How you can jump-start your local entrepreneurial community

On July 24, 2012 by murat

 (ERA Winter 2012 class)

Entrepreneurs Roundtable will have its 50th event next month in August, 2012.

We started in 2007 and hosted a “free” event every month for entrepreneurs and investors. And we launched Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in 2011. We are now in our third session with 10 great companies, with one from Sao Paolo.

We host great entrepreneurs and investors from all over the world at ERA when they visit New York City. They come from Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Santiago, Dublin, London, Berlin, Barcelona, Bologna, Genoa, Rome, Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Baltimore, Miami, Austin, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, Mumbai, Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv, Amman, Beiruth, Nairobi, etc.

They all have one common question for us:

“How did the New York entrepreneurial community jump-start itself?”

Here is how we thought about it and how we tried to contribute to the New York entrepreneurial community from the beginning, hoping this might help someone somewhere around the world who is trying to jump-start their entrepreneurial community by organizing events:

SPACE:
Finding space is the easiest part. Ask a university, a law firm, a large corporation that might benefit from hosting an event as business development/marketing/community building for themselves.

SPEAKERS:
Find good speakers with ‘experience’. Find good topics with them that might benefit the audience. Panels are OK if well-moderated, otherwise each speaker gets to say a few sound-bites and does not really communicate with the audience.

COMMUNITY:
Make it free if you can. Charging $20-$30 for an event is sometimes needed to pay for the venue, but make it free if possible. Respect bootstrapping entrepreneurs who already sacrifice a lot to pursue their dreams.

VALUE:
Have a take-away at the event, do not host an empty event to just make money. Make sure everyone walks away with some new knowledge, some new connections etc. Ask people after the event if they learned something and got something out of it, iterate if necessary.

CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK AND HELP:
Don’t make it a ‘competition’ if you have startups presenting at the event. These competitions are mostly popularity contests and their outputs never match the long-term success of the startups. Have the speaker and the audience give constructive feedback and offers of introductions, etc. to each startup,

TURNING POINT:
Ask everyone at the event how they can help others, not what they need. This turned things around at the initial ER events and people started opening up and helping each other even more and this made ER events really useful to everyone. There definitely is karma :)

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