At least a handful of Startup Weekend events will happen in the Triangle by year’s end, including the first local Women and second EDU editions. One class of NEXT mentoring is planned. And perhaps the Triangle will send its first entrepreneurs as mentors to Entrepreneurs Across Borders, the newest program of the international entrepreneurial support organization known as UP Global.
There’s one UP Global woman who supports all of these Triangle efforts (and those in 11 other southeastern states and Puerto Rico), and we spent some time chatting during her visit to the Triangle last week.
Ari Kern lives in Kansas City and is one of a dozen or so regional managers for the Seattle organization formed a year ago to house the global activities of Startup Weekend and the President Barack Obama initiative known as Startup America. She’ll oversee more than 60 Startup Weekends, four Startup Weekend EDUs, three Corporate Internal Startup Weekends and three NEXT mentoring programs throughout the Southeast this year. That’s nearly double the activity of 2013.
Though she spends most of her time on Google Hangouts sharing tips and insights with event organizers, she also makes visits to the regions to get to know the teams and find out how she can support their event plans with UP’s national and global resources.
For example, Google for Entrepreneurs and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation have pledged to match up to $2,000 in funds raised in 10 cities for Startup Weekend: Women events. Kern is helping local organizer Mital Patel rally a dozen or so local women to raise funds and plan an event at HQ Raleigh later this year.
“The whole point of the women’s initiative is to really flip the ratio,” Kern told me. “It’s not an exclusive women-only event. We want it to be inclusive but most events in tech, startup scene are 80-20 men to women and we want to get closer to 50-50 or reverse that with 80 percent women.”
She also walks organizers through a process of re-engaging past Startup Weekend participants to move on to bigger roles in the planning process. A good example is early April’s Maker Startup Weekend at HQ Raleigh. A group of new organizers planned the event—one of only a handful of Maker Startup Weekends around the world—and they attracted 140 attendees. In surveys afterward, attendees rated the event a 9.1 out of 10. The average for first-time organizers is typically in the 6 and 7 range.
Kern expects to help engage corporate sponsors in the events happening in her territory. So far, corporations are engaging in UP Global’s national summits, sharing the ways they’re incorporating an entrepreneurial mindset into their culture and supporting startups. Eventually, she hopes to connect those corporations with startup communities and UP Global events.
She also hopes to help with funding—a concern mentioned frequently during her Triangle visit.
“We could be a real player in that because of our global scope and having connections with entrepreneurs at every stage of the game,” she told me. “I definitely see that as an opportunity.”
In coming months, she’ll also help introduce Entrepreneurs Across Borders, a program that’s been promoted by the White House Press Secretary to provide mentorship and support to 1,000 U.S. startup communities by 2016. How it will be rolled out is still unclear, but it will be a way for experienced entrepreneurs to support inexperienced ones.
Kern left the Triangle Sunday impressed by the region’s cohesion despite the many cities planning events—she visited American Underground and attended PARADOXOS, held meetings at HQ Raleigh and met with startup leaders in Chapel Hill.
“People here take it for granted that it is the Triangle—you have three diverse cities that you’re pulling together for the same push and resources,” she says. “If you’re in a bigger city or small town, you still have access to all of this and I think that is really unique.”