impact punk

"My journey discovering my values"

Friday, 3 Mar 2017
Lenz Gschwendtner


For most of my adult life I was to some degree involved in internet infrastructure and the open source community. These two communities are special in one very fundamental trait, they only work if people collaborate. I did not realise that this was such a special thing till I encountered other communities that were much more elitist and harder to approach and did not understand what made them different till way later in my life.

I grew up with implicit privileges I was not aware of for a very long time. I am a white male European, got a good education and had parents that taught me creative thinking. I have been fortunate enough that I got jobs in the past that helped me grow my experience and confidence and made me work with awesome people that taught me everything I know.

Looking back my value system evolved over time from an open, collaborative mindset that is open as long as you contribute like we have in the open source scene and the internet infrastructure community to a way deeper understanding on how welcoming communities work. The first fundamental new cultural value that I added to my core value set was diversity, as a white male I was pretty oblivious of that problem for a long time till I started working with more diverse teams and understood what I was missing out on. I started to pay attention to it and working with teams and contributing to communities that have a high degree of diversity became more and more important to me.

With collaborative and diverse teams and communities I thought I had my value system pretty much sorted till I realised that some communities are very much driven by a few people at the top. Communities that are built like ivory towers and are anything but approachable or welcoming even if they think they are. I started to add transparent and welcoming to my value set over time as a result.

Over the years I have seen that there are broadly two types of people that build communities, the ones that try to dominate them and the ones that step back as soon as there are a few others and then help those become awesome without pushing their own ego. The second type is more aligned with my values and I think more sustainable as I have seen quite a few of the strong ego driven communities fall short when the people at the top burn out so I started building and contributing to those flat communities more, very much pushing a “no-ego give before you take” mentality.

A lot about building functioning communities for me is about listening and then asking the right questions. Just like mentoring teams and startups it is a lot about listening to others so empathy became another really important value I push for in communities I am involved in. The journey to where I am right now will hopefully not be the end of discovering values that become more important to me in the future. I hope that I can continue to learn from others about values I have been ignorant about so far and hope that people teach me about them in the years to come.

Building communities that are value driven help to create communities that people want to be part of. If you struggle to find people that want to be part of your community, sit down with everyone, create a value set that you believe in and start to work towards that. Live your values, don’t just talk about them and evolve them over time to reflect the people in your community.

What community values do you want to see in a community you are part of? How does your journey of discovering values look like? Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the hashtag #startupcommunityvalues.


Dan has written a post about a shared community operating system [over at the blog] (

Pascale has written a very insightful post about navigating the future with values based communites on the VentureCentre blog

Dave has written up a post about his work in Startup Weekend and how he wants to bring values into everything he is involved in. Read [his post over at his blog] (

Peter has writen a very insightful post about the more international angle of the startup community on his blog

Jane wrote a very personal view of how she found her tribe on her blog

Colart added a piece on how he sees the bigger picture and how a value driven discussion about our future is needed more than ever. Read it on the velox innovation blog

Sarah wrote a wonderful piece about her role in supporting and participating in what has to be the most complete list of startup initiatives in the country. Read her impressive lineup and takeaways on medium