Startups.com - Founders Dinner
I have known Elliot for years and met Startups CEO, Wil Schroter, about 15 years ago when he had just purchased SwapALease. Although I had tracked Startups from a distance, it wasn't until recently that I visited their office and learned more about their various businesses.
When I arrived to the dinner, which was hosted at Wil's house, I caught up with Elliot on my venture, LockDown, and discussed a few of the contacts he had made for me. Elliot is a very connected guy - not just locally, but nationally.
Shortly thereafter, another entrepreneur (also a childhood friend), Brian Zuercher, arrived and we caught up. Brian is the co-founder of Hopewell, a technology company focused on redefining the work experience.
All of sudden, everyone started gathering in the living room (where Brian and I were talking). I asked Brian, "what is happening here? ha ha." This was my first time attending a Startups Founders Dinner, so I didn't realize there was going to be a more formalized discussion.
What proceeded over the next 2.5 hours was really cool. Wil and Elliot led a discussion where each entrepreneur gave a brief overview of his/her business, discussed his/her biggest problems and asked others for help.
This wasn't some BS marketing ploy, but rather a genuine attempt to help entrepreneurs. I found Wil and Elliot to be authentic in their desire to help, and encourage others to assist, the founders in attendance.
The audience was very diverse in terms of experience, markets, stages, problems, etc. Some had thriving businesses; others were just getting started. Some were first-time business owners; others were on business #3, 4 or more.
As I reflected back on my entrepreneurial journey, I wish that this (gatherings of business owners) had existed with I was building my first few companies.
When I built Bright Discounts, I felt so alone that I would go out to lunch every day just so I could have human interaction. I didn't have fellow entrepreneurs to bounce ideas off of.
When I built Titanium Lacrosse, I had a few great mentors, but they weren't local. Again, life of an entrepreneur can be very lonely and sometimes you think you are experiencing challenges that no one else in the world is going through.
Now that I'm a little older (with the scars to show for it), my perspective is different.
Sometimes I get annoyed by "entrepreneur events" because I have found that they are often attended by people who disguise their insecurities and are working hard to play-up their success. The Startups Dinner was quite the opposite. Everyone checked their ego at the door, discussed their real problems and genuinely wanted to help others in the room. This only happens if the people running the event set the tone correctly, which Wil did from the outset.
I'm happy to hear that the Startups crew is looking to expand these types of events as I believe they will be very beneficial to entrepreneurs.