As for evidence of its necessity, I got a nice little reminder yesterday at Startup Summit during the panel on Entrepreneur Seed Stage Perspectives, when my robotic writing partner Robbie Allen, the founder and CEO of Automated Insights, answered a question about how budding entrepreneurs should get started:
Go network. Get to know other entrepreneurs and create relationships with investors. Find advisors. Use them, and realize it's your responsibility to use them often, not theirs.
The series of ExitEvent Startup Socials in Durham and Raleigh is providing a really convenient place to do just that (among other things), and in doing so it has produced this massive usable network of players and their information, not only in this area, but throughout North Carolina, up to New York, down to Atlanta and Florida, and even out West. It's robust, amazing, and totally the reason I wanted to get all these people into one room in the first place.
Plus the tap is only about 5% turned on. As I get more people involved verifying and writing and what have you, I can get it to 100% and beyond.
The party is the bait, the trap is the value inherent in building a digital backbone to multiple startup hubs spoking outwards from Durham. With the startup news feed, and the directories, and the services, and the calendar, and all that is in the product pipeline, I want you to keep coming back to ExitEvent.com and logging in and finding it extremely useful. In an ideal world, you'll check in every morning to get a sense of what's going on in your hub, either directly through us or (more likely) via the connections you've made.
I know. That's an awesome vision. Right?
So it begs the question, how long do I keep throwing the Social? Also, how far does it go? Do I do Charlotte, which is tentatively planned for December? Do I venture up to DC, where I've been getting inbound asking me to come up and do my thing?
Shit. I was thinking absolutely. Now I honestly don't know.
See, two things happened with this most recent Social Monday night in Durham.
1) It was admittedly less attended, with only about 100-120 entrepreneurs and investors through the gate. In fact, one of the investors looked me in the eye and told me I was nuts to schedule it during this packed week of startup events (Startup Summit & Internet Summit & IS Rocks). Whatever, the challenge is what made it so enticing. Plus, we had just as much fun and it was just as productive, probably more so.
2) Over the last week or so, we've been getting mentioned -- in shout-outs, on giant screens like the accompanying article picture (look for us below bing or, as I was corrected, look for bing above us), and even in widely-read news articles -- as a startup resource. And when these shout-outs and articles happen, ExitEvent is being mentioned in the same breath as the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), a 25+ year old non-profit dedicated to helping startups and small businesses, Triangle Startup Factory, an accelerator who can provide up to $200K in funding, Bull City Forward, another popular non-profit that promotes social entrepreneurship, and even the local metro Chambers of Commerce.
The first part made me think that I can finally put quantity behind me, critical mass has been achieved, it'll grow on its own, and I can get to work on exposing the quality that I've built into the network.
The second part made me realize that finally... finally the first thing people think of when they think of ExitEvent is "resource," not "free beer."
That right there, my friends, is data, feedback I can use to shape the next few months in the life of ExitEvent to make it stronger, make it provide more value, and make it an honest to goodness resource.
Not that the Social will go away. It won't. I may even do Charlotte in December and then come right back and do Raleigh and Durham in the following months. What I do know is that the evolution has happened and the emphasis has changed.
In retrospect, it really didn't take that long.