Our Favorite Things We've Copied From Other Cities

Keith McMunn

Keith McMunn, Fellowship Director


Each year, the Awesome team travels to other vibrant startup ecosystems to find out what is working, what isn’t and, particularly, what can we copy. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and our team certainly isn’t above it. Of course, we do have a rule within our organization to always give credit where credit is due. With that in mind, big shout out to the following cities for being awesome, learning mistakes the hard way so we don’t have to, and sharing your wisdom.

Cincinnati, OH - The Community Mirror

  • After visiting our neighbor to the North, we drove back to Lexington agreeing that there are a lot of benefits to be had from creating an entity similar to Startup Cincy. Not only does it encourage regional pride and motivation to participate in the startup ecosystem, but it also acts as a “community mirror.” If you don’t like what you see (or don’t see) in our ecosystem, then take a look in the mirror and be the change you want. This type of thinking is so important. Ecosystem building is a community responsibility not to be thrown on the shoulders of only a few. Inspired by Startup Cincy, check out Startup Lex, the community mirror for Lexington, KY.

Atlanta, GA - The Ecosystem Map

  • When it comes to empowering newcomers to jump right into the action, we’re not sure if anybody does it better than Atlanta. Startup Atlanta put together one of the best startup ecosystems maps we’ve seen. Whether you’re brand new to the area or you’re a seasoned entrepreneur looking for funding, the ecosystem map guides you through a web of relationships in and around the Atlanta area to help you find what you’re looking for. Although we’re not the same size, we saw a need to create a similar offering for those in the Lexington ecosystem. It has been great so far. Joining our ecosystem from the coasts, we’ve had multiple transplants walk through our doors as a result of finding our organization on the Lexington ecosystem map.

Covington, KY - Turnover Playbooks

  • Turnover can be tough. We learned from a visit to Covington how to make it more empowering than handicapping. Understanding that very few (if any) people stay in one place forever, members of the Covington ecosystem are encouraged to put together concise playbooks detailing specifically how they serve startups and the community. When a new opportunity calls, the playbook makes for a smoother transition in and out. It also typically means that the previous person’s ceiling is the new person’s floor, which can only mean good things for the ecosystem!

Cincinnati, OH - Let The Wrong Customers Quit

  • When you’re an innovative space, it’s no surprise that many different types of people want to work from and utilize your community. We owe it to a popular coworking space in Cincinnati for learning ahead of us the value of lasering in on your target customer profile. Entrepreneurship and startups are inherently creative, but not all creatives are a good fit for your co-working space. It won’t take long to find that some have extra needs, which can make it challenging to give all of your clients an excellent experience. Cincinnati restructured its membership agreement to effectively allow their wrong customers to quit on them. It happened and was uncomfortable for a time, but it proved to be a wise decision later on.

Tampa Bay, FL - Collaborative Working With Options for Privacy

  • We saw a great balance of public and private workspace designated for builders in the Tampa Bay ecosystem. We noticed that nobody was particularly “too important” to work within collaborative workspaces but it was necessary for them to have private office spaces for refuge and confidential conversations. After visiting Tampa Bay, our team strives to make sure that we don’t “require” private spaces when it’s not imperative.

Austin, TX - The VIP Tour

  • After visiting Austin, TX, we were impressed by the idea of a differentiated tour specifically for visitors deemed VIP. By getting warm introductions and adequately outlining our reasons for wanting to visit, an incubator in Austin treated us to the VIP experience, which meant that we’d get to talk to more people along the tour route. We learned about their accelerator, coworking space, and bootcamp in detail. This idea is helpful for our internal team at Awesome. Only to be used sparingly, when our team gets an alert that a VIP tour is on the schedule, we will be ready to give that person or group an extra informative and excellent experience.

Austin, TX - Geography Limitations Are What You Let Them Be

  • It was humbling to visit Austin and learn repeatedly that the members of their ecosystem saw the proximity to Dallas as a strength for startups. Dallas is 3.5 hours away! We felt spoiled to explain that our region has 3 vibrant ecosystems within an hour and a half from each other. We came back to Kentucky more determined than ever to collaborate and innovate alongside our neighboring cities. We are avoiding overlap where it’s avoidable and filling gaps where we recognize them.

We are excited to admit that very little of what we do for our ecosystem is an original idea. The truth is that many ecosystems are impressive and vibrant. If they’ve found strategies that work and we suspect that it could work in Lexington as well, great! If they’ve learned some lessons the hard way and can save us from making similar mistakes, even better! Know that when you visit the Lexington, KY startup ecosystem, much of what you’ll experience has come from the advice and the example of our friend cities.