Startup And Play, the quarterly Triangle startup showcase, is back next Wednesday, Sept. 4 as the first event of Triangle Entrepreneurship Week. The event typically attracts around 200 attendees and features about 8-12 local startups (mixed in with a few small businesses and nonprofits) in a style reminiscent of a science fair.

In other words, showcasing ventures do not set up booths with brochures and branded clicky pens. This is frowned upon. The application to showcase actually asks what your team will do at the event, implying the need to be interesting. Companies have shown videos, demoed technology, and given away good eats.

I first attended Startup And Play in November 2012 at HQ Raleigh, which also happened to be the kickoff event for last year’s Triangle Entrepreneurship Week. The second time I attended was in Feb. 2013 as a showcaser for Local-Ventures on the day of our public beta launch. You can read about our experience ‘group launching’ at the event here.

Since then, Aaron Gerry, who was a lead organizer of the event, has moved to Boston, but the event has lived on, signaling the community’s interest. If you’re considering attending or showcasing or both, there are a few things you can expect, based on my experience.

It’s Fun

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Startup And Play is that it’s fun, whether you’re an attendee or a showcaser. It’s fitting that one phrase event organizers—Will Hardison, Sarah Styron, Sidney Hargrove, and Ashley Moss— use to describe Startup And Play is, “A collective celebration of entrepreneurship.”

The event has an energetic and supportive culture and always includes some sort of interactive activity, whether it’s a 200-player Rock, Paper, Scissors battle, or an ongoing game of See How Many Times You Can Make Other People Say The Word “Beer.” 

There’s a Diverse Crowd Eager to Interact with Startups

The event also attracts a surprisingly diverse crowd. If you’re a startup founder looking to get new users or informal feedback from a broad range of testers, this is one of the few showcases where you can. Typically, there are many attendees who are not entrepreneurs or businesspeople, but are interested in interacting with the showcasing teams.

You Get to Meet Other Startup Teams

There are also, of course, other startup teams there, who you’ll get to see in action. For example, I initially met team Gema Touch in 2012 at Startup And Play while watching them demo their technology.

Also, since most showcasing companies bring multiple team members, it’s a good opportunity for your developer or designer to talk to other startup developers and designers. While my team rarely attends events together, we came as a group to showcase at Startup And Play, and it was worth the full-team bandwidth. We showcased alongside Avelist and our Technical Lead, Alex, had a great conversation with Avelist’s VP of Technical Operations, Josh.

It’s Free to Attend and $50 to Showcase

If you haven’t been to a Startup And Play yet, next week’s event is your chance. I’m guessing it will be a good one because it’s combined with Triangle Entrepreneurship Week. If you go and don’t like it, tweet me (@annhjohnston) and although I’m not affiliated with the event, I’ll give you a refund. Because it’s free.

To showcase, it will cost you the time to apply (very minimal), the brain power to think of an interesting booth (shouldn’t be too difficult for entrepreneurs), and $50. This $50 usually includes free booze and food and is pretty tough to beat. Try getting 200 people to come to an event that you host (it’s ridiculously difficult) and you’ll quickly see the bargain of a $50 fee to showcase.