Episode: 525 |
Chris Heivly:
Author of Build the Fort: The Startup Community Builder's Field Guide:


Chris Heivly

Author of Build the Fort: The Startup Community Builder's Field Guide

Show Notes

Chris Heivly and Will Bachman discuss the concept of startup communities and the importance of building them. Heivly is the co-founder of MapQuest, which was sold to AOL for $1.2 billion, and the author of the Build the Fort. His second book, The Startup Community Builder’s Field Guide, focuses on how five simple lessons learned as a 10-year-old can set entrepreneurs up for startup success. Chris defines a startup community as a set of people involved in innovative activities in a particular geography. He explains that startup communities can be incredibly powerful in helping entrepreneurs to succeed and should be proactively built by providing resources, mentorship, and capital.


The Benefits of a Startup Community

Chris talks about the concept of startup communities and how they are no longer geographically bound. He believes that networks are essential in order to develop a successful startup community, and that all members of the community, such as corporate innovators, investors, founders, researchers, and university students, should work together for the greater good. Additionally, he mentions that the concept of startup communities applies to industry-specific communities as well, and not just geographically bound ones. He believes that the key to advancing technology is through startups and corporate innovation, and that these networks should be utilized to the fullest extent.

Chris points out that it is important to rely on people outside of one’s geographic network to build a successful community.  He explains that it can be difficult for founders to invest time and energy into the community due to the amount of tasks they have to complete in their business. He mentions that it is important to build meaningful connections in order to make a successful community and connect with venture capitalists, local investors, and to get involved in the local economy to make sure that it is thriving, and that one will gain knowledge and potential customers by doing so.  Chris suggests startup lawyers, marketing experts, economic development professionals, and people from universities want to ensure the success of startups and help create a vibrant local economy, and he shares a case study on a startup community he was involved with.


The Advantages of a Local Tech Scene

Chris talks about the advantages of being in a local tech scene, rather than working in a virtual space. He adds that the local physical advantage is that one can easily access mentorship and advice in a formal sense. He notes that this may come in the form of attending events, or engaging with other startups in the same building. He also points out that networking with local resources can be beneficial for finding answers to questions, and finding the right attorney for legal needs. He explains the importance of providing resources, such as programming and co-working spaces, to help new entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. Chris emphasizes the value of what they call gear, or ad hoc advice and mentorship, as an invaluable resource. These resources can be found through serendipitous sparks, such as running into people at coffee shops or events. 

Chris suggests that the best way to create events and activities that will engage the community is to listen to what the people want and find a leader who is motivated to make a change. He encourages grassroots-style initiatives that come from the bottom up, and to move forward with the goal of helping or supporting others.


The Three A’s that Help Build Local  Community 

To help the local community, Chris suggests that it can be done in various ways, such as running a Little League team or getting involved in the arts. He recommends getting involved in the entrepreneur community and how it can have a great economic impact. 

Chris talks about the three A’s framework in his book which stands for actors, activities, and attitudes. This framework is designed to make the ecosystem more inclusive and inviting for everyone to play a role. Actors can range from economic developers, government bureaucrats, university people, corporate members, founders, investors, and more. Activities vary depending on the maturity of the ecosystem. Attitudes are the most forgotten part of the framework and are important in creating a collaborative, supportive, and inclusive mindset. Chris encourages everyone to adopt a better attitude and behavior in order to create a better ecosystem. He offers a few steps to drive this forward.

To build an active network that you can lean on, Chris suggests introducing two people from your network who don’t know each other, and having a ‘gift first mentality’ by reaching out to others without expecting something in return. He shares a story from 2009 to 2010, where he ran around doing 275 connections in five months, and at the end asked a simple question: What can I do for you?. He encourages people to ask what keeps them up at night, and what their challenges are, so that they can be helped.


Building a Network of Trust

Chris believes that by helping others without expecting anything in return, a strong network of trust and support is created that can benefit everyone. He has met with over 4000 people in the Raleigh-Durham area to build these relationships. He encourages young people to do the same to get more done faster. In return, these contacts are more likely to help him with projects such as writing a book or speaking at events. Chris believes that by investing time and effort into forming meaningful relationships, success can be achieved more quickly.

Chris has encountered thousands of people over the past 15 years and has created a system of pre-investing with each of them individually. He explains that he has an open office hours system where anyone can sign up for a 20 minute meeting. He also explains that, although he doesn’t have a strong connection with all 4000 people, he can activate them whenever he needs to. His purpose is to support and empower founders to create successful businesses and cities. He hopes to accomplish this through his meetings and connections. Chris shares a few success stories from the people he has met and connections he has made, and the path he took after the success of his startup MapQuest.



01:49 Building a Startup Community 

03:47 Conversation on Building a Startup Community 

06:48 Exploring the Benefits of Joining a Local Startup Community 

13:58 The Advantages of Being Local in a Start-up Scene 

16:52 Building a Startup Community in Raleigh, NC 

25:14 The Four Stages of Ecosystem Maturity 

29:33 Exploring the Benefits of a “Gift First” Mentality in Building Community Connections 

36:33 Connecting People for Mutual Benefit 

43:06 Career Development and Corporate Venture Funds 

45:20 Writing the Build a Fort Series 



Website: http://heivly.com/

The Book: Build the Fort 



Twitter: @chrisheivly

Email: Chris@buildthefort.com

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:


Chris Heivly


Chris Heivly, Will Bachman


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello and welcome to Unleashed. Unleashed is powered by Umbrex. You can visit the US at umbrex.com/unleashed, where you can find transcripts and show notes of every episode. And also sign up for our newsletter. I’m excited to be here today with Chris Hively, who is the founder, one of the co founders of MapQuest, which as you may know, sold to AOL for $1.2 billion. Chris is the author of the build the fourth series of books. The first one was build the fort, why five simple lessons you learned as a 10 year old can set you up for startup success. And his second book, which we’re going to focus on today is the startup community builders Field Guide. Chris, welcome to the show.


Chris Heivly  00:48

Thanks well, for having me.


Will Bachman  00:51

So let’s orient, folks, just when you talk about a startup community, give us a bit of a definition there, what are we talking about?


Chris Heivly  01:02

Sure, I think well, like a lot of things, it can mean a little bit, to different to everyone. But in any kind of geography, mostly defined by geography today, you’re talking about a set of people involved in kind of innovative activities. So whether it’s corporate innovation, whether it’s investing in companies, small or big, whether it’s being a founder yourself, whether you’re an employee, and joining a, you know, small company hoping to grow up big, and everyone in between economic development folks, university researchers, all these people make up a community, in my mind, and we all get to use each other to the betterment of the things that we’re passionate about. So regardless of what role you’re playing in your city, I think there’s a startup community to lean on to help you do better business.


Will Bachman  01:49

Okay. And that was one question I had for you, which is the, I guess the sort of the assumption, or the main thrust of the book is around geographically based startup communities. To what degree do you see multiple dimensions here or there, kind of industry based startup communities where it might be the insurance industry startup community, where people from across different cities would all somehow be online and going to the same conferences and or maybe by function? Like, oh, we’re the IT security Ivy, you know, cybersecurity, kind of startup community. So would you say your kind of your book applies to those sorts of functional industry ones? as well?


Chris Heivly  02:36

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And don’t you have to today? Well, I mean, are, you know, as soon as I said, geographically bound, I knew that the next question we’re going to talk about is, really, does it have to be geographically bound? And? And obviously, the answer is no. And in fact, it shouldn’t, today are, you know, networks, and in fact, the network mentality when it comes to thinking about our community is key, right. And those networks are not bound by geography anymore. So, you know, the thing to think about is that, you know, in trying to accomplish whatever you’re trying to accomplish, and I focus more on kind of technology advances, and those can be through startups, or those can be through corporate innovation, those kinds of things. You have to, you know, if you don’t rely on people outside your, your existing kind of geographic network, I think you’re you’re doing yourself at this favor. So how do you how do you effectively build those connections and make sure that not only are you and user of those connections, but you’re a purveyor, right? You’re, you’re connecting people on not just your behalf, but on others behalf? And, and that’s what makes for a great community, right is how tight and meaningful those connections are.


Will Bachman  03:47

Talk to me a bit about who are the people that you’re really trying to talk to in terms of who would be the people that would be sufficiently motivated to invest significant energy in building a startup community. And maybe we talk about a geographic based one, I can kind of see a venture capitalists wanting to play that role, because it’s going to give them access to, you know, deal flow. And I can kind of see someone who is employed by the city or the Regional Economic Development Council to be doing that. But otherwise, most founders are going to be focused on building their own business. And so what are the types of people that would be motivated to invest time and energy into building a startup community?


Chris Heivly  04:36

Yeah, I mean, it’s a great question, because more and more, especially if you are, let’s use your example of a startup founder. I mean, you our heads down, right. I mean, you know, if you’ve ever been on that journey before, you’ve you know, you’ve got 100 things to do. You’re lucky to get three of them done today. And tomorrow. It’s a different set of 100. Right? Because the world changes so quickly. In that kind of context, I think it’s super ortant today in order to stay current and older, understand, you know, gain knowledge and traction for your idea or your company, regardless of what stage you’re at, I think it’s super important today that you utilize a network of people to help you make better decisions. And, you know, especially when you’re first starting out, you don’t have as big a network for the thing you’re working on, then you will probably years later, you know, you got to look on to venture capitalists, you got to look on economic development people, you got to look up, you know, corporations, by the way, you know, your first investors and accompany are typically almost always going to be local, your first customers, not all the time, but typically, when you’re first trying to, you know, roll out a new product, or someone that you have a close relationship with, usually, those are local, not always, you know, as a management consultant, you get to, you know, work freely all over the place. But, you know, so you know, getting back to why a start a community gives you access to knowledge, and potential customers and connections that help you drive, whatever, you know, whatever role you have in, in your, in your endeavors. So I’m sitting here, and I’m thinking about, alright, I’m in Raleigh, Durham, North Carolina right now. And I’m thinking about, and I do some consulting here and there, and I’ve done it all over the world. But I’m going to tell you, the things that I learned the things that, you know, the juice that fills my box are things that I’ve figured out locally. So I would maybe take the question and run with it a little bit farther and say, I think it’s important that you get involved in your local economy, to make sure that it’s thriving, and make sure you can help others, but also in that help, you’re gonna get stuff that you’re going to be able to use in the rest of your business.


Will Bachman  06:48

Okay, so I had sort of before I picked up your book, I had kind of assumed that, you know, other than maybe the, the local City Economic Development Council that I didn’t really consider that there would be some people who were focused on building community for startups. Give us some examples of of like real people, maybe that, that are doing this, maybe some who are playing different roles, maybe an angel investor or a VC or someone in a, you know, local kind of economic development capacity or a banker? I don’t know, like, what are the maybe you can mention some some people’s names of who are who are doing this?


Chris Heivly  07:33

Sure, um, let’s all take, you know, my town of Raleigh Durham as an example. So, we have a there’s a group of 18 of us who, for the last two years have put on a week long, kind of startup tech event, right called Raleigh Durham Startup Week. So let me let’s talk about some of those roles, right, a couple of people are like me, right, we’ve played I’ve been a founder, I’ve been an investor, I just want, I want a nice, thriving community. And this is my kind of, I’m at the GiveBack portion of my life. So that’s what I’m there. We have a couple of startup lawyers who work with us. What do they want? Well, they want more startups, more startups need more potential business for them? Right? They, they want to fill the pot, right? And make sure there’s always kind of, you know, companies to work with. We have a couple of people who are experts in marketing, some of them work for companies, some of them work for their own kind of agencies, what do they want, they want to make sure they they like to give back as well. But they’re here because they want leads, and they want more thriving companies and they want to be help these companies succeed. That’s a nice type of thing. We have you mentioned, you know, economic development, folks. Well, their job is to make sure that the local economy is as as robust as possible. The days of recruiting in Apple or Amazon into your city in order to make that key strategy of your economic development play. Probably those you know, those are few and far between. So you better have a very kind of strong, organic, kind of natural kind of business building happening inside your community. Let me give you two more examples. Universities, inside universities, right, they’re here to talk to students and make sure students get a fantastic education. They get access to interesting experiences and opportunities so that they build successful lives. Hopefully, that’s their agenda, right? Well, you know, certain amount of the students stay local. Some, some live students are local. And so how do I make sure that when they’re done, they have opportunities, companies that go to or if they’re willing to do so start their own companies. So you know, you can’t name an actor That’s playing in the ecosystem that I can’t outline reasons why they should, you know, want to be part of a startup community to be learning what’s kind of current trends and what’s, you know, how do I apply chat GBT to my, my endeavors, you know, typically, you know, the startup community is full of people who are on the edge of that technology, bleeding edge trying to figure things out. If I’m sitting in a corporation, I want to be part of this community, because I’m going to see things happening that I wouldn’t normally see in my old state corporation. So let’s get involved in the startup community, maybe those people will be, maybe I’ll be a customer of theirs, maybe they’ll develop a product that I need, they believe in acquire them someday, because there’ll be important part of my company’s future.


Will Bachman  10:45

Super helpful. Let’s talk about it from the actual company, employee slash founder perspective. Let’s talk about maybe kind of compare a startup that’s in a place with no community or barely any, and I don’t want to pick on any city, so I’m not going to name a city. But let’s just imagine a remote city without a good startup scene. And we’ll just pick a name in our mind for that. We’ll call that town a and let’s talk about Raleigh, where you are most familiar with a thriving startup scene. So if someone starts a startup in town a versus in Raleigh, what are the what are the sorts of benefits they’re going to be able to get from having being able to plug into that community? And really, what does it look like at a very tactical level is I mean, you mentioned sort of an attorney. Okay. So there’s a local attorney, there’s local marketing people who can help you out. There’s maybe local investors, who are interested in funding local startups, maybe there’s talent that you can plug into, describe a bit more, what are some of the benefits that a startup is going to have in that place that has, you know, someone who’s who’s helped to build the community?


Chris Heivly  12:03

Yeah, well, I mean, the key is you got to go back to understanding the startup journey, what it’s like to take an idea to a blank sheet of paper and figure out how to go forward, right? And in doing so, there’s operational aspects or marketing and sales aspects, there’s product development aspects, legal and financial aspects. And part of the question is, which ones do I need to care about when I said earlier that there’s 100 things I remember my son when I was doing a start up 15 or so years ago, he came into my office at home and said, you know, Dad, what are you doing? And I said, Well, every day, there’s 100, things I could be doing to advance my company forward. I’m going to write down 10 today. And if I’m lucky, I’ll get three or four done. And I said, but here’s the kicker tomorrow, it’s a different 100 Because something changed. So back to your question, what is the difference between town a and town Raleigh? Is that when I when I’m confounded with kind of what things to focus on? Or if I need certain knowledge around a certain aspect? among any of those things, sales, marketing, strategy, operations, logistics, you know, whatever it is that I’m kind of, you know, challenged with today? Can I can I find a way to make a better decision faster than in? And the answer is in a robust and healthy startup community? The answer is you have a community, they’re available to you to say, Hey, can I take you to lunch? I just want to pick your brain for an hour about this topic. Right? If there’s no transaction, it’s just you know, how do I help in town a, there’s no return. So they have to figure it out on their own, which means that takes more time and more money, which puts more pressure on the business to actually succeed. And so that’s the difference between town a and and in this case, Raleigh or Austin or Seattle, or, obviously New York and Boston in Silicon Valley, or, you know, old stalwarts of this startup community scene.


Will Bachman  13:58

Okay. In a very, very, very tangible way. How does the difference manifest itself physically? So, you mentioned one thing that you did, I think it was like the Raleigh tech week that you that you mentioned, or Startup Week. So that would be something where you’re physically in person, there’s something going on, there’s people doing demo presentations, etc. What are the other kind of advantages of being local where there’s a scene is it that you might be in a co working space and there’s other startups in the same building that you can chat with at the coffee machine or you can meet people for for lunch? Like what what physically is happening when there’s a live community as opposed to being in more of a virtual community where you could be anywhere and you can reach out to a Slack group or you know, a forum or something and say, Hey, I need a good attorney. And they connect you with someone that you never actually meet in person but you work with as an attorney for for ages. So what’s that local physical advantage?


Chris Heivly  15:00

Well, I’d like to say that kind of mentorship or advice comes in two forms, right? There’s the formal kind where I sign up for a program and I’m taught things or someone’s going to try to, you know, find a way to get me some answers to the questions I have in a formal sense. And there’s lots of programming, and lots of co working spaces and, and organizations, you know, help, you know, provide that, as importantly, if not, more importantly, is what I call gear, kind of ad hoc advice or mentorship. And that’s one, you know, and some of that comes serendipitously, right in you, you kind of referred to the company watercooler Well, there’s usually a couple of community water coolers, right where it’s a coffee shop, or, or you know, it’s an event or an activity where you run into people, we don’t exactly know what’s going to happen. But I call them serendipitous sparks. But like, you’re sitting there, you’re having a beer or having a coffee, maybe hopefully, the beer is at the end of the day, the coffee is at the beginning of the day, and you just start chatting with someone, and if you created the conditions in your community, for these collisions to occur, and meaningfulness can come out of that, like, hey, and maybe something like, you know, hey, I, you know, I did, I did logistics for 25 years, like you let me you know, let me give me an hour and see if I can, you know, help you on your way. Or maybe I can introduce you to someone that’s around the corner, or do you know, Joe over in the corner here, you know, that you should probably talk to him about this thing. The meaningfulness of Connections is a little bit more, let’s be honest, it’s a little easier when it’s in person and a little bit harder. When it’s virtual, we have to work harder to build a meaningfulness where I’m willing to say, hey, you know, I see a standard error or someone introduced us, right, so that’s what the in person gives you over the virtual. Obviously, you need to do both today.


Will Bachman  16:52

What are the virtual water coolers in Raleigh? Are the the actual water coolers are there? What are the coffee shops that are the bars or the parks that are the gyms that people go to in the startup scene in Raleigh?


Chris Heivly  17:07

Yeah, it’s a funny question, because about 1213 years ago, when I first started on this journey of seeing what I could do in my newly adopted town of Raleigh Durham, I, I wanted to meet as many people as possible. So I was I did about 275 coffee meetings, I called them coffee, lunch, or end of day frosty beverage meetings. And I did five, well, I did five or six a day, I ended up taking Friday’s off because Friday was kind of like figuring out what I just done the last four days because you imagine networking with 25 to 26 people over four days and any now you have to remember what happened, what my follow ups are and all that kind of stuff. But I don’t drink coffee, but I was in every coffee shop in Raleigh Durham, every single one. But we all know in our town, there’s a couple places where you know, our tribe kind of hangs out. in Durham, it’s initially it was bu cafe. Now Durham has exploded. So there’s four or five places a group called the American underground, which is a co working space has a happy hour, once a month open to everyone, not just members of the co working space. People come in get a free beer kind of hang out. Down in Raleigh, there’s an equivalent of Raleigh founded and, you know, their whole and you know, usually these places are, you know, pretty open, right? Like they’re not, you know, it’s not like trying to go into a, you know, a corporation, I’m trying to think a Regis, right. It’s not like a Regis where people are just interested in the offices, they’re interested in the camaraderie, they’re interested in the collisions. And so there’s usually lots of quote unquote, events and activities, formal or informal, just to help people jam together. Smaller places don’t don’t have them. But I’m telling you, there’s not probably even a city that’s, you know, over 250,000, a population that doesn’t have at least one or two of these places, including the coffee shop.


Will Bachman  19:00

You mentioned activities. And I’m particularly interested in this, given my role with Umbrex, where we organize a bunch of online as well as in person events. What have you found in your years doing this and coaching, startup community builders? What kind of events or activities have you found really work well to build community? So that kind of the basic is you say, Okay, we’re going to have a mixer and people can show up for a happy hour, like you mentioned. Talk to me about the different genres. Maybe there’s a event that’s specifically on some topic where there might be some training or you might be some doing or a hackathon or round table networking, all these different right demo days. Well, what are some of the activities that you’ve seen the different, you know, genres, and what’s your perspective on the kind of best use cases for those different kinds of things?


Chris Heivly  20:00

Great question. And like a good politician, I’m going to answer, you know, kind of in slightly different way. But I’m gonna go to the end of your question and then work back. So the interesting thing well is that every city is a little different, every community is a little different. They have their personality, their culture. And so, you know, as I’ve done this consulting all over the world, it’s first of all, finding what the culture is, for instance, what I found in Louisville, Kentucky, is they like morning meetings and hated, you know, hated happy hours. You know, or vice versa, like, maybe it was vice versa. Maybe they liked afternoons, but not warnings and buffalo like mornings, but not afternoons or something. So every community has its own little personality. And so the right you know, when you hold the events and how you bring people together, can be more or less effective in those areas. But you got to experiment and try things and then figure out what your community wants. I’m a big fan of leadership comes in whatever you’re motivated by. So I was talking to a woman this week, who is kind of new, the Raleigh Durham area, and she talked about turns out maybe that was last week. But she turns out, she was interested, she was very new to the area. And she’s very interested in kind of women entrepreneurs. And I said, fantastic. You know, I can, I know that there’s a a monthly invitee only small dinner thing that six or seven women entrepreneurs get together, and they just kind of a safe space, and they just talk about their businesses. You know, let me introduce you, maybe that’s for you, hey, maybe you want to play leader, and your experience is more in tech. So let’s start a woman in tech meet up. And by we I mean you because I’m not a woman? So, you know, how can I support you on that? I can? How can I send that out to? How can I introduce you to five or 10 people that might be the initial attendees, and have you get started. So I like to think that these activities are best when they bubble up from the bottom, when people kind of grab one of those and say, Hey, I’m motivated to do this, because I’m gonna a woman, or a woman in tech, or, you know, I really like beer socials, or whatever it is. Let’s figure out like you go, you know, kind of grab the football and start running with it. Let me know how I can support you. Maybe the only thing I support you, as I make two introductions, maybe I use my email list. Maybe I use Twitter or whatever, I’ll help, you know, you kind of generate some excitement, and we get four or five other people to do that. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work. But to me, that’s what it has to be it has to be kind of like grassroots up, not kind of like, you know, intellectually, you know, go kiss a ring of someone who gives me permission to go do something.


Will Bachman  22:48

Right. Right, right. Because, you know, your book is the startup community builders field guide. And you I think you make the point in the book, that no one is going to be the builder for a given city, right. And it’s like, no matter where you go, there’s probably already something already happening. No one is going to point you to the builder. So you can just go and sort of start adding to what already exists in some way. Right is


Chris Heivly  23:17

Yeah, exactly. I mean, you know, I would hope that every one of us as kind of professionals and, you know, passionate, hardworking individuals, that we look for ways to help our local community. And what I’m saying is, you know, that could be from, you know, running the Little League, you know, team or coach, or maybe getting involved in the arts or something like that, those are great things too. But, you know, your, your kind of entrepreneur community is just as important. And, in fact, the economic impacts can be, you know, really huge for for not just you or your business, but also the businesses that you consult with. So to that end, you know, what I’m telling you is that it’s pretty easy to come in, and pretty easy to find. Now, you could be one of these people that go, I know exactly what we need, I want to try this out. And what I go through the book is great. Go find four or five people to help you with, help you with your, you know, idea and activity, help stand it up in some form or fashion. And, you know, go on your own, or maybe you see something that you say, hey, this thing’s been running, this thing’s pretty good. Maybe I can add a little spin to it, and you can augment the current activity, lots of different ways to kind of engage. And what I say is just start talking to a bunch of people. And then I think the thing that you want to do will naturally bubble up and then, you know, part five of building the fort is just go build the darn fort.


Will Bachman  24:47

So your book is broadly applicable beyond people that you know, beyond just the the idea of startup communities it’s it’s really applicable to all sorts of communities, maybe you know, someone who wants to build a bit more community on their neighborhood block and organize Halloween parade or something. I liked your framework of the four stages of ecosystem maturity. Could you walk us through that framework?


Chris Heivly  25:14

Yeah, so the I have to qualify this by saying, when I talk about different levels of how mature your ecosystem is, it’s not in a compare game, which is a really exercise that’s just not useful to anybody. It’s more to understand the things you should prioritize for your community at different stages of maturity. So obviously, what’s happening in Raleigh Durham, and we’ve been at it 15 years, and there was a base of assets and things going on in RTP, way before I even showed up. But I also have the working in Columbia, South Carolina, which is probably 15 to 20 years behind Raleigh. So the things that we should do in Raleigh, are different than the things we should do in Colombia, and vice versa. So the important part about identifying and doing this kind of like little personal audit of what’s happening is to prioritize kind of the things you need to do to move forward. Not unlike when you’re building a business, right, the things you do at the idea stage are different than the things you do when it’s a, you know, $100 million revenue company with 400 employees, right. So that’s the reason for these four stages of maturity, nascent, developing, emerging and then leading.


Will Bachman  26:34

I was also wondering, you mentioned acids earlier, and you have this nice framework for assets, its act actors, activities and attitudes. I love the three A’s. Yeah. Tell us a bit about that framework. And, and and how we can use that?


Chris Heivly  26:50

Well, you know, we’re never, you know, we’re never tired of a little alliteration right, to help you sell something. So what I find in a lot of places, is that from an actor point of view, that we don’t make this as kind of widespread, and as inviting as we should. So part of the actors idea is that each one, you know, and we’ve talked about them already, right? We’ve talked about economic development, people and bureaucrats and university people and corporate members, and founders and investors, and, you know, and everyone in between. So one is to make sure that it’s that you’ve set up kind of a more inclusive atmosphere for all the actors to play a role. Why wouldn’t you write everyone has an expertise to share the activities we’ve talked about? Well, but and those kinds of different from community to community and may differ based on the maturity of your ecosystem. All that saying the third and the most forgotten place is, how are we going to do this? What are our attitudes and behaviors and actions that we’re going to put in play. And this is the one thing that really separates mature ecosystems from image or ecosystems is that they don’t have enough of a collaborative, supportive, inclusive type of mindset. And each one of us individually can do a better job of doing that. And I’ll give you one simple little task. Everyone asks me, okay, Chris, but what can I do tomorrow? To help my community? I said, How about introduce two people together from your network that don’t know each other? With no expectation of what they’re gonna get out of it? And why don’t you do a couple of those a day? And do those a couple days a week? And why don’t you get your friends to do the same thing? Because if you remember, when we left off, we talked about connectivity. We talked about networks, right? virtual or physical, local or not. I believe that your success as an individual or as a company, as a consultant, as a company builder, as an investor, everything you’ll be you do will become more successful if you have a really active network that you can lean on. And so that network goes back to the attitudes that you bring to this, are we going to collaborate? Or do I look at everything as a transaction and a zero sum game? Those are the things that are friction points to the growth of community. So I’m glad you asked about that framework. But just think about what your mindset is going in. And hopefully, I really go into a lot of detail about how to maybe shift your mindset to what we call more of a gift first mentality, which we give to someone without any expectation of getting something back in return. Yeah, talk about


Will Bachman  29:33

that. Talk about that transition and about to give first mentality.


Chris Heivly  29:39

Yeah, I mean, it’s key. I mean, it’s, you know, so I’ll tell you a little story. So um, it’s 2009 and 10. And I’m running around doing these 275 connections in about five months. And at the end of every one of those connections, I just asked a simple question, What can I do for you? And they said, No, I’m going to Linda. No, really What’s what’s keeps you up at night? What are your challenges? Because maybe I can help. Maybe not personally, but maybe I know someone that can help. Right? So I do this over and over and over again. The point of that is that, never once did I ask to be paid. Sorry, you know, and I lost, I lost. I lost your question.


Will Bachman  30:21

But you’re doing great. I love the story. Keep going, we can get back to the question, go tell the story.


Chris Heivly  30:27

So, you know, what’s, what’s what’s, I remember at one point, my wife said, like, so what? What are you? What are you doing? You know, you’re buying all these people coffee, and you’re listening to their, you know, to what they’re doing. And I said, I don’t know exactly what, where this is going to come. But I know that at the end, I know that people are going to feel like I, I can help them, I will build trust between them individually. By like, fast forward, I probably have sat down with about 4000 People just in Raleigh Durham. So the idea here is that it’s a little tough at first, because you’re kind of going like what’s in it for me. But the transition that I really will tell, well, I, I wished I knew this younger, you know, I’m 63 I wish I knew this. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I would have gotten so much more done faster. Because what I can tell you is that when I push something out and say, hey, you know, to this group of people that I’ve helped and done things for, and they’ve done things for me, when I say hey, listen, I’m writing a book, would you mind pushing it? You know, in your circles, no problem. People say, Hey, I’m starting up this new event, Raleigh Durham Startup Week, I’d love to have you come as a speaker, happy to do so. Right. So the things that I end up wanting to do. Now, 15 years later, almost. I have this network of people that I can activate when I need something all because I’ve kind of already pre invested with each one of those individually.


Will Bachman  32:01

I love that I’m so aligned with that. You are like the master connector of Raleigh 4000 has a lot a lot of coffees. So a bunch of questions about this. One is and were you this was all happening after you had sold Mapquest. So I mean, you were you know someone to you know, people would want to know, right.


Chris Heivly  32:27

I have a good story. Yes. A good Mapquest story, a good a good exit event. That sounds really super sexy. Yeah, it


Will Bachman  32:35

sounds super sexy. Right? Yeah. Okay, I’ll meet the co founder of Mapquest. Sure. One practical question is even that 4000 people 275 In those first few months? How are you keeping track of all of your notes from those meetings? What system are using Excel a Google Sheet piece of paper, your your just your brain, a CRM system?


Chris Heivly  33:01

Yeah, you know, f all the above. G not very well. In the beginning, it’s an Excel spreadsheet, maybe through the first 1000, then I abandoned that I’ve tried CRM in the past. It’s some combination of, you know, the brain today. Obviously, you know, I do have a little bit of a tagging system and Google Contacts. But, you know, the key is that people are going to fade in and out of your life. And I don’t need to super keep track of it. This isn’t like a database kind of thing that I have to activate per se. But what’s amazing is I so one of the key little things that I do, and I’ve done it for over 10 years now is I have open office hours. So you go to my website, dub dub, dub.hi billy.com. And you’ll see kind of, you know, connect with me, and and anybody can sign up for 20 minutes, I do a couple hours a week, every week. And I never know who’s gonna walk in the door. Well, the virtual door by the way, they’re all zoom now. And I just I never know, and they’re from all over the world, there’s someone who found something or saw me speak, you know, on stage. And, and I mentioned the same thing I just mentioned your audience and, and for 20 minutes, we can talk about whatever you want to talk about now, obviously, at my advanced age, and all of those contacts later, I don’t remember everyone. But I gotta tell you, if someone jumps on, or I run into him, you know, at a meet up or something. And they say, yeah, we’ve met, I said, you know, they don’t have to get more than four or five words in and you go, Oh, yeah, I remember us talking about that. How’s that going? My demeanor never changes. Obviously. I don’t have strong connections with 4000. What’s the notion is right, you can have about 150 close people and about 50 Super close people in your life. There’s some research on that and bar


Will Bachman  34:53

number weak ties. Yeah,


Chris Heivly  34:55

yeah, exactly. But you know what, I can turn any one of those on whenever I need it. So


Will Bachman  35:04

what’s the change that you’re trying to create in the world?


Chris Heivly  35:09

What’s the change that you can just accomplish so much more by not going solo, I think I’ve wasted years of my effort, you know, heads down, you know, back in my basement, or, or even in the companies that I was running, you know, sitting in my office, and I just want to tell people, like, get the heck out of your office, go talk to people go connect with people do it parts of every week, if not a couple times a week, and, and come in with this gift first. And the rewards that you will reap are tremendous. Now, I happen to care most about founders because I think more successful founders aren’t communities make our cities more robust. And a place where people want to come into and do good things and property values hold or rise and right, governments are happy because the revenues are good. Those are the places I want to live in. And so that’s what I that’s why I do it, what I’m hoping to accomplish.


Will Bachman  36:16

I love that purpose. I love that. So and I love that you have these office hours, I got to introduce you to Paul Millard. You guys are kindred souls. Paul does a similar thing. He is open problem solving sessions. I think I’ve and he’s going to be all over the world as well.


Chris Heivly  36:33

Please do. They’re amazing. By the way. I said, I have no idea who walks through I’ve met people of all different countries, different ages, and I get little something out of it. Now I’m smarter because of them, right? Because of the 20 minutes of what they share. So why not


Will Bachman  36:48

share with us one or two stories of connections that you’ve made for people where you connected kind of person X to person why and how you made a mutually beneficial connection? And I’d love to hear some success stories.


Chris Heivly  37:08

Ah, cheese? Yeah. I mean, it’s a great, it’s the perfect question. And now I have to


Will Bachman  37:19

as if you know, 4000 people,


Chris Heivly  37:22

when I was in high school, like 9000 people now,


Will Bachman  37:26

like even just the people that you’ve met the 4000, when I was in high school, I would have been able to calculate how many possible different connections you could make. I think it’s 4000 plus one divided by two times 4000, perhaps something like that. It’s a lot, because it like fourth out is like 3999 plus 399. And anyway, you’ve had a lot of possible connections, I’m sure that you know that there’s been some really amazing stories where you connected an investor to a founder or a founder to a potential client or a founder to a potential like, you know, co founder.


Chris Heivly  38:02

Yes. Yeah. And maybe before I’ve, hopefully have one of these bubble up, because, you know, the question is perfect. Except that I would say there’s a nuance implied in here, in that something amazingly magical happened out of that one little connection. And what I find is, success is through 1000 of those things, right? The whole riff on death by 1000 cuts, well, maybe the other, you know, I say, you know, successful 1000 nudges. I never know, I make probably, you know, 100 connections a month, right? Two or three a day, couple days a week, whatever, more as needed when asked, but what I will tell you is I don’t even know what happened with 99% of those, right? I trust that the universe is going to conspire that some of those are going to be unbelievable sparks. I may not know that that was my spark that happened to do that. I don’t really care. I just want to give the opportunity for that spark to happen. And so you know, I’m always introducing founders to investors, I’m always invited in introducing investors, what investors care about, they care about deal flow. So the more I introduce them to potential founders, I don’t know which ones are going to like their fire or not. If I overly curate that, I’m going to miss most of the sparks because I can’t predict where the sparks are gonna come from. So you really need to not have a scarcity mindset or an engineering mindset. You have to have kind of a universe mindset. You ask for a story. I’m going to twist the story around to something I’m going to tell my own story. Alright. So in our world of, you know, technology based startups, there’s a group called Tech Stars out of Boulder. They’re the big dogs in the country, right? They run these acts Elevator slash incubator programs. They’re the big dog. They’re really well known if you’re a, you’re a startup technology Maven, you know who TechStars is. And two of their four founders, I had met in 2009. I asked them how to, you know, what was the like, how did they do Boulder, which is an unbelievably innovative, tiny, but, you know, punches way above its way, kind of city. I said, How did you guys do it? And they gave me a bunch of advice, and I stayed in touch for years. Well, one of them Brad Feld has written eight or nine books and someone I really look up to. And so I stayed in touch, every so often loved yours post, you read your book, hey, by the way, we just reached our you know, 30th investment, blah, blah, blah, you know, share my news, complimenting them on their news, and just staying connected. And in 2017, when my incubator, we’re kind of moving on from our accelerator incubator, I reached out to those guys, and I said, Listen, you know, I’m ready to do something new. I don’t know if you guys would consider kind of moving to, you know, opening up, they’ve opened up, you know, 50 places around the world, consider Raleigh Durham, right here I am pitching my city. And they’re like, Hey, why don’t you come out to Boulder and hang out with us for a day, and we’ll show you, you know, we’ll talk about what we’re doing. And at the end of the day, for the first time in 20 years, this is back in 2017, I call my wife, I think I just took a job. And the thing is, the three of us decided that we were going to build a consulting company around how to build startup communities, all over the world. To be able to work with people that you’ve so thoroughly respected and kind of, maybe not put on a pedestal that sounds actually kind of negative, but you hold in high esteem. And for them to say, hey, let’s work on something together. All came because we connected, we stayed in a meaningful connection. We complement each other, we question, you know, we use each other when needed. And then when serendipity called to say, Hey, I’m in between things, and I want to help some communities in North Carolina, and they’re like, We want to help some communities in the world. Do you want to work on this together? And you’re you know, you’re you’re the people you aspire to be more like, say you want to work together? You’re like, Heck yeah, let’s do that. And so all of that came from building good connections, connecting with people and then supporting each other’s efforts.


Will Bachman  42:26

Amazing. I love that story. I want to ask you about Mapquest. And after you sold MapQuest, this is a little bit off the top of community, but just to dial back, and I’m so curious, after selling MapQuest, I imagine that you had, you know, you know, some kind of payout as a start and, you know, is one of the co founders, how did you know you probably working kind of 100 miles an hour, right to build this company? And then you, you know, sold it? What, what happened to you afterwards? What what, you know, how did what was your decision process around? What am I going to do next in life? Tell us a little bit about that journey.


Chris Heivly  43:06

Yeah, well, you know, we’re all kind of a little weird, right? We all are driven by different things. And I don’t sit still very well. So you know, after my immediately leaving MapQuest, I decided, so I jokingly say, well, that I have career add. So, you know, I shifted gears and wanted to become I helped our largest funder. In MapQuest, I came and ran a corporate venture fund for them, right? And so you’re gonna go find a quiet area, what is a lawnmower? So now here,


Will Bachman  43:42

which I cannot hear, by the way, so it’s okay, it’s not showing up on the audio?


Chris Heivly  43:46

Good to know. Yeah, so I went to run a corporate venture fund, and this is the late 90s, and learn how to, you know, invest at scale, and learn how to choose investments and figure out, you know, which companies are worth investing in, and which are worth skipping. So, you know, that was something new, it’s a whole new language, a whole new way of doing, you know, being involved in in kind of community from an investor point of view. So I did that for a while. And then, after three or four years, I realized that I missed, you know, the operating of a company. And so for probably 10 years after that, I was the guy that an investor would parachute into a stuck company and say, Hey, can you fix this, and these companies were, you know, as small as a million dollars in revenue and as big as 150 million in revenue, and I would take some, you know, executive position from some smaller ones, probably more CEO and CEO and you know, others were more like GM a division and say, Hey, could you go fix this for us? It fueled my ADD perfectly, because, you know, not unlike, you know, many of your listeners, you know, you know, one of the reasons we do management consulting is we got lots of different clients and we get a different problem every day or week or That’s right to help solve and, and so I enjoyed that from that point of view. And then, you know, eventually, I started hearing about these New Age incubators and was in my new home of Raleigh Durham, where I decided that I wanted to really make something happen for my community, which is when you know, the last 10 to 12 years really into that community


Will Bachman  45:20

point of view. Amazing. So,


Chris Heivly  45:24

Chris, I’m sure now it’s book writing, book writing,


Will Bachman  45:28

the build the fort series for So, again, the title is build a fort, the startup community builders field guide, we will include a link to that in the show notes. And Chris, share again will include you know, hively.com, that the best place for listeners that want to maybe book a meeting with you and do a office hours discussion, any other links that you’d want to share?


Chris Heivly  45:52

Yeah, I can share my email Chris at build the ford.com.


Will Bachman  45:57



Chris Heivly  45:59

And think about this, I mean, you know, your actions have to support your, your, your thoughts, Here am I just gave my website, my email, and I opened office hours, this is this is how you live the things that I just talked about right?


Will Bachman  46:13

Role modeling it, Chris, you are out there. You are living the community builder. And we’ll include hively.com and those in the show notes. Chris has been amazing. Having this discussion with you. I picked up some great tips from my own community. And I’m really thrilled to meet you and to hear what you’ve been building. It’s it’s incredible. Thank you so much for joining.


Chris Heivly  46:38

Well, thank you so much for for having me on your on your podcast. And if there’s anything I can do for you don’t hesitate to ask.


Will Bachman  46:46

Thank you very much.

Related Episodes


Automating Tax Accounting for Solopreneurs

Ran Harpaz


Integrating AI into a 100-year-old Media Business

Salah Zalatimo


Author of Second Act, on The Secrets of Late Bloomers

Henry Oliver


Third Party Risk Management and Cyber Security

Craig Callé