Ecosystems grow around stumps. And that’s the trick.
To grow around stumps, all you have to do it pretend they don’t exist.
Ignore them. Go around them. Look around. Add value to your community and connect to others doing the same.
Directly connect with their network, and beyond it. Don’t let them be a proxy or accept that they represent the community. Don’t accept it when they imply they have a good relationship with, or speak for any other resource in your community. Consider alternative resources to the ones they actually do. Look for other allies: competing organisations, novice co-organisers, companies or schools willing to lend their space, student entrepreneurship groups who’ll volunteer, community leaders outside of startups who’ll engage…
It gets quite easy when you take the attitude that the stumps are just too busy, or haven’t had the chance to see the opportunity that you do. This makes it easy for other people to collaborate with you, and easy for the stumps to come around and help later.
Or, you can make things simpler. When the London scene started to boom, we created Startup Burger Night. No speakers, no sponsors, nothing but founders and catching up over burgers and beer every Monday. It wasn’t big - it was simply a safe place to meet real founders that wasn’t announced on any events listing. Job done.
The stumps will always be there, and they won’t shrink away. What will grow around them will make them insignificant. In my experience, it costs a bit more effort, more actively reaching out to people and more creative thinking. But it’s worth it to see things grow to the next level.
If you feel discouraged, look at London and remember it’s not too far ahead. You can do it too.