Over the past 12 months, we've held 11 Startup Lancaster meetings. The group is limited to founders only, and only from technology product companies. We opened it up briefly a few months ago, but that diluted the effectiveness of the sessions.
Over the past year we've come up with a model that seems to work: we network for a bit at the beginning, then talk about what the night's topic should be, then break into groups of 3 or 4 to talk about the issues. After that, we get back together and share what we heard in the breakouts.
Friendships have formed, new startups have formed out of old ones, 4 or so have raised capital, and one was accepted into the www.theironyard.com 3-month acclerator.
We have, in short, a technology startup ecosystem. A year ago, I wasn't so sure, and started the group to find out what was out there.
And I'm impressed.
Steve Palmer and his partner were accepted into
www.theironyard.com and leaves later this week. He'll be missed by the group, but we're happy to see him take the leap and go all in. He's leaving his family for 3 months to do this--it's not an easy thing for him. But he's passionately following his vision, and has the support of his startup founder friends and his family. Hell do fine.
I met with one of our founders last week for a bit; he's trying to figure out how to get from here to there. Here is pretty good--he's got demand for his product in a market ripe for disruption. But he's not a salesman, and wants to add a salesperson but doesn't have capital. it's a great problem to have.
Mentoring works. Founders helping founders works. Most of our founders are doing better than they were last year. At the last meeting I couldn't believe how far people had progressed just in the past 2 months.
I really love my role in this; I enjoy getting them together, leading it, mentoring, coaching, and occasionally hammering them when it feels it's needed (yes, Palmer, I'm lookin' at you). And they have been very gracious, open to learning and sharing, and through that I've learned a lot. From them.
I'm so grateful for this group of people and the hard work they have signed up for. They are creating the foundation for the next generation of startups, and if we can get some capital flowing here, we'll be well on our way as a healthy tech ecosystem.
Recently I decided to create a group for founders of any business. We'll start meeting later in June. From that I expect to start a few more targeted ones, and see how well the model translates across sectors. It's amazing what happens when people get together, helping each other, and through that, helping themselves.
It's a beautiful day--get on out there and stay out of the comments :).