The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2021

Building Entrepreneurial Communities

This contributed article was prepared by Pauly Suchy in a personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Startup Genome.

   Pauly Suchy undefined

Pauly Suchy is the Manager for Startup Programs at the Global Entrepreneurship Network, where he is responsible for running and growing GEN's key startup and investor programs. He is also the co-host of Creative Mornings Cleveland and the Black Entrepreneurship Summit.

The degree of local connectivity among members of an entrepreneurship ecosystem is a reliable predictor of success for startups in that ecosystem. Research conducted for the 2018 edition of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report found that communities with high levels of local connectivity support more startups. Founders with high levels of connectivity grow revenue twice as fast as those with lower levels. In recent years, more and more programs have popped up around the world to increase connectivity and offer local startups an environment in which they have a better chance of thriving rather than take their chances in a massive sink-or-swim tech hub.

What is connectivity? A sense of community. Local relationships. Collisions--running into others from the community. Density--how closely startups work with each other.

The Global Entrepreneurship Network designed Startup Huddle to create that connective tissue. The program helps build startup communities by rallying local ecosystems at regular meetups, or “huddles,” and crowdsources solutions to challenges faced by startups.

Since launching in 2018, Startup Huddle has expanded to more than 100 communities with local chapters hosting hundreds of events. It has also directly supported hundreds of entrepreneurs and forged local and global connections for thousands of ecosystem players. In 2021 grassroots organizers launched more than 20 chapters as catalysts for resilient economies in which entrepreneurs are key players.

Johanna Cloete is one of these organizers. She launched Startup Huddle in Swakopmund, Namibia, this year to help her community overcome the economic consequences of the pandemic. As in many coastal destinations, the city’s sandy beaches remained empty for the majority of 2020, straining the local tourism and hospitality sectors. Entrepreneurs scrambled to pivot businesses and explore new industries.

"If we face the impact of COVID-19 standing together as a community, we can support entrepreneurs to overcome its challenges,” said Cloete. “Startup Huddle Swakopmund brings together entrepreneurial leaders and supporters to mitigate that impact, for the benefit of everyone.”

The Startup Huddle format is consistent in each location. At a central meeting place, one or two early-stage startup founders give short presentations about their companies to a diverse audience. A question-and-answer session follows with peers, mentors, educators, and advisers, who provide constructive criticism focused on finding solutions and increasing founder know-how. With new founders cycling through each gathering and previous presenters joining the audience to give back, the community expands while connections deepen.

In Johannesburg, South Africa—one of the continent’s top five startup ecosystems—organizers are proud of the program’s impact on both entrepreneurs and community builders. Some startups have won pitch competitions with support from Startup Huddle. Others are inspired to launch the program in their cities.

“Startup Huddle has had a great impact on our community,” said local organizer Mahlatse Tolamo. “We have seen our startups grow, personally and professionally.”

In cities and towns of all sizes and at all stages of ecosystem development, the program is giving community builders a platform to address local needs. Entrepreneurs gain access to a global network of support and opportunities through GEN. The Station Foundation for Entrepreneurship, in Iraq, launched a chapter in Baghdad earlier this year and plans to expand as part of an effort to transform communities stigmatized by warfare and inequality.

"The need for an empowered private sector in Iraq has never been more apparent,” said local organizer Ashley Barlow. “Through Startup Huddle and the Global Entrepreneurship Network, we are poised to highlight our talents and Iraq’s growing entrepreneurship ecosystem to the international community. It will be a catalyst for opportunities that will help our startups grow, mature, and learn.”

To find a Startup Huddle chapter near you or to launch one in your city, visit