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8.22.14 JOE PROCOPIO

Forget Business Networking, Build Personal Relationships

A Recap of the August ExitEvent Startup Social

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Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

I've seen a rash of thought-expert pieces lately on the art of networking. Some of them are quite smart, like this piece on double-opt-in email introductions that I begrudgingly loved, or this one on getting to the point from Startup Factory's Chris Heivly.

Others are straight garbage. Not naming names.

I say "begrudgingly loved" about the former because I'm not a huge fan of people telling other people how to behave, especially when it comes to etiquette in the entrepreneurial pursuits. We're a breed of "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission" -- yet we still get all huffed when someone wants to get on our calendars without having jumped through the proper hoops.

Yeah, I know there's etiquette to this game, and I know there's a fine line between aggressive and douchebag. I'm also aware of the fact that being on the receiving end of everyone's meeting request is a hassle. I get about two dozen cold business emails a day and another handful of cold networking type emails on top of that. Whatever. First world problems.

One of the reasons I started ExitEvent was to give all entrepreneurs, from beginner to serial, a chance to network amongst themselves unshackled from topic, cause, or sponsor, either online or in person via the Startup Social.

But the Social, the monthly agenda-free, entrepreneur-and-investor-only, free-beer-fueled event, was never about networking. In that I mean it was never about collecting business cards and writing awkward follow-up emails the next day.

It was and still is about relationships. --Read On


8.13.14 JOE PROCOPIO

Why We Need Triangle Startup Weekend: Women

Addressing the Root Cause of Lack of Women in Startup and Tech

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Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

The weekend of October 10th will see the first-ever Triangle Startup Weekend: Women. And it's about time.

Liz Tracy is one of the organizers. She's a friend of mine and someone I've gotten to know while she's helped build the HQ Raleigh startup hub, which also happens to be founded by Brooks Bell, who also happens to be the founder of Brooks Bell.

Liz put in the application this spring. Once it was accepted, she sent an email out to people she knew to ask if they were interested in helping.

"Immediately, I got a bunch of responses and a strong starting point to get this going," she said.

I've always been a big proponent of finding more ways to get women involved in startup and tech. At the first startup I ever founded, my first hire was a woman. At the startup I most recently founded, my first hire was a woman.

What's more is it just happened that way. But I know it rarely happens that way.

While I've been heartened by the progress, I've been disappointed at times with the approach. Calling out companies for the existing makeup of their workforce isn't the right thing to do. Sure, it creates headlines, which one would hope puts pressure on those companies to be more inclusive in their recruiting processes. But that only addresses the symptom, not the cause. --Read On


7.24.14 JOE PROCOPIO

A Rant Against Bad Startup Advice

What I Learned at the July ExitEvent Startup Social

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Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Every so often, I find myself at odds with a particular bit of conventional startup advice. Usually, the advice starts out as an innocuous one-liner bequeathed to me that I've re-gifted to others and, at face value, it may make perfect sense.

But at a certain point, the advice gets so blown out of proportion that it loses context. Eventually, it becomes something less than helpful. In extreme cases, it can become harmful.

That's when I open my big mouth and get all contrarian.

The last time I went on such a rant was over advice concerning our startup community and the growing number of startup-related events that were popping up everywhere. Long story short -- conventional wisdom was that there were too many startup events and the advice was that we needed to stop having so many startup events and entrepreneurs should stop going to startup events and get back to work.

This was almost exactly two years ago, so my story needs some context of its own.

The ExitEvent Startup Social was one of the first (if not the first) in a new wave of startup-related events that sprung out of a revitalized startup community in Durham. Yeah, there were startup events and meetups and such, but ExitEvent was sparked the night I went to a startup event attended by 100+ people and wound up talking the whole time to the only other entrepreneur there.

I remember what that was like. I remember when there were exactly zero honest-to-goodness startup events in my startup community. And it sucked, way more than being a little bit annoyed by getting the umpteenth startup-related Evite in my inbox.

So when startup events started exploding shortly after ExitEvent exploded, including two events that spun out of an ExitEvent Startup Social on the same night, my response was rock on, go for it, make some noise.

And when there was a backlash, my contrarian response was: Good entrepreneurs will find the value in good startup events and both will persevere. Shitty entrepreneurs who do nothing but event-hop will gravitate toward the shitty, glitzy events, and both will fail. --Read On