Illustration by Tammy Gu

Why Community Really Matters For Entrepreneurs

I was about half way through my undergraduate degree when it dawned on me how important community was.

I would’ve claimed, however, that community had “always” been important to me. What you would have witnessed, then, was a break between my practice, on the one hand, and my theory, on the other.

Can you relate? Your practice ever differ from your theoretical commitments?

My claim that community was valuable and important didn’t infiltrate my actual practice of communing, if you will, until part way through college. But why did it change there? What happened in college that led me to practicing community?

The College Years

Those nights when you and your peers would be essentially living in a study room in the library preparing for a test. Or, perhaps you weren’t the studying type. For you, maybe it was those nights with your peers of doing everything possible to avoid studying. Any distraction was a perfect distraction.

In either case — and in so many more not mentioned — at the core of the college experience (or college struggle) is a saturation in community. Not everyone gets this, but many do.

But what gives rise to it? Why is community such a central feature of college life?

Because college life breeds struggle and community breeds a solution to that struggle. Entrepreneurialism also breeds struggle. So, allow me to paint the picture to make it clear why community is so central for entrepreneurs. Then I’ll add a word about how we at Harness exist to really meet this need.

Community Reminds You That You’re Not Alone

Part of why leadership can be so lonely is because there aren’t many “next to you.” It’s you and maybe a couple others. But what’s also true is that that there’s a greater demand (usually self-imposed) to keep it all together and not expose your weaknesses.

So, there’s no mystery about why leadership is lonely: there aren’t many next to you, the ones next to you aren’t always the right people to unload how you’re really doing on, and the demand to keep leading presses on.

Entrepreneurs are often leaders.

They’ve got a preferred vision of the future fundamentally different from our present moment and achieving that future will require innovation, belief and grit. This puts them in a leadership position.

For this reason, entrepreneurs are prone to experience of loneliness — maybe they feel it even more than others because they’re usually charting new territory, thus concentrating the alone-experience.

Now recall my main topic: the centrality of community for entrepreneurs. Hopefully by the now the point is becoming clear: entrepreneurs need community in order to survive their innovative efforts which inevitably take them into uncharted, uninhabited territories.

Moreover, they need community to survive the oh-so-common (and usually in mass amounts) experience of disbelief and doubt from the cynics, from those who prefer life the way it is rather than the way it could be.

Yes, this is possibly the most important reason entrepreneurs require community, a group of folks dedicated to supporting each other’s well-being. Humans, as resilient as they can be, aren’t designed for having enduring hardship alone.

Given the peculiarity of the entrepreneur’s position, community becomes of essential importance.

Community Ignites Further Innovation

Such is also true with innovators. The more entrepreneurialism, the more innovation, the better are world could be. (Theoretically, anyway.)

Now imagine entrepreneurs stripped of community. Imagine entrepreneurs relegated to the corners of their houses or offices.

While it’s true and expected that much of the entrepreneur’s time will be spent focusing on their respective project, it’d be a great cost to the larger entrepreneurial project — i.e. repairing and improving the world we inhabit — were they not saturated in a community.

Furthering our world’s progress and development actually depends on the communing, supporting and collaboration of entrepreneurs, from one to another. Community enables this.

But all of what I’ve said to this point can easily beg some questions: what exactly does community look like? Can it happen virtually? And what’s Harness’s involvement?

Here are some answers.

Clarifying Community & Harness’s Involvement

Could happen over a beer at a baseball game or breakfast at your local diner.

In some instances, community is comprised of many people all of whom are working towards these goals of promoting the lives of others in the group. Friendship might be another name for what’s going on here.

Our world is much different now than it was for this traditional conception of community. No need to bore you with the obvious here, but it goes without saying that community can and often does happen remotely from across the globe.

People in Berkeley, CA, are in community with those in Tokyo, Japan. Promoting the well-being of those in our communities is no longer limited to the baseball game or local breakfast spot. In other words, we inhabit a pretty cool world.

Harness seeks to fill the virtual space.

We unite people from universities literally around the world. The people we unite share at least one thing in common: a drive to innovate.

Our platforms not only attract innovators and entrepreneurs, they were designed for them. We’re in the business of getting entrepreneurs and innovators connected to the resources they need most.

This means we’re in the business of getting entrepreneurs and innovators connected to a community because, as we hope is now obvious by now, community is needed.

Without it, loneliness and discouragement survive while the entrepreneur and innovator may not.

That’s a problem. We’re here to fix it, among other things. And for those other things we’re about, you can read more about us here.

Get in community, get connected, and keep innovating.

Written by: Bryan Forbes

Harness is a support and intelligence platform for engaging, tracking and advancing innovation communities. Welcome to our blog!