Every company should be its own Startup Camp

There's always a lot of talk about ways to promote innovation.  Let's see... you've got incubators, incubator-like investors like Ycombinator or TechStars, StartupWeekends, BarCamps, Coworking, Jelly,

And yet people complain about how hard it is to start a company.  Can't find funding.  Can't find developers.  Need design help.

So when people like Calacanis talk about starting a "startup camp", I actually think it has the pottential to perpetuate a problem. 

There are people who would all too eagerly sign up for Jason's startup camp that, if they don't get in, will just sit on their asses and just work on their TechStars or Ycombinator application.  Don't get me wrong--every entrepreneur should have the attitude that Jason does:

"Perhaps my favorite thing to do outside of building companies is help other folks build companies."

But unfortunately, a lot of startups only look to A-list bloggers and these well publicized programs, but fail to recognize that much of what they get from that kind of connection can and, actually, MUST be replicated to achieve success.  So, it's great if you get into one of these things, but don't wait!!  There may be some people to help you, but no one is going to help if you don't help yourself first.

Build your own "camp"!!

Your industry isn't "Web 2.0."   If you are Snooth, then your industry is wine.  If you are Sportsvite, then your industry is recreational sports.  If you're BricaBox, you need to know the publisher/CMS world.  You need to spend time with the experts, and even the incumbants in the industry--the people who you want to strike business development deals with.

And frankly, you can and should do this on your own.  Established companies want to know who the innovators are.  If they're smart, they want to talk to you earlier rather than later, so you can innovate in a way that helps them out as well, rather than crush them later.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when startups that are stuck in the idea or even early development phase haven't had any conversations with potential customers, partners, etc.  And I don't mean, "Oh, yeah, we talked to one guy who works for Big Media, Inc. and he said they'd use it."   I mean 30 conversations that go in-depth.  Even 50!  Kick the tires of your business plan by talking to the people you're actually trying to get into business with.

Talk to other entrepreneurs, too.  Not everyone can have a sit down with Mark Zuckerberg, but not everyone is trying to build Facebook either--and there are lots of entrepreneurs that are much more local to you and much more accessible that you should be talking to.  Surround yourself with these people.  Join or form small groups of startups that meet weekly to get and give feedback.  Understand the successful companies in your space and what lessons they learned on the way up.

Again, don't get me wrong, it's cool to spend a summer on someone else's dime.  But, if you don't get into Ycombinator, that shouldn't stop you from getting the advice and feedback you need to move forward!

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