I doubt we can keep it much of a secret moving forward, unless we call it something like a "double-secret-probation secret" location.
Aaron has been a big fan and supporter of ExitEvent since I sent out the first dozen invites to Startup Social #1 back in June 2011 (this past Monday was Startup Social #21). That initial dozen invites turned into 50 attendees, entrepreneurs bringing entrepreneurs, and that number has grown and stayed solid at about 100-200 entrepreneurs who show up, every month, to the Startup Social.
Aaron doesn't have to be a fan or a supporter of ExitEvent. In fact, after selling his startup iContact to Vocus last year for $169 million, he doesn't have to do much of anything. But just like he used his success with iContact to fuel BoostSuite, he's lending his influence as a successful entrepreneur to ExitEvent in an effort to help build a stronger startup community.
I get that. Having gone through the fundraising process with Automated Insights (and a history with other NC startups), I can confirm that it would have been much easier to raise money out west. We even got one offer for a check cut on the spot if we moved to the Valley. We didn't take it. We like it here. Aaron likes it here. So if here can be a better place to start a company, we're all over helping make that happen.
And although I would love to take credit for that description of the Startup Social, I can't. That was Aaron as well, in this article in WRAL TechWire. But I can say that his description is probably the thing I'm most proud of when I think of how ExitEvent has grown and gained acceptance within my peer group of entrepreneurs and investors, not just here in the Triangle, but nationwide.
It's the entrepreneurs who attend, successful or just starting out, checking their egos at the door, that is what the event fosters.
Early on in the evening, a new startup founder approached me with:
"Hey, I really want to meet Aaron Houghton."
I looked around a bit, found him in the crowd, and pointed him out:
"He's right over there."
New-founder kind of stared at me for a second.
"Dude, just go up and introduce yourself."
Ten minutes later, somebody else:
"Hey, I really want to meet Scott Moody."
Same thing. And by the way, the Startup Social turned out to be the place where Moody and Houghton caught up, something they had been trying to do for weeks.
I met and chatted for a while with Poornima Vijayashanker, who I had been emailing a bit with but once I got into a conversation with her, I understood what she's trying to do with Femgineer ten times better than before.
While that and some of my other conversation was about ExitEvent or the startup environment or the Triangle or football, most of what I talked about was Automated Insights, which I spend most of my waking time trying to make hugely successful. I got to talk about what I was going through with people who were going through the same things. I learned a few things, and I hope I gave some good advice in return.
Because that's the reason I'm at the Startup Social. It's the same reason Houghton and Moody and Klein and Vijayashanker and everyone else are at the Startup Social -- egos in check, looking for that thing that's going to help them get to the next level.