“We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
― G.K. Chesterton
The startup world is often discussed a place of intense competition and ruthlessness. You have to grind it out as an entrepreneur, you have to move faster and harder than your rivals.
But there’s another quality that is self-evidently more important: loyalty.
Startup scenes are born of loyalty and friendship. The best startup cities have a culture of generosity and community. That doesn’t mean blind loyalty – you have to call out bad actors – but it means giving people chances and opportunities.
Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, London – Europe is full of great startup cities, far more than I just listed. Each of those communities, all of which I’ve had the pleasure of spending time in, are characterized by a willingness among their entrepreneurs to work together.
I think about loyalty as the Web Summit continues to talk of moving its conference away from Dublin to Lisbon or even Amsterdam, home of The Next Web itself.
There’s always been a lot of press around the Web Summit – full disclosure I have worked their twice in different capacities – that suggests it has made the Dublin and wider Irish startup scenes, bringing in the international giants (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) and juicing up Irish success stories like Trustev, Teamwork and Tito (there are others that don’t begin with T!) That’s not true.
The presence of the Web Summit in Dublin has been a great advantage but it acts like a power up to an already super-powered community.
People like Eamonn Leonard, who has repeatedly put his own money into community events after selling Orchestra to Engine Yard, and Gene Murphy, co-founder of Startup Ireland and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Bank of Ireland, who is one of the most connected men in the scene, show loyalty and love to the city and country on a daily basis.
There are many others worthy of note – PageFair CEO, serial entrepreneur and connector Sean Blanchfield, Niamh Bushnell , the city’s energetic startup commissioner, and James Whelton of Coder Dojo, who helped build an international movement.
The state-supported agencies – the IDA and Enterprise Ireland – have been bringing tech companies into Ireland and fostering local talent long before Paddy Cosgrave and his friends had the inspired idea to make a truly international tech event.. They should all be lauded for that.
But when I wrote that Cosgrave would be ‘hated’ for leaving Dublin, I actually didn’t realize how strong the feeling in the city would be. Since I first wrote that, I have heard from dozens of people expressing similar sentiments.
Loyalty to your town, to the place that helped make you, is hugely valuable. I live in Dublin now and I studied in Cambridge, but my home town is Norwich. I’ll be a Norfolk boy no matter where in the world I go.
I’ve always believed that when it comes to sports teams, you support the nearest one to you or the one your family has always backed. You don’t pick the one that’s top of the league or coolest, you show loyalty to the one that’s local.
So I support Norwich City. Never the best, rarely the worst, often ignored but my team nonetheless.
Dublin is not the Norwich City of startup scenes. It’s much more consistently impressive. It puts the ball in the back of the net with remarkable regularity.
The city needs a strong squad and Web Summit should be part of that, but if it leaves, the city will keep signing star players regardless. And other cities will keep valuing their local stars.
Feature GIF credit: ESPN