If you’re reading this, we’re probably connected. We might even be directly connected! At the very least, we probably know some people in common. And if we want to get philosophical, Kevin Bacon assures us that there are six or fewer degrees of separation between us. But the existence of our connection is an incidental fact, merely a starting point.
BRIIA was born with the notion that the Tri-Valley was rich with all of the ingredients needed to create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, but the region lacked an iconic place to signal that “entrepreneurs can thrive here”. We believed that – without crossing a bridge or navigating a tunnel – there was plenty of talent, capital, entrepreneurial experience and corporate interest located in the 680/580 corridors to power startups and innovation. That notion of facilitating local startups was sufficient to get us going, but it wasn’t enough.
Much later in our evolution, we began recruiting our first cohort of companies for our Accelerator program. We received applications from the Bay Area, the rest of the U.S., Ukraine, South Africa, Brazil and China. It was quickly clear that solving traffic problems in the Tri-Valley by facilitating entrepreneurship in the Tri-Valley could not be our sole mission. There was apparently a need for the BRIIA Acclerator program that transcended our location. Entrepreneurs all over the world needed BRIIA and we were anxious to aid them in the pursuit of their dreams to the fullest extent of our knowledge and passions.
Unfortunately, our meta-thinking about the purpose of BRIIA – our goals, ambitions, etc. – quickly melted into the background when we opened our doors on September 5. It was all hands on deck to turn our nascent vision into reality. We started our 12-week Accelerator workshops. We stocked the fridge and unpacked the eco-friendly plates, glasses and bowls to support our co-working community. Thousands of little decisions pushed their way into our daily task lists.
Since our opening, we’ve had more than 45 events at the BRIIA facility that have attracted the interest of over 600 people about half of which were new connections. (Be sure to get on our mailing list and check out our events page to learn more.) We’ve connected with entrepreneurs in the community at various stages of developing their business. We’ve discovered great talent that lives in our community including corporate leaders and investors. While building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem takes time, we are encouraged and energized by the connections we’ve made so far.
But it didn’t take long for our quest for meaning to return.
Entrepreneurs face it all the time – the long 18-20 hour days start to mount, the cash is dwindling (or the debts are piling up), the product isn’t completed on time and your potential customers take longer than you’d hoped to buy your product. It’s then that you quickly return to wondering “why?” You need a way to rationalize the inherently crazy desire to start a company. Without good reason, you begin to wonder: why is it important that I/we continue on this journey? What is motivating/compelling me to do this work? Or am I just crazy…
The founders of BRIIA had that moment too. And in that moment, we found our “why”. Inspired by the classic TED talk by Simon Sinek, we finally devoted our attention to answering the “why” question: Why are we putting our hearts and souls, energy, time, money and passion to the task of creating BRIIA?
In a word: connections. Our soul-searching laid bare our fundamental conviction: BRIIA is in the business of making connections. We are individually and collectively passionate about connecting entrepreneurs’ passions with the expertise, tools, resources and capital they need. We love “connecting the dots” between what entrepreneur’s need to execute on a vision with the people and resources within our universe. In turn, we thrive when we are surrounded by and connected to experienced mentors, investors, and corporate leaders who share our passion to see entrepreneurs thrive.
Connections are the currency of the entrepreneurial world. When we are able to connect a founder with a mentor who is an expert in the domain of the founder, that mentor’s knowledge and experience fills gaps in the founder’s plans. When we connect founders with potential customers, a lengthy sales cycle gets quickly abbreviated. When we match investors with the quality opportunities they want to invest in, companies have a better chance of surviving and scaling, jobs are created and a return on capital is created.
And if the right connections matter, intentionally diverse connections matter even more. As Melissa and I have reached out to potential mentors, early-stage entrepreneurs or investors, we have done our best (and we can always do more) to prevent historical biases from benignly repeating themselves. We set out to create diverse connections and know that it takes intentionality to make it happen. We are grateful to Rick Klau – a fantastic member of our entrepreneurial community – for his own self-reflection and providing a wake-up call to the biases embedded in “normal”. It is early days in our evolution, but over a third of our mentors are already women. We’re proud to have achieved an above-average proportion for women representation at this stage and our goal is to increase that.
If you have an interest in seeing entrepreneurs thrive and haven’t already connected with us – in person, on social media, by media or plain old phone call – please don’t wait any longer. Your expertise and wisdom and, indeed, your own connections might be just what one of the entrepreneurs in our community needs to accelerate progress and forge ahead. Connect with us – refer an entrepreneur, attend an event, connect with us on social media, offer your expertise with office hours at BRIIA – and together let’s ensure that local and global entrepreneurs can pursue innovations that might well solve the world’s most challenging problems.
And, if you don’t mind, share this post with three other people like you and ask them to connect with us as well!