Josh Smith attended a few of the Startup Lancaster meetings and was determined to identify and gel the ecosystem in Mechanicsburg, so he cloned it and bam--9 people attended, a good start.
Startup Lancaster has about 35 members now, after 11 months of existence, but about half of the meetings had around eight or nine founders, and only two had over 20.
I arrived late, and they had already done introductions, decided the topics for the night and were about to create breakout groups--Josh had it down pat.
There were at least 3 viable startups there; one of them is already at $14,000/month of revenue. They're going to do very well, I'm certain.
It's so encouraging and exciting to see this. Hopefully others will follow Josh's lead and start their own groups throughout PA.
Here are the guidelines as I see them:
- Who: Founders only. That means no employees, friends, spouses etc unless they are truly co-founders.
- Who II: Founders of technology product startups only. This might feel limiting, but the issues tech product startups face are different from services companies, hosting companies, and non-tech companies.
- No vendors, attorneys, investors, etc. Have an Open Meeting maybe 6 to 12 months down the road and invite outsiders in, maybe hold a showcase. But keep most meetings closed to all but founders. It matters--outsiders truly dilute the quality and focus.
- Place: Pick a restaurant or meeting space that's quiet. Don't assume noise levels--you really have to go check it out and see if you can hear someone 12 feet away across the table from you. I like choosing places that have some character, and are locally owned so we support other founders.
- Running the meeting:
- after brief networking (15 minutes or so),
- brief intros
- who are you,
- what does your startup do
- what stage of startup life are you in (pre-product, product but pre-revenue, revenue but not yet sustainable, sustainable)
- biggest current challenge
- After intros, choose a challenge for people to discuss. A good one is pain point you're trying to solve; another is explain your business model (what are you selling, who is buying it, etc)
- Break into groups of 3 or 4, and have each person discuss the challenge. Participants should just listen and not try to solve problems. If you have a solution, hold onto it for later.
- After everyone's gone, offer each other advice, solutions.
- Choose one startup to share with the group. Have someone other than the founder talk about it. (this is important...you'll see why)
- Group gets back together, shares stories from the breakouts
- General discussion and wrap up.
- Use Meetup. It works well and is relatively cheap.
Reading, York, Allentown, Paoli, Scranton, Erie, Pittsburgh--this really could be a statewide thing. All you have to do is call the meeting and let people know, just like Josh did.