I previously wrote about the importance of “tent pole events” for building community. But you’re busy building your startup. Selfishly, you might not feel like you have time to build community. Selfishly, you still need to get out to events with regularity for the sake of your startup.
One thing I have rapidly learned in the process of building Badgy is how important and helpful people outside of your company can be in helping your company succeed. In the early stages, you need people who will point out the parts of your plan and product that suck. At any stage, you need to meet prospective customers, prospective investors, prospective advisors, future employees/employers, future acquirers, and other startups addressing similar or different problems to share lessons and tips. Starting a company is hard. Starting a consumer-based startup in your basement without ever talking to anyone else and hoping people show up to your site is impossible.
Very few people will want to join you as an investor, advisor, customer, employee, or introduce you to people who can fill those roles, the first time they meet you. VC Mark Suster often quips that he invests “in lines, not dots“, which is to say that he forms his opinion of companies based on the momentum and behavior of companies and people over time. Many people you need to invest social or financial capital in your company are the same way – they’ll give you any introduction you want, but they have to trust you first.
You can’t get some of these relationships when you need them. You need to cultivate them in advance. In the past couple of weeks, I have been blessed with face/phone time from some successful Atlanta entrepreneurs who are possibly THE best people to guide Badgy toward success. I can trace the origin of these introductions to the first Atlanta Startup Weekend in 2007, relationships that emerged from that weekend, and the incubation of those relationships over countless events and meetings since then.
If you’re starting a company, YES, you’re busy. If you have a wife, a daughter, and a second daughter coming soon like me, you’re even busier. I also spend a great deal of time at Cumberland Community Church and related events, because I believe in serving people and our community to encourage people to know and serve God. I work well much more than the “full-time” tally of 40 hours/week. Amidst all of that, I make it a priority to get out to a startup event roughly once a week. It’s important. Setting that standard gets me out enough to hit the important events, but also forces me to be selective and avoid the diminishing returns that definitely exist if you hit 4 events per week.
I talk to FAR too many tech startup founders who attend zero events. They work for months on their startup. If they’re lucky, they sometimes talk to customers. Sometimes, not even that. Building product without building a network around your company to help you succeed is a recipe for failure. You MUST find time to find the people who can help you succeed.
This week, Atlanta Startup Drinks is Tuesday night from 5-10 pm at 5 Seasons Westside. I think it’s the best event of the week in Atlanta, and one of the best events each month. I love this event because, much like Twitter, it is an place where serendipitous relationships and introductions are accelerated. I hope you’ll be there.
How many events do you go to? Which events are crucial to you? How have you benefitted from getting out of the “office” and into community?