On Wednesday February 6 at about 1:00 AM, the Local-Ventures beta website went live. Our team was exhausted, but we had launched a beautiful new website, and were anxious to show the world what we had built. It was time for a launch event.
But hosting a successful event is time and resource consuming, and for the past month, all hands on deck had been focused on launching. So instead of having our own company launch party, Local-Ventures showcased at Startup And Play. It was an excellent fit for us and it taught me that a pre-existing-event-based launch might be right for any early-stage startup.
Startup And Play is a quarterly event, attended by about 200 people, that aims to “create a groundswell of support for Triangle startups.” At each event, about a dozen new local startups showcase in a show-don’t-tell fashion. It’s not a typical showcase. Emphasis is on attendees experiencing what showcasing companies have to offer.
For example, the Local-Ventures website helps small businesses and startups connect with quality B2B vendors in the local community. So at our booth, our website was live and ready to use. We also unveiled a 3-minute video that captured our mission.
Why was Startup And Play a good fit for us? There are a few reasons.
1. It was easy. To showcase, we had to submit a relatively brief application and pay $50. We also emailed event details to Local-Ventures’ 600 small business subscribers, wrote a blog post, and ran a social media campaign promoting the event. This is relatively little work compared to the energy and funds we would have spent hosting our own event with equivalent benefits.
2. The attitude of attendees. Many attendees were entrepreneurs themselves, and were naturally interested in other startups. Some weren’t, and approached us as a fascinating species that called for careful observation. Either way, attendees wanted to learn about our company. This is not the case at many traditional showcases. There were thankfully only a few people who showed up to pass out their own brochures.
3. What it did for our team at a critical point in the company’s development. This was the greatest benefit for Local-Ventures. After a month of putting everything we had into launching, and a final five-day push with little sleep, it was important for us to see others experience the value in what we had built.
The culture of the event is relaxed and ready-to-support. That doesn’t mean companies can just show up and expect people to give them high fives. But if your team has worked hard to build something useful, you will get external moral support that can be so important for new startups.
This support comes from attendees, as well as other showcasing founders, and the Startup And Play organizers. A few weeks before the event, Aaron Gerry, event co-founder, scheduled a call with each showcasing company asking if there was anything at all that the organizers could do to support them as a company.
Companies who have showcased at Startup And Play have gotten new customers, users, interns, and more as a result of the event. Local-Ventures got new users, and connected with potential strategic partners. But the soft benefits outweighed the quantifiable ones.
My recommendation to other companies considering showcasing at Startup And Play: If you’re a new startup, do it.
If your only goal is to immediately increase your registered user-base, there might be better ways of doing so. If you’re expecting to meet investors, you’ll likely be disappointed. But you will get on-the-spot feedback, you will meet other entrepreneurs with whom you will stay in touch, your team will have fun and be energized, you will grow local goodwill for your company, and it will come at little cost to your startup.