“What it is is part of a recipe,” says Tyler Crowley, the startup community consultant behind the Nordic startup communities’ latest hashtags. “One of the key ingredients is forming a flag for that community – essentially a hashtag or a brand.”
Crowley grew up in the Los Angeles startup scene, which was successful in organizing and branding LA as not just Hollywood but a home for startups in part by rallying under the #siliconbeach hashtag. Once the hashtag was up and getting used, participants and observers in the community had a place to follow all of the community’s news, and to dump new information. Solving this information problem was part of the key of transforming LA’s startup image to itself, and to outsiders.
Growing from his experiences in LA, roughly a year ago Crowley moved into Stockholm, hired by Stockholm Business Region to help create more momentum for their startup scene and to put in place his personal recipe for a successful startup ecosystem.
Since then he’s successfully implemented #STHLMtech into Stockholm’s startup subconscious, but he hasn’t stopped there. This fall spoke at an event in Krakow, Poland, and got the startup community there rallied under the beautiful #OMGKRK hashtag. Copenhagen became jealous from the noise coming out of Stockholm, and Thomas Madsen-Mygdal (behind today’s previous article on Somewhere) got ten names from Copenhagen’s tech community in a room to share the formula with Crowley up on Skype, who later gathered around 70 entrepreneurs together to agree on the triumphant #CPHFTW hashtag.
“You get everyone in a room together, then you get suggestions, and you do it,” says Crowley matter-of-factly. Unlike in LA, it helps he comes as an outsider to these communities, because then no one feels like someone has something to gain or lose by organizing under a certain hashtag. And it’s quicker; to form a hashtag naturally it could take years for a community to figure out on its own.
“For example in LA we realized we needed one because we’re really good at marketing. But we couldn’t agree on one. Some key people really hated that [#siliconbeach] brand and some people loved it. It took a long time to get adopted because some people didn’t want to use it if some key people were so against it.”
The offline hashtag
Another ingredient in Crowley’s recipe for a strong startup community is a monthly event that Crowley dubs the town hall meeting. “It’s the living embodiment of the hashtag,” he says.
We at ArcticStartup have only been in Stockholm for one of the events, but it’s become a huge monthly production in the Slussen Hilton. The feeling of the event is one part tech conference – in the Hilton you walk down a long hallway of demo booths with Stockholm startups like Wrapp, Magine, and others giving out stickers and talking shop.
But once the crowd settles into the auditorium, the event moves to an old-timey and “offline” feel. Crowley plays town crier, announcing the news of the month by basically reading TechCrunch headlines about Swedish companies – stuff you’ll see on the #STHLMtech hashtag. The crowd applauds as Crowley points for the names mentioned in the crowd to stand up. The point of this, Crowley says, is for people to see that these newsmakers are in the crowd with the rest of everyone.
Later, the program moves to announcements, where near anyone can get up on stage to talk about their Java meetup, for example. And for the pitching and presentation section, they’ll get some investors up on stage, like Mangrove, Northzone, or Creandum and interview them, and put them awkwardly on the spot about investing in the companies that give short pitches onstage.
Meanwhile throughout the program Crowley is educating people in the room about using the hashtag. “SthlmTech Meetups are the living embodiment of the hashtag. The event is about how do we take things to the next level – and how do we celebrate it and take part.”
You can’t go this far in talking about hashtags in our region without mentioning Estonia – the one country that has been successful in joining under its own hashtag independently: the #EstonianMafia.
As has been Crowley’s experience, it took an outsider to put it in place. As Jüri Kaljundi, founder of the prizewinning Weekdone app tells us, the first usage came from Dave McClure, who founded and runs the Mountain View-based incubator, 500 startups.
According to Kaljundi, a bunch of Estonians were in front of the Angel Pad incubator in San Francisco, like the Pipedrive guys and so on. “The Estonians were smoking in the street and were arguing whether a company was Erply or Zerply. Dave said, ‘Come on guys, you are the Estonian Mafia. Don’t you know what company it was?'”
— Dave McClure (@davemcclure) August 24, 2011
“The hashtag originated then,” says Kaljundi, “and a couple people used it but it was a little quiet. But then when McClure and some other people were together again at some Seedcamp events a half a year later then some people started using it.”
“For the startup scene it added another point of camraderie and visiblity,” says Siim Teller, who is now representing the #EstonianMafia in London as the Head of Marketing at Ondevice Research. “It helped us in the ‘Estonia as a startup hub’ branding.”
“I think its a good organic brand name,” says Kaljundi. “Sometimes nations or governments try to set up government slogans. I think the Estonian thing for travel is #positivelytransoforming or something artificial. But I think this says something about Estonian startups. We are a tight-nit and close society so I think its a good fit.”
It’s clear cities in the rest of the ArcticStartup region deserve their own Hashtags- from capitals like Helsinki, Oslo, Riga, and Vilnius, to smaller startup hotspots like Oulu or Gothenburg.
Being based in Helsinki, I’ve been brainstorming what I would suggest for our community, other than the workhorse #HelsinkiTech hashtag I see Silicon Vikings putting on our posts on Twitter. Helsinki, I think we need to have a meeting with Tyler Crowley.