you know, how to be a founder how to run a business. And
Matt DeCoursey 13:02
that’s the whole point. So they’re like structured formats. Now. We went so we joke about Hamp. What a great name. So the Helzberg family like Helzberg Diamonds, they have an entrepreneurial mentoring program. cleverly named tamp. You’ve met Mr. Helzberg. Before Barnett? Yes. Yes. Yeah, very great guy. And thank you for reinvesting in this, because this is the kind of cool stuff that’s going on. And we went to participate with one of our earliest guests, who we often refer to as Yoda, literal, literal, halt the founder of CARSTAR. And he wanted us to come down and give feedback on a program that he had built. And we’re like, Well, what does that mean? And he’s like, we’re gonna need you to come down for two days. And Matt and I were both like, I don’t know, man, we’re really busy. So but we wanted to do it because we loved literal. We went down there in the very first day, we start going through this program with you know, the whole day went by we had a great time. And we both got in my truck afterward and said, Man, we probably need to come to stuff like this more. Yeah, yeah. Even even at you know, as seasons business people at that point, the involvement with it at any level really brought up a lot of fundamental things. And me Do you remember that feeling? Were kind of like, you kind of like feel like you know it or you’re busy and then you kind of get humbled and you’re like, wow, there’s a lot of shit that I’m that I need to be doing that I’m not doing.
Matt Watson 14:29
It forces you to step back every once in a while and consider what you’re doing what you spend your time on. What’s important, your business, are you doing it the right way, you’re focusing on the wrong things. I mean, we all get in a rut of doing whatever we do every day. We’re like in our own little loop, right? And those kinds of things, I think are good for any kind of entrepreneur to step back and kind of look at things at some point in time.
Matt DeCoursey 14:51
That was that moment reminded me of when I was I was a sales trainer many moons ago and I would you had this kind of basic thing and the I would often give this presentation and you know, salespeople with 10 plus years of experience would almost every time come up and be like, Hey, man, really glad I sat through that that reminded me of a whole lot of shit that I haven’t been doing that I need to get back to. Exactly. So that’s a good part of that. Now, I think that Okay, so a lot of incubators and accelerators are essentially tryouts in some regards for future funding and partnerships. They are certainly badges that get attention signal flares that that tell funding organizations or individuals that well, let’s put it this way, the world’s lazy, the world’s lazy so when you’re on the last of the cohort at XYZ accelerator incubator, that is a signal to a lot of people that someone else vetted you they see something you have, quote, traction.
Matt Watson 15:54
Well, they, they can provide a lot of mentorship, early customers, connections, a little bit of capital, all those kinds of things. And of course, the most most popular one is Y Combinator. And there’s TechStars only certain things in Missouri, we have scale. We met with them recently. And you know, if you’ve got a great idea, and you got a little bit of traction, but you’re not quite sure you know what you’re doing you need some help, like these kinds of incubators can be a big, big help. So I definitely
Matt DeCoursey 16:24
don’t want to leave out our one of our local favorites Launch KC launch. Casey, thanks for the support. They have been big supporters. And you’ve recently did some had some conversations with members of their social venture in studio. And that’s right. Yeah, I think you talked to Roy house. Maybe we’ve had a lot of the different guests, administer administrators, just government, people everything. I want to roll back because I don’t want to skip past this colleges, universities and education programs. These are very closely adjacent to incubators, what we just mentioned, Launch KC is a part of the Kansas City Economic Development Corporation which exists to stimulate early stage businesses, its economic development. That is in some regards an education program. Colleges like the University of Missouri at Kansas City has a very robust entrepreneurship program. There’s a whole lot of stuff going on. We mentioned scale, you go to scale hyphen, vc.com. That’s in Columbia, Missouri, where Missouri University exists, it’s painful for me to say that because I’m a Kansas Jayhawk. Love scale,
Matt Watson 17:41
when you so when we talk about colleges, there’s another aspect of colleges to think about, besides just education is the example for my verify. So I verify was a local company here. And they there were some research students and professors and stuff that basically had patented some type of technology, right, but like rock color scanning, yeah, so the college doesn’t know what to do with that, like, they’re not going to create a business out of it. But other entrepreneurs come by and can take that technology and then go do something with it. And that’s where I verify came in. And yeah, it was later licensed by Samsung and a bunch of different people for scanning the white of your eyes, told it to log into your phone, so a lot of you listening may have even used it didn’t even know where it came from. That’s where it came from came from UMKC. University of Missouri, Kansas City. Toby Rush was the the founder of that that company
Matt DeCoursey 18:35
reddleman dos as well, who is now the founder of triple blind. Yep, another huge. That’s been a very well traction company here. I actually met Toby recently, friend have a cup of coffee, man. He’s very, very interesting person. He’s been on the show before. So Startup Hustle alumni at one point, he he that was our most popular episode. I can’t remember what year it was, because it’s been a while, but he was out there. So yeah, lots of lots of interesting, interesting stuff that goes on. Alright, so I mentioned that I sometimes get myself in trouble by shouting my misgivings about startup ecosystems, which I’m going to do because you know, you’re not going to put the setlist in front of me. If you want to hear that you first need to know that when people ask me what my best advice for building the business most of the time it involves teams, and knowing when to delegate and today I’d like to add that knowing when to hire and assistant is key to it’s usually the hardest thing for a startup founder to do because they want to feel close to everything you want to do it all every time every time. You want to be the conduit for all things that your business but it’s not the right way to do it. So finding an assistant is hard to do. And I think it’s fair to say and it doesn’t have to be when you connect. It doesn’t it doesn’t have to be the only reason to connect with our friends over at double to this episode is sponsored by with double.com. They’re the experts in pairing founders with remote executive assistants that you can trust and double A match you with experienced US based assistants, and armed them with the tools and training to assure ensure that you are always getting the best of the best. So Startup Hustle listeners go to with double.com use the code hustle 22 and you save 300 bucks right off the bat with double.com Hustle 20 to save 300 US dollars, Matt not doll hairs.
Matt Watson 20:28
Yeah, well, you you bring up a good point with double and it fits right into another part of the ecosystems, which is various agencies, consultants, freelancers, people that can help you get shit done just like double does, right?
Matt DeCoursey 20:40
They can, but this is also where things get a little sideways for me, Matt, you know, and you know, so like I said, I kind of got I feel like I’m sat up on this one. And I do get myself in trouble. Because, you know, I think the thing that the problem I have with some startup ecosystems is there’s a lot of this, these adjacent things that go in, and they get really fucking catty about the whole thing. And they’re like, at war with each other. And so let’s take our podcast, for example. There are things in our hometown organizations, publications, things like that, that don’t like us, because we’re doing something they’re not doing. And I and myself as someone who’s been the Well, fair to say, the primary promoter, and, and host of this show, I get stuck into that sometimes. And you know, I hear I just hear shit that comes back. And you know what, fuck off. If you don’t like what we’re doing, don’t listen. You know. And with that, I’ve learned that a lot of and a lot of situations, the ecosystem, things get, they all say they want to shine the light on what you’re doing and who’s doing it. But the moment they’re not in that light, they get really shitty about it. And can we all get along, man, like, I’m out, I think we started this podcast to tell the real story of entrepreneurship. And you’ve been exposed to it a little too. And I’m like, isn’t the purpose of the ecosystem to grow things within the ecosystem? And that doesn’t begin with being selfish with being upset that someone else is getting a sponsor or having an event or whatever. And I’m just like, I don’t know, it kind of blows me away, man, it seems it seems like a self defeating attitude. In a lot of ways. And by the way, this is this shows kind of been our hobby. So if our hobby of fat is, is is a threat to your business, come up with a better plan than just being I
Matt Watson 22:34
think, I mean, I think it’s akin right to be in like, the newspaper in town and getting mad that there’s somebody else that’s writing stories or doing something I like, and and to be honest with you, the newspapers that exist, be them, you know, a Business Journal, or some blog, or whatever it is, can help bring, you know, a lot of stories and attention to things are going on in the community. But, you know, like the Kansas City Business Journal is an example of that really cover much stuff with startups,
Matt DeCoursey 23:04
very little to do now, they’ve kind of evolved into it. Yeah. But, you know, one of the things that, you know, since we’re, this is like the Festivus, of shouting our misgivings here at festival season. But, you know, the thing that drives me crazy is, you know, now that for those of you if you’re not aware of mountain, I own full scale.io. And we have hundreds of employees in the Philippines, we started that business out of necessity to help ourselves, find the number of developers and at the quality that we needed that weren’t available. And the thing that kind of that people get that we get some ecosystem things upset at us is, oh, you’re sending local jobs away? No, we’re not. There aren’t even people here to do these jobs. And in fact, if someone doesn’t then do the job, these companies or our clients don’t have a product to get funded to sell to generate revenue to hire local people that are in abundance. The fact is, if you think globally, you help yourself locally. And that’s the thing that drives me nuts is if you are listening, and you’re involved in your local startup ecosystem, don’t let people tell you that 100% of your ship has to be local. It does not because the big competitors, you have the publicly traded companies, the multinational corporations, they certainly aren’t only in your hometown. So set yourself up to think on a larger, broader scale. And if you can’t find what you need locally, as an entrepreneur, you owe it to yourself to go find it wherever it exists, where it makes sense for your business.
Matt Watson 24:44
We live in a remote first world for a lot of businesses these days, right? Whatever kind of talent you’re looking for, it doesn’t matter if it’s a lawyer and accountants made him build your website, whatever it is, you can meet with them online. You don’t need to drive down the street so
Matt DeCoursey 25:00
Well, and I sound pest, you know why? Cuz I am because I’m tired of hearing ignorant comments about our business in that regard. There are smart people everywhere, you just have to know where to go, you just have to go either find them know how to find them, you got to be able to recruit them, assess and retain them and employ them. And that spells rare, because, you know, they’re the best people are rare, but they’re out there. So go find them. And if you look, look in your backyard, first look in your front yard first look in your neighbor’s yard. But if you can’t find it adjacent to you, you owe it to yourself to get out there and do it. So if you search for startup ecosystem, people that are shaming people to only be local, get over it, get over it, thinking big and broad and international helps you logo.
Matt Watson 25:50
There you go. Well,
Matt DeCoursey 25:51
I feel better. I feel better. Thank you, Matt. I feel that am I wrong? I mean, tell me, I’m wrong about something. Because you built big businesses, am I
Matt Watson 26:00
You’re not wrong. And especially when it comes to tech, there’s negative unemployment. I mean, that at best, all I can do is steal somebody who works at Cerner to come work for me. And then Cerner is gonna steal somebody from Garmin to go work for them. And then Garmin is gonna steal somebody’s
Matt DeCoursey 26:16
mind. That’s a zero sum game at its definition, which is you use a wall, go hire someone. Okay. Well, you just created another job across the street. You didn’t, you didn’t build anything. And then, you know, some of what I read in branch. Oh, as well, you know, my kids are in this new STEM program. So somewhere around 2040.
Matt Watson 26:42
Yeah, that’s all I need to say, we’ll solve it, then
Matt DeCoursey 26:44
somewhere near 2040. My son will be of the appropriate experience and age to join your startup. So if you’re listening to this in 2040, reach out because I’m positive he’ll be in a he acts. I don’t know. I kind of think my daughter might end up running our sales department someday. What do you think about that? I think that’s, I could see that. She asks me sometimes, yeah. Okay. So thank you for listening to my rant. But you know, the thing is, as I mentioned, that gets me in trouble, because I’ve been vocal about it. And you know, what, there’s some people here in Kent, and that don’t like me because of that. And I don’t care. Because the peers and the people like the matt Watson, the Andrew Morgans, the Lauren Conaway is the people we do business with, they thank me for for being vocal about that opinion, because it’s hard to do. And, you know, I don’t have a whole lot to gain by having that opinion. But I do. But I really just think it you know, like, how did I ended up with my first employee in the Philippines, which invariably, 14 years later, has turned into Full Scale. It’s because I couldn’t find what I needed locally, literally, like regionally like, there weren’t any PHP developers, really in America, 14 years ago. So I had to go to the place where they were abundant, which happened to be the other side of the planet. Now, I think it’s fair to say 14 years later, that decision has worked out pretty well, for a lot of different people, not just me.
Matt Watson 28:12
Well, so I think the other part of this is we talked about all forms of talent, freelancers, all these things. Talent is really important for any kind of startup being like I’m trying to outside, I need help with marketing. And you know, how do I do online advertising, social media, influencer campaigns, like, I don’t know how to do all this shit. I’m not an expert at it. But I could find a freelancer. That is, that’d be great. And if you can find somebody locally that can help you, that’s great. If you can’t, you got to find somebody wherever they are.
Matt DeCoursey 28:40
Yeah, well, that’s the whole premise of the business. Which, yeah, four years later, is in the in the top 1000 of the Inc 5000. You know, we’re about to win some more awards. And I’ve been told I’m not allowed to talk about him yet. So stay tuned. Yeah, that’s fine. Right. But But yeah, go, you know, look, as an entrepreneur, you got to you, you can’t wait for opportunity to come to you, you have to go find what you need, wherever that is, and that and that’s back to that, like, that basic premise that we had at the top of the show, Matt, that’s when I use the Beverly Hillbillies example. Like, that’s why people pack it all up in the truck and move out to San Francisco. Yep. Or somewhere else because, you know, you know what, go where it’s happening in and now with this. Back to like, the positive things that occur. You know, the thing that I love most about the startup ecosystem out is is you and the other founders and the people that I mean, if it wasn’t for our local startup ecosystem, I wouldn’t know Matt Watson.
Matt Watson 29:40
It’s the networking and mentors. Part of it that is super important. invaluable.
Matt DeCoursey 29:44
Yeah. So I don’t know if people listening even know like how I met and I met Matt. Chat. I chat with Matt in a Facebook group. It was starting to evolve some messages we found we had some we had worked in some calm and industries in the past. Next thing you know, I’m interviewing Matt for million dollar bedroom few months later, sharing an office. Couple months after that starting a podcast to Startup Hustle turns five. I don’t or just turned five, depending on when they published this. But I mean, wow. And that’s a that is a direct effect of the ecosystem. Now let’s even use Startup Hustle, this podcast. did five years later. Do you know how many people have now told me Okay, let’s use Janae Gammage as an example who sold her company, the market base? Do you know that she found her first five clients from being the guests on the show?
Matt Watson 30:39
Wow, that’s awesome. We’re part of the ecosystem.
Matt DeCoursey 30:43
Totally. And then with that, as she grew, it ended up she came back and she was the guest host for the Mental Health Series that recently came out. Yep, and sold her business. And I look at that as like positive ecosystem stuff. That’s also why I get angry when local ecosystem things want to take jabs at Startup Hustle. That’s alright, you know, let’s just fuck it. Let’s just share some you know, the funniest one I heard is they only do that to promote their business. You are correct. In some regards. We like to share the story. I like to meet the people. I like to have it. But if this show didn’t do some promotion of our business interest it Hey, that we there’s it costs money to do this. There are people that produce it, there’s time there’s energy, there’s the ad you collect to maybe find it and you know, I mean?
Matt Watson 31:38
Yeah, yeah, nothing wrong with it.
Matt DeCoursey 31:41
Everything is in free. You know, it is free, man. Good ideas, you know, what’s really expensive execution. Okay. So how do you find your local ecosystem? That’s a good question. What’s the best? What’s the best place to figure out anything you need? Matt? Google, correct. Yeah, there’s a community look it up. Like I mentioned a Facebook page. There’s a net look for the for the pandemic years, this was tough that for a lot of people that wanted to enter the ecosystem during the pandemic, because there wasn’t these events now, you know, go to the events and you want to talk about the events. I think sometimes
Matt Watson 32:26
they’re good. Sometimes they’re not. I feel for example, like 10 years ago or so like 1 Million Cups started remember 1 Million Cups?
Matt DeCoursey 32:36
Oh, yeah, I’ve been I’ve been. I’ve been a judge.
Matt Watson 32:39
Yeah. I think so. It’s in a bunch of cities now. But it started in Kansas City from the Kauffman Foundation, which is the largest foundation for entrepreneurship. They do a lot of cool stuff based in Kansas City. It started out as I thought it was like every Wednesday morning, local entrepreneurs, business people, whatever would come basically have a cup of coffee, and listen and meet, you know, other entrepreneurs. And so they’d have like a couple companies come in every Wednesday and just pitch their business idea and whatever. And it was pretty cool thing. I sacrified my last company, we presented it that like many years ago now. And I presented for some other stuff, some you know, once and then know a couple of things. And there was a cool, a cool little event they did once a year, once a week. And it grew and it’s in a bunch of different cities. Now I don’t I don’t remember how many. But that’s a good example of being part of the ecosystem. And I’ve told people before they had startup ideas, I’m like, oh, you should go to 1 Million Cups. And that’s a good way to like get your foot in the door and meet people and start networking. It’s all about networking. If you hate talking to other humans, owning startups can be hard.
Matt DeCoursey 33:50
Yeah, and if you hate talking to other humans, you need to find a co founder that doesn’t.
Matt Watson 33:54
Yeah, right. Networking is really important are real.
Matt DeCoursey 33:57
And I’m not saying you don’t like talking to other humans, but let’s compare ourselves as business partners because Matt and I that to the Venn diagram, have a lot of overlapping qualities. And then we have a lot that aren’t. And, you know, one of the things that that and Okay. It’s funny because people people often describe me as this like wildly extroverted person. I’m actually not, I don’t really like going to a lot of these events, because I’m selfishly obsessed with the other things that I’d probably rather be doing. But I go out and do it. And I find the right people and I talk to the right people. And I think the the key thing that I’m not afraid to do at these events, is go meet the people that are there that I haven’t met before. So when you go to these events and get involved in the ecosystem, it’s to get involved with different people figure out what they’re doing. And in some cases, I also want to say you need to understand the catch and release philosophy, because you can also get stuck in time. I’d have pushed and pulled into things and that maybe are a little distracting. And then you’re also going to find people that’s going on. Now look, for many of you, what you believe you’re about to do won’t end up being what you’re doing, because it might be iteration 123. Sometimes you gotta go down the line, and you’ll find that this network of people, okay, Matt, do you think if you, if you were either together or individually, wanted to start anything new here in our hometown of Kansas City, we would have an easy time doing it with others. Yeah, sure. We know a lot of people. That’s and that’s the key thing. That’s the key thing. And then it’s also a great way to kind of build up a little cred. You know,
Matt Watson 35:44
one of the most important things of an ecosystem is the networking. It’s just meeting with random people, and not being scared. Also go on places like LinkedIn, and find people that are potential customers or work in the same industry, reaching out to them, buy them some coffee, dinner, whatever, make it easy for them, right, make it easy for them go to them, you always you’re always big on that mat. And, and talk to them, maybe they know somebody, maybe you could be a customer for them. Maybe you can solve like real business challenges in their industry, and you have expertise to do it, whatever it is, but you just gotta keep meeting people, and you just never know who you’re gonna meet. Because you could meet somebody like me, and I don’t know shit about your industry. But I might be like, Hey, I had someone on my podcast last week that does and you need to know them, right? You just never know your your might be three or four degrees of separation from whoever it is you need to meet whoever your first customers are the advisors, you need the mentors, you need all those things. You just got to go out and keep talking to people.
Matt DeCoursey 36:41
And you never know where those relationships end up. And, you know, there’s, I mean, when I first met you, you were you were doing stack EPI, I was working on gig a book, I had a lot of different things going on. And a lot of times worlds collide. People joined forces, these, okay, we have funded our friends and peers, right? Yeah, yes. allowed to say this, like you and I just invested in lending standard and lending standards, a local company, and fin tech company, client of Full Scale is on the podcast has been a sponsor of the podcast. And you know, and you never know where that’s gonna go. And you get to know people over time. And those become your believers. One of the ways that we funded Full Scale was creating what’s called Venture debt, where you end up with lenders, not necessarily investors. For us, those are people that came from our connections or resources within our own ecosystem. Now, you’re sitting there going, Man, I’m trying to build a business now I gotta go out and meet people, and I gotta find the ecosystem. And I gotta do a whole lot of other stuff. All right, so got to do a whole lot of other stuff. If you heard a little pause there. That’s because Matt and I are wrestling with our own tech here. Our recording platform keeps telling us it’s recording and it’s not. So I’m hoping this comes comes out. Well, now, you know, there’s all these things, you’re looking at all this stuff, and you’re like, you know, how am I gonna get all this done, and it’s feels like a good time to remind everyone that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is sponsored by double, and they do remote executive assistants that can help you with everything from email, and calendar organization to expense reporting, database management, you can find your perfect assistant, when you head over to with double.com and use the code hustle 22 You have $300 off even easier, you can click the link in the show notes while you’re there, and make sure you hit that subscribe button so you can be sure to always get your daily dose of Startup Hustle. Did you like you like what I did there, Matt? Yeah, good
Matt Watson 38:45
job. Good job.
Matt DeCoursey 38:46
I take a lot of pride and I want to be like the Leonardo da Vinci of ad reads. You’re pretty good at it. How can you paint the perfect picture but but know that this is? That was a real thing. And yes, with double.com is today’s sponsor, but you know, get some help get some help doing it. Because there’s a lot of things that get juggled and, you know, now that the pandemic has has tamed itself down. There’s a lot of in person stuff going on, you know, like, and I’m gonna go into it. I’m also trying to be selective with it, because Matt, what was your assessment of what, what startup ecosystem events are? They are often? Good, good, bad, and times bad.
Matt Watson 39:33
I mean, it’s a lot of what you put into it, because I’ll be the first to admit I go to these events and then like, I don’t really feel like going around and talking to a bunch of random people. I’m just going to hang out with you and drink.
Matt DeCoursey 39:45
Well, that’s what I’m here for though. That’s the superpower my superpower. I’m like a built in brand ambassador, World’s Greatest wing man and promoter all built into one. Now let’s now look at As we kind of wrap up the show, you know, I know I have some interesting opinions, I am a huge supporter of startup ecosystems, I have just kind of I have a little bit of a jaded opinion. Because there is great stuff. And there’s sometimes stuff that’s a little off to the side, but you need to get out there and experience and go try it for yourself. And, and look, no matter who you are, what you do, and how you do it, you’re gonna run into some people that don’t really get what you do. They don’t really care about what you do, they might not like you, or they see you as competition. Welcome to entrepreneurship.
Matt Watson 40:39
Welcome to the club.
Matt DeCoursey 40:40
I mean, that’s right.
Matt Watson 40:43
It’s, it’s, it’s complicated. And it takes a lot of different talent, personalities, all these things that are part of the ecosystem, right? And we all have a different role to play. And at the end of the day, we’re all we’re all on the same team. And I’m sure people
Matt DeCoursey 41:00
want to see Yeah, so you know, I get a lot of people that reach out. And And Matt, I’ve heard you say these exact words is sometimes like I’ll, people will be showing me something. And I think I’ve heard you say this, if faster and earlier in a meeting than I might even and I’m usually pretty quick. It’s like, hey, you know, I’m way out of my league here. I don’t really have any understanding about what it is that you’re that you do. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s a good idea. I just don’t know anything about it. And, and I think that that’s the right thing to say. And I think one of the things too, is I want to encourage a critical thinking mentality when it comes to stuff because I think I think an economy that only trades in Yes, is dangerous. You know, we’ve talked about that a lot on the show when it comes to getting feedback and input. And you know, like, I remember really early in this series, and it was actually when we had Mike, the founder of Mycroft on and that was the, the the open source voice assistant, kind of like Alexa. And they had a great idea that Josh, it was Josh Montgomery, he said something he said, Yeah, but you know, people don’t want Amazon and Google listening to everything they say. And you say, Well, yeah, but that’s not enough. That’s not enough to make something that’s really big. Because in the end, these are these mega corpse that are plowing, you’re, you’re you’re fighting the 800 pound gorilla, and they’re still fighting it, man. And it is what it is for what they do. But that’s the kind of that’s the kind of feedback that that founders need to give each other sometimes and well, yes.
Matt Watson 42:36
You hit directly on one of the big problems that we have. And this is a problem, even Kansas City have like the Midwestern nice mentality. And other parts of the country are going to be different with a culture. But people need the critical feedback.
I had somebody reach out to me a couple weeks ago that was looking for funding. And they had some company that made it look like they did everything in the world. But it was all going to use the blockchain and they were going to be worth a billions of dollars. And I told him like your company is dead. This is stupid. You don’t need to use the blockchain. I just told him this is crazy. And that’s what they needed to hear to be honest.
Matt DeCoursey 43:13
Well, my advice that I’ll share with people as as a lot of times related to funding and I get asked to look at pitch decks, that seems to be my thing. And well, I’ve actually given you input on yours in the past, and I have a different outlook on it. Because I am an excellent salesperson, I’m not afraid to admit that. And sometimes, we as founders focus on the things that investors or buyers might, like the problem that you’re solving isn’t always the entire value proposition of what you’re doing and helping people understand it. And I really what I just I’m on a mission to do is try to help people understand what they’re getting themselves into. And, and sometimes that’s heard weird, because it’s not, I’m not telling you not to start a business. But maybe the best advice I’ve given some people in the past was like, hey, you need to proceed with caution here. Because I think you’re coming into this thinking, you need $100,000. And you might need like 100 million.
Matt Watson 44:16
Well, and I think one of the key things here is, you need to be really thankful if you can get somebody to take time and actually give you feedback. Yeah, I mean, you need to help you be you need to be so thankful, because most people won’t even take the time to give you the feedback. And I mean, you always
Matt DeCoursey 44:35
Make it easy for him to do that. You make their take their feedback, coffee, and I hate it.
Matt Watson 44:42
You take it under advisement, right? It doesn’t mean you necessarily do exactly what they told you to do. But you got to listen to them. And you got to make sure if you start hearing the echo of everybody’s told me that this isn’t work or they don’t understand my pitch deck or whatever it is. You can’t take the feedback.
Matt DeCoursey 44:57
You did that. Wouldn’t be the first time. It was before I interviewed you for Million Dollar Bedroom and we were talking about Gigabook and you just flat out said to me, “Matt, this is an $8 seat kind of thing, and you got to sell a hell of a lot of seats. You have to collect a lot of $8 bills. Or this tower up to a lot.” And that’s true. I knew that at the time, but hearing you say that, like was okay. Okay, I’m here. Uh, you know, it’s like, cuz sometimes just, it’s easy to tell ourselves, you know, if you believe the lie, it comes becomes true. Yeah. But I’ve been so adamant about it. Make it easy for people to help you and they’re gonna help you. I got three of them this week, the random LinkedIn message that say, “Hey, man, I see we have some mutual connections. And I’m trying to expand my local network. Would you be available for a coffee meeting this week?” No, because I don’t know you. I don’t know what you’re asking. I don’t know what you want. And it’s not it doesn’t sound like a great use of my time to drive. 30 minutes somewhere, spend some time there. So make it easy. Now what could get that is “Hi, my name is Jane. I’m a local startup founder in the software space. I’ve been listening to Startup Hustle.”
I had a guy this week message me and tell me how much he liked the show. He turns out, he was a local landscaping contractor here in Kansas City. And I need that done. He came to my house later that just the other day. And as doing a bed for me right now. Perfect. You made it easy. And he came the same day, you know, and that doesn’t always have to be the case. I’ve used Sandy Kemper as an example. He’s the one that gave us the idea to do venture debt. I reached out to him and sent him an email. I’m just hoping he’s gonna like let me call or anything. He literally said, come on by. I went on over and 15 minutes changed my whole reality when it came to solving the problem. And why why was he able to do that? Because I came to him made it easy. I was right there in the middle of everything he did. And in fact, during that 15 minutes, I had to stop a couple of times, because other people needed things win with and from him.
But look, I got what I wanted, which is the input advice that I needed. And that had a big part of what we had to do. So anyway, now this could have been like, we could have probably done a series or an episode about every single line item on here.
Here’s the thing, get involved in your startup and your startup ecosystem are support in some regards. And when I say support, that doesn’t mean just feed off of it, provide value into it and you’ll find that you get what you want in return. See you down the road, Matt.
Matt Watson 47:53
Yeah, thank you