One could argue that the most valuable byproduct of the startup experience is the knowledge gained by those starting up.
That was the impetus behind the creation of Startup Grind, a monthly meetup that started in San Francisco, spread to New York City, and is now in a dozen cities.
It started, simply enough, with startup entrepreneur Derek Andersen and a friend. Once a month, they decided to get together with friends to brainstorm and share their experiences. The get-togethers began in Andersen’s 1,000-square-foot office, but they now take place in various venues around the city, including the PeopleBrowsr labs and Wix Lounge.
Andersen worked at Electronic Arts for several years before striking out on his own about 3 years ago. His bio says it all: “Founder of four failed startups and working on the 5th.”
“Doing a startup requires building relationships, learning from others' mistakes, and having motivation to not give up,” Andersen told me. “At our events we try to educate founders, connect them with other entrepreneurs, and inspire them keep pushing despite the hurdles.”
Less than a year ago, Andersen met Unroll.me co-founder Perri Blake Gorman over Twitter and, after attending a few Startup Grind events in San Francisco, she started the New York chapter.
Though NY Tech Meetup, the largest of New York City’s many tech-focused meetups, has demos from local startups each month, there were no organizations really focused on the kind of knowledge sharing that Startup Grind offered, she felt.
Gorman, known as @bethebutterfly on Twitter, makes a habit of connecting people. So the structure of Startup Grind was perfect.
“There are so many things to learn when doing a startup that the resource of community is essential,” she said. “There is an overwhelming giving nature about the entrepreneurial community and as you progress, you give it back.”
San Francisco speakers have included Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann, serial startup founder and investor Steve Blank, Digg founder Kevin Rose, and SoftTech VC founder Jeff Clavier. New York speakers have included bit.ly chief scientist Hilary Mason, Quigo and Hashable founder Mike Yavonditte, and New York Angels founder David Rose.
Recent chapters have started in Los Angeles, Austin, Marin County, Ottawa, Provo, San Diego, Silicon Valley (separate from the San Francisco chapter), Singapore, Tempe, and Toronto. Gorman recently moved to Silicon Valley to work on her next startup, archive.ly, and passed the baton to Gust’s senior marketing manager, Justin Stanwix.
Some of Andersen’s favorite founder stories from the San Francisco meetups range from Steve Blank’s parents owning a grocery store in the Bronx when he was growing up, to Zaarly raising money from Ron Conway and Ashton Kutcher in just 24 hours.
Gorman’s favorite story out of New York was from Mason:
“Her first startup was a program she wrote to collect data about behavior within Second Life,” Gorman explained. “She apparently met a gnome and an elf who were trying to market their product inside the game and bought her product to help them track their business.”
In other words, she said, “There was a gnome, an elf, and a serendipitous business transaction that took place inside of a virtual world. I don't think you can beat that.”
If you want to get involved in Startup Grind or start a chapter in your city, click here.
Guest author Amy Vernon spent nearly 20 years as a professional daily newspaper journalist before the Great Newspaper Culling of 2008. The top female submitter of all time on Digg.com, Amy is an inaugural inductee of the New Jersey Social Media Hall of Fame and has spoken at many conferences and events, including SXSW Interactive, #140Conf Montreal, Columbia Journalism's Social Media Weekend, Reynolds Journalism Institute's The Engagement Metric, ROFL Con II, and Affiliate Summit East. You can find her on Twitter @AmyVernon.