ExitEvent: Just Getting STARTed
Entrepreneurs, Investors, Support Orgs, Service Providers - We've Got Something For Everyone Now2.15.12
Monday night, I had the honor to pour beer and socialize with a mix of over 100 RTP area entrepreneurs at the eighth ExitEvent Startup Social. In just under three hours, I made sure I introduced myself to everyone in the room (which is easy to do from behind the taps), and witnessed everyone having a great -- no, phenomenal time, thanks mostly to Mystery Brewing, who provides the excellent craft brew, and Neu Concepts, who lends us their incredible space.
|I've been at this for just over ten months, a little under a year. And in that time I've watched the network grow to almost 400 members, over 250 of which are entrepreneurs from over 150 startups.|
But It's Not Just the Numbers.
We had folks from startup vets @Adzerk, @Appia, @ArgyleSocial, @DigitalSmiths, @iContact, @KeonaHealth, @Shoeboxed, @Zift and of course @Statsheet (to name a few), mixing it up with newly minted @ArchiveSocial, @PengoLoans, and @Motaavi_News (to name even fewer).
Also mingling were support organizations Triangle Startup Factory, Joystick Labs, Groundwork Labs, Triangle Entrepreneurship Week, and CED (Triangle Startup Weekend has attended before but could not make it Monday).
And for the first time, investors were socializing from Southern Capitol Ventures, Triangle Angel Partners, and IMAF-RTP (IDEA Fund Partners has also attended before, and also couldn't make it Monday).
And It's Not Just Durham
Another thing I noticed last night is that ExitEvent has, like some kind of blob, oozed way beyond the reaches of downtown Durham. This is by design, I never wanted ExitEvent to be a local machine, and it's been gratifying to see several startups make the drive from Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
But even more recently, I handed out memberships to startups in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Greenville. And last week I took a call from an entrepreneur in Columbia, SC, who looked me up out of the blue to get advice on reaching out to RTP investors.
The blob will continue to grow. Raleigh startups continue to roll in. The gamers are starting to show. I'll be staking a claim in DC later this month when I head up to the Southeast Venture Conference. I've even gotten nice notes and inquiries from the West Coast (*cough cough*).
It's Not Just the Party
My vision for the Social continues to be the anti-networking event. No agenda, no nametags, no speeches, no selling. If I can get all these hardworking entrepreneurs to stop working for three hours, then I've done my job.
And while an entrepreneur-only (and now investors) monthly celebration of startups is no doubt the cornerstone of ExitEvent, it's also just the fuel. I've said this a lot -- at some point ExitEvent has to offer something more than a party.
We've made some inroads.
Over the coming weeks, ExitEvent will roll out several programs to take the network beyond social all the way to somewhat useful.
We've already got the Startup Directory, the Support Organization Directory, and the Investor Directory. Today, we're adding the Press directory.
Office Hours has been a successful, smaller meetup that has allowed groups of 3-10 (so far) a quieter, saner time to ask and answer questions. Going forward, I'll use Office Hours as an opportunity for established entrepreneurs, mentors, and advisors to mentor, advise, teach, and make connections for newer entrepreneurs.
I've been careful about managing communication within the database. Soon, I'll open the channels a bit for startups and investors to allow pitches, questions, requests, ratings, and so on.
Some other online features I'm considering are startup spotlights, guest blogs, and maybe bringing back the forums now that we've reached a critical mass. But I'd love to know what you think. Tweet at me (@jproco)
It's Not Even Just the Startups
Just as important to the startup ecosystem are the service providers. I'm a big proponent of this, since I have a foot in both camps. And a question I get a lot is: "Do you know anyone who does X who would be willing to give a startup a break in the hopes of winning their business?"
Yeah, absolutely I do.
So as of today, I'm formally launching a beta of ExitEvent Services, which will allow service providers to offer themselves, at a discount, to any verified startup in the ExitEvent network.
This is far more efficient than a directory, conference, or networking event. This is a direct line for companies that offer services that startups need to get in early and build a relationship with these young companies.
Yes, it is a paid service. But it's better and cleaner than paid sponsorship or pay-per-click advertising and it also puts the lines of communication exactly where they need to be.
Since I put ExitEvent Services live on the site on Monday, I've had one service provider tell me:
"I put the post up this morning and someone responded within a couple hours."
So I know it works.
Sign in (or join) now and you can submit a service. Once you pay, it goes live. Simple. Lean. Efficient.
So to all you important, valuable, and hardworking service providers, I've been saying all along that I'll have features that you'll find useful. Sure, there's no free beer involved, but welcome to the party.
What It Is Is All of You
And it is a party, because, like a party without guests, I'm completely aware that without the entrepreneurs, investors, support orgs, and service providers who have stepped up, ExitEvent would be a big awkward bag of nothing.
(and P.S. Job Seekers and Small Business Owners, haven't forgotten about you, more coming there as well)