Leeches in the Startup Community

I don’t want to start the fall season off with such a negative post, but this has been on my mind for a while (and sorry for the gross picture, but it helps drive the point home). I promise my next post will be more positive.

The Startup Community thrives on amazing people. No matter which city you’re talking about, if there is a strong startup community, it is because there are champions who give so much back with very little if any expectation of return. This is seen through meetups and skillshare classes, outstanding VCs, angel investors and mentors, entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs, and so on. It’s a strange place to plug the NYC Tech Blood Drive while talking about leeches but I’m a big supporter and couldn’t resist, so sign up now :)

That being said, I have seen a few examples recently of people who aren’t so friendly and amazing. These people whom I will now refer to as leeches thrive off of the startup community that they claim to be a part of. And it makes me sick.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that everyone should be giving everything away for free. That’s not the point at all. I understand businesses and people need to make money, but when you are doing it in a disingenuous way at the expense of others, you are a leech sucking the life blood out of the community.

These leeches are very good at what they do and have created such a good coverup story to hide their true motives that they are often able to prey on the young and naive first time entrepreneurs. Sometimes they will only take a little bit and move on to the next one, and other times they will suck them dry. Very often they are only in it for the money and don’t give a shit about the people, projects or companies that will be affected along the way.

I don’t have an answer for how to stop these leeches, but what I will say is be careful and keep your eyes open — especially if you are brand new to the community. With all the amazing people in the startup community, it is very easy to let your guard down and not recognize a leech for what they are.

My only advice to you is to ask people you trust and always go with you gut.