How it Started - Joe Procopio
I invited 12 founders to the first ExitEvent Startup Social, and 50 showed up. When I first opened up the network, requests came in rushes. When I first put content up on the site, the audience exploded. It was always more than I could handle, and the sacrifice was to keep ExitEvent underpowered. This sucked, because for over two years I knew it could be more than it was. Turning away business is a good problem to have, but when that business is making startups better, it's not a good problem at all. It's just a problem that needs a solution. Stat.
It took the better part of those two years for me to swallow my pride and decide that there was probably someone out there who could do ExitEvent better than me. In any case, I knew there were several people out there who could devote more time to it, because they were already coming to me. So this past summer I started seriously listening to what the options were, and thankfully, one set of options made perfect sense.
I've known Adam Klein since he was doing really cool things at the Durham Chamber, making a lot of something out of next-to-nothing. With each project he took on, there was always more to it than what the average person saw, and when he went over to American Underground, he brought that ethos with him. Today, American Underground isn't just about a place for startups to sit. It's a lot more than that. I'm not sure anyone has the exact handle on what it'll become, but now it has a voice.
Why American Underground Got Involved - by Adam KleinI was at a table at the Innovate Raleigh Summit event last September with about five entrepreneurs and we were given the question: What does this region need, right now, to accelerate our startup community?
To a person, the startup founders said: A startup news site that covers the Triangle area in detail and is a megaphone to investors and interested parties outside the area. One even said, "You know, like ExitEvent, but bigger."
Michael Goodmon and I had already been talking about the same idea, had even been talking to Joe, but that conversation solidified that the need was there. We really felt like we could bring new and more resources to ExitEvent while maintaining and bolstering the grittiness of the site.
What's Going to Change - by Joe ProcopioI really want to say "Nothing's going to change." But that isn't true nor is it the right thing to do. If we're talking about the vibe of the site, the tenor of the Startup Social, or the direction and strategy, that's all going to remain for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. The reason I chose American Underground is because they get it. They don't just talk the talk.
One thing that's going to change is there's going to be more. We're going to have more and better content, more and better Socials, a bigger network, with more interaction, and many, many more opportunities available to more entrepreneurs.
Look, what's kept ExitEvent so vibrant for so long is that it's providing something people want. That's really the formula for any successful startup. So, you know, you don't change the formula, you accelerate the growth.
In any case, I'm still going to be around. There's just going to be a lot more people working on the mission.
What's Going to Be New - by Adam KleinFirst off, we're hiring a full-time person to run ExitEvent and take it to the next level. Laura Baverman, who has nearly 10 years of experience covering startups and venture capital on a national scale (including writing for USA Today and Upstart Business Journal), will be leading the charge. She's going to bring a national perspective to the things happening and businesses starting in this region -- and focus on the people behind the companies, not just the progress they're making.
But Laura will also need extra hands and brains and we see an opportunity to create a strong advisory board made up of regional and national leaders to help with content ideas and drive the direction of the site. This group will ensure the site stays focused on startups in a unique, entrepreneur-led way while also bringing in people who can help open doors and opportunities for our region in Silicon Valley and even overseas. We have no shortage of ideas for how to grow the site and I expect putting this board in a room for a few hours will produce even bigger ideas.
Lastly, I really want to stress that this site will remain independent from American Underground operations. We see this as a chance to bring new resources and a spotlight to startups across the region and eventually the state and Southeast, regardless of their affiliation with us. It gives us a chance to bring a unified voice to the Triangle community as we communicate to people across the US and around the world.
Tons of Thanks - by Joe ProcopioI've got so many people to thank for helping make ExitEvent happen, especially the ones who understood what I wanted to do with ExitEvent from the very beginning.
That starts with Erik Myers at Mystery Brewing, who didn't hesitate for a second when I asked him to pour for the first Startup Social and for the many that would follow. Cathy Hofknecht was like the unofficial ExitEvent mom from the first Social, and everyone at Neu Concepts was incredibly open and welcome and nice.
Craig Isdahl and Dash Systems were like having my own IT department, and considering that I code until things break, that was not an easy task. The writers, led by Ann Johnston, who became amazing, and Jake Finkelstein, Mital Patel, Jivan Achreja, Blake Callens, and all the others who wrote one or more brilliant, unique articles.
Thanks to veteran founders like Aaron Houghton, who hosted two Socials at his home, and all the others who showed up and gave more than they got. Thanks to all who hosted Socials in five cities, and thanks to everyone who gave me encouragement along the way.
Finally, thanks to American Underground for having the vision to take this to the next level. I met Laura Baverman when she first got here. I dug her writing, and she wrote a couple things early on when we just started doing content. I've been keeping an eye on her work with USA Today and Upstart, and I think she's going to be just awesome at this.
This was a very cool, very punk thing that happened. I can't wait to see what happens next.