I must have three to five meetings a week with folks thinking about doing a startup, trying to grow their startup, or figuring out the right exit for their startup. I love having these meetings, and usually walk away energized by the excitement that these budding entrepreneurs have to create something from nothing and go big.
I admit it. I’m a bonafide startup-holic. I’ve started three companies, and invested in six. And the thrill never goes away.
The infrastructure that enables the rapid creation of startups is vital to pushing out innovation in this country and creating value at a rapid pace. But, if you’ve not had the pleasure of working at a startup or creating one yourself, you might think: How do I really know if it’s right for me?
One way to figure that out is to hang with startup folks, the people who’ve built companies before. I know I always get inspired or pick up nuggets of wisdom when I get to hear from folks who are already crushing it or have encountered obstacles. That’s part of what our annual GeekWire Startup Day is about — hearing from entrepreneurs who’ve been on the front lines of building businesses. Folks like Dave Cotter of SquareHub or Glenn Kelman of Redfin or Bryan Trussel of Glympse — three of the speakers at this year’s event. (Full agenda here).
I am looking forward to Startup Day this year. And here are three awesome ways to get informed and inspired at our biggest entrepreneur-focused event:
1. The GeekWire Resource Room
Expert advice, galore! Discuss your everyday business challenges with a curated set of experts in law, finance, design, leadership and more. You will have direct one-on-one access to some of the top names in the Seattle startup ecosystem, so think of it this way: All the meetings you should have in the first six months of your startup, in one room, on one day. I’ll be there to offer advice in the ‘management and leadership’ track, along with Kyle Kesterson of Freak ‘n Genius and others. Adam Tratt of Haiku Deck, Sanjay Puri of 9Mile Labs, and Lisa Conquergood of PicMonkey will provide marketing, sales and PR mentoring. Nat Burgess of the investment bank Corum Group will personally offer guidance on M&A/exit planning, while attorneys Kha Dang, Craig Sherman and others will offer legal insights.
2. The Startup Demo Zone
Once you’ve made the entrepreneurial leap, getting attention for your startup is no easy chore. The Startup Demo Zone will help solve this bottleneck, with a limited number of companies able to showcase their products throughout Startup Day, getting feedback and insights from other attendees. Even better, as part of the Demo Zone, entrepreneurs will get one-on-one meetings with a VC or angel investor including Julie Sandler (Madrona); Kristina Kerr Bergman (Ignition); Dan Rosen (Alliance of Angels); Chris DeVore (Founder’s Co-op), and Charles Fitzgerald (Platformonomics). Three companies from the Demo Zone also will be chosen to present live on stage to our illustrious VC panel. (And don’t forget that last year’s winner walked away with a nice check from a VC). More details on the Demo Zone here.
3. Stellar speaker lineup
Governor Jay Inslee will kick off Startup Day this year, telling us why he thinks entrepreneurs are important to Washington state. That will be followed by some amazing talks, which I am personally looking forward to. Here are just a few on the docket:
Boris Wertz, founder of Version One Ventures: “There’s Only Two Ways to Build a $100 Million Company”
Dawn Lepore, former drugstore.com CEO and former board member at Wal-Mart, eBay and The New York Times: “How to Pick Your Board of Directors and Advisors”
- T.A. McCann of RivalIQ: “Starting, Funding, Killing and Selling: The hard decisions that make a startup”
Dave Cotter, CEO of SquareHub: “Work-life Balance of a Startup Dad”
Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz: “The Pitfalls of Team Building: Painful lessons learned from hiring, firing, and losing people”
And many many more.
The startup dream is all about denting the universe in your own way (brilliant or flawed). it’s about creating something new and different that you can’t do at your current job. It’s about the opportunity to create your own culture, team, mission, and processes. And yeah, it’s about the cheddar, having your income not determined by others who make decisions about your career.
I want to personally invite anyone who has been considering a startup and has had the luxury to be on the fence about it, to pursue it. As the lead character in the hit movie Gravity says: “I’ll either make it or burn up in the next 7 minutes.” Win or fail, it’s going to be one hell of a ride!
And that’s exactly how creating a startup feels. Win or fail, I wish you good fortune and hope to see you on Oct 25th. Tickets and more details on Startup Day here.
Jonathan Sposato is the chairman of GeekWire and is an active angel investor who has invested in various startups on the west coast.