10 Steps to Rebrand Your City as a Startup Hub

Aaron Perlut
Aaron Perlut Partner, Elasticity

Posted on February 8th 2014

10 Steps to Rebrand Your City as a Startup Hub

ImageMuch like a hipster with a good mustache, referring to your city as a haven for startups is rather “in” right now. Startup hubs are currently popping up in the older Rustbelt cities where manufacturing once led the way.

Several cities – Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Nashville, and Louisville – are making strong runs at realistically developing ecosystems that accommodate hungry entrepreneurs much like Austin, Seattle and Charlotte have previously over the past two decades.

But once the essential elements are in place to create the ecosystem and support startups – venture capital, incubators, accelerators, mentoring and more – how do cities attract entrepreneurs? How do they rebrand themselves as fertile territory for startups, effectively articulating a story and reshaping perception?

There are a number of vital processes, tools, and subtleties that are essential to a startup hub’s success. They include:

  1. Start with the hardest part — ensure the influencers of the region are on the same page, understanding the essential need for nurturing startups as a means to a productive economic future.
  2. Develop a strong, realistic messaging platform with minimal corporate speak (avoid terms like “disruptive” and “revolutionary”) about the region’s commitment to nurturing startups.
  3. Create a central online hub – a website that is clear, concise and easily navigable — to tell the story through a steady drumbeat of original and aggregated content.
  4. Linking to original and aggregated content housed on various platforms that highlights startup activities in the region. I recommend a customer relationship management tool like that developed by St. Louis startup Hatchbuck or the better-known MailChimp to reach investors and entrepreneurs. Don’t push information too frequently (maybe once a month), minimize fluff, and use real numbers (investor fundraises, partnerships with larger conglomerates, and so on).
  5. This might be the hardest part for CEOs or non-communicators — but try to understand how media actually works. Reporters don’t tend to write a lot of feature pieces on individual slices of life, they don’t care about how great you think your company is, but they will pay attention to broader trends. Grasping this is half the battle, and then you simply need to know who is covering startups, small business, or entrepreneurism and build relationships with them.
  6. Create compelling social media content such as short video pieces, interesting infographics, and thought pieces, like blog posts or op-eds. Then actively manage the online communities and create a detailed yet flexible content calendar that guides sharing the content through social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, and to a lesser degree, on Facebook.
  7. Create a signature event or series of events showcasing bright local minds and helping connect locals with nationally respected entrepreneurs and investors.
  8. Employ a search engine optimization strategy that pushes your region higher in search rankings for terms like “startups,” “small business,” and “entrepreneurism.” Beyond the technical aspects of SEO, building and attracting links from other sites is fundamental to greater search visibility.
  9. While SEO is a longer-term strategy to drive traffic, use paid search more quickly obtain high quality traffic.
  10. Invest in an experiential mobile unit takes the regional startup experience to targeted conferences and other key events.

If the pieces are in place, rebranding a region as a startup hub isn’t brain surgery. It just takes a disciplined, all-in approach that removes parochialism, with influencers and young minds (translation: Not just old rich white people) rowing in the same direction, employing a well-informed communications strategy that is in touch with the realities of today’s media world.

Aaron Perlut

Aaron Perlut

Partner, Elasticity

A 20-year media and marketing veteran, Aaron Perlut is founder of digital marketing and PR firm Elasticity, the crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform Rally Saint Louis, and startups conference StartupVoodoo

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Comments

I like this piece as it is something which I am currently investigating. One of the key challenges appears to be the location of the hub, so I am looking at unused commercial property. The next challenge is to carve out a sustainable business model and attract investment.

Very good article, stand out one are the tips.

I appreciate the shoutout your article gives to Charlotte, North Carolina. Thanks from @anthonycaputi

A great thought-piece. Most economic development officers are failed real-estate guys armed with ipads.

No clue about what start-ups need, nor do they care. A new call center is the same as a team of engineers to most of them.

"So what are your scientists doing?" You'll get a deer caught in the headlights look in return. Every EDO in the US should read this.

 

I shared this article on my Scoop.it pages under the 'Venture Capital Stories' topic. Excellent information, it will help people cut some corners, avoid mistakes, and shorten the process.

Thanks for the shout out for Pittsburgh. Yes we are a start up town!