One of the more rational voices during the recent chatter about startup events was Michael Blake. He asked the rather simple question “are there specific events that you think have outlived their usefulness?” and threatened to throw me under the bus in retaliation if I mentioned StartupLounge. I am sure there are lots of buses I could throw myself under. Not going to do that.
When I was with my first startup I never attended events unless I was speaking or it was a business development activity. That, along with extensive travel left me not well networked. Not a good place to be. I got a bit connected and then involved with another startup. I committed to not letting my network wither. Toward that end, though the demands of rapidly growing a company made it difficult, I made it a professional development goal to go to about two events per month. If I were an earlier stage entrepreneur, although I might have the time to attend many more events, I would follow the same general rule. Target two per month, sometimes do more, sometimes do less. And this is how I might spend that time.
Attend the annual Startup Riot. Nice big event. Good networking. Opportunity to see lots of early stage startups present. Watching others present and listening to the crowd feedback is a great learning opportunity. If I were actually presenting at the Riot I would go to Startup Gauntlet to get open and honest feedback on my pitch.
I would attend StartupLounge. Again, nice big event. Great networking. Build relationships with some folks that might be able to help you down the line. Go to PitchCamp to prepare. It’s a quarterly event. As long as you are making significant strides in moving your business forward go every other quarter.
Go to the GRA/TAG Business Launch Competition finals. It will give you a view as to what people believe to be better seed stage companies. If you think you are ready or need a forcing event, apply. It will make you get some stuff done and you may get a mentor.
Startup Weekend. If you have never been in a startup before this is a nice little proxy for what it is like. We seem to do a pretty good job of launching companies like InstantLoop, Twitpay, and Skribit.
ATDC Showcase. This annual event is getting bigger and better every year.
Atlanta CEO Council. This is where the big dogs play. Meets six times a year. Need $1 million in capital raised or $5 million in revenue to get in the door.
Throw in ad-hoc and niche happenings in your area of interest and you are done. That would be my approach.
Now I have three questions for you entrepreneurs and startups. You are the customers of all this activity. I believe that event organizers would all welcome candid feedback. What specific events are helping to move you forward? What specific events do you think have outlived their
usefulness? Or put another way, if an entrepreneur came to you and asked for your advice about what events they should attend, what would you tell them?