Connecting Entrepreneurs Blog

Shape Up Your Startup Scene

I liked this latest post on A 3-Step Guide To Whipping Your City's Startup Scene Into Shape from Billy Warden and Greg Behr that appreared in Fast Company.  I am not a fan of the idea that all communities should model themselves after Silicon Valley, but this post has some excellent advice.

Any city or town, no matter how small, can whip its startup scene into competitive shape. To that end, we’ve developed a three-step guide we call R.U.N.:
   •Rally Around Risk
   •Unlock Assets
   •Network Frequently and Widely

It's this last point that I think is the most important.  The greatest challenge facing any entrepreneur is the feeling that they are alone, that no one understands what they are doing, and that they have nowhere to turn for help.  Creating a vibrant networking scene, that enables entrepreneurs to connect with each other and with the support available to them within larger community, is vital to the success of entrepreneurship in any community.

Communities can offer a corrective by establishing networking activities that connect entrepreneurs to the resources they need. Chambers of commerce, businesses, and grassroots organizations can all contribute here.

To some, an essential piece of networking is a common space--if not an incubator, than a hub where young companies and entrepreneurial support organizations suit up everyday. Nothing promotes the exchange of ideas, skills, and tricks of the trade as quickly as putting like-minded people together in one room.

Keep in mind, the networking imperative isn’t just about amassing resources within your city limits. For best results, think and act regionally.

 City Limits Sign 

This is why we created the Business Calendar Network, so that startup communities (read entrepreneurs) can thrive by connecting with the people, resources, and knowledge they need to start and grow their businesses.  They don't need to struggle alone and in ignorance.  What they need to know, and who they need to know, are both at their fingertips, through networking.

 

The BCN Private Label Mobile App

75% of all cell phones sold today are smartphones.  If you are relying on your web site alone to engage with your membership, you are missing a huge opportunity!  Sure, smartphone users can get to your web site, but they prefer using mobile apps

That's why we created the BCN mobile app, and that's also why we are making private label versions of our BCN mobile app available to membership-based organizations focused on technology, startups, biotech, or any manner of specialized business audiences.

Your Custom Mobile App, Powered by the Business Calendar Network

With a private label mobile app for iPhone and Android phones, you can put your events front-and-center with your membership.

  • The app has your name, your logo, and your events.  When your members use your branded app, the first thing they see are your events.
  • Engage your members with "event check in" so they see who else is at your events, follow Twitter conversations about the event, connect on LinkedIn, and share with their friends and colleagues.
  • Event discovery shows other top events and meetings in the area.  This will bring your members back to your app, time and time again.

 

 

Try Out a Private Label App for Yourself

The Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technology (PACT) recently launched their custom-branded mobile app, powered by the Business Calendar Network.  Download it now for iPhone/iPad or Android and see how it works for PACT.

 

Now, with Events from Meetup and Eventbrite

We’re very pleased to announce that the Business Calendar Network now includes business events pulled from the API feeds of Meetup and Eventbrite.

It was important to add these API feeds because:

  • Many business-oriented groups use Meetup and Eventbrite as the way to announce and manage their events and signups.  Using the API enables us to provide integrated access to all these events from within the Business Calendar Network
  • With our new iPhone and Android apps, we are now seeing subscribers from all across the country.  These feeds enable us to provide a substantial number of relevant events to subscribers, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Both Eventbrite and Meetup believe in the power of community and the power of connections, a belief we share.

 

Meetup logo

Meetup is the world's largest network of local groups. With Meetup, anyone can organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.  More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.  We’ve noticed that many of today’s most important and vibrant business communities got started using Meetup.  They may eventually evolve into having a more formal website and registration system, but Meetup is the place to find emerging business communities and business leaders.

 

  Eventbrite logo  

The groups using Eventbrite are, perhaps, a little more formal than the folks using Meetup.  I say that even though Eventbrite says it is for “anyone planning or attending an event.”

We believe that anyone can be an event organizer. That's why we've created tools that make it easy to sell tickets to all kinds of events - whether it's a photography class or a sold-out concert, an inspiring conference or an air-guitar competition. With Eventbrite, organizers can create a customizable event page; spread the word with social media; collect money; and gain visibility into attendees and sales.

We, of course, are more interested in knowing about the inspiring conference than the air-guitar competition.  You may notice that Meetup and Eventbrite are both a little less rigorous than we are in what constitutes a “business event,” so their feeds may include the occasional wine tour or MS walk.  We felt that the benefits of including the great events coming from Meetup and Eventbrite outweighed the drawbacks of having a few events that weren’t quite focused on business.

All events are parsed and tagged as they are added to the Calendar, so you should still be able to Find the Events that Matter™.

We plan to add some additional API feeds in the near future, and we also continue to track organizations with events that aren’t available via some new-fangled feed.  Our goal is to create the largest and most complete database of business events available on the Web and smartphone.

 

Why “Anti-Social Networking” Is Important for Entrepreneurs and Professionals

There's a lot of buzz these days about social networking, and we agree that social networking is likely to transform the way we live, work, and interact.  We even have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn company profile, and a Twitter profile.  You are welcome to like us and follow us.

But when we announced the next generation of our iPhone and Android mobile apps for professional networking this week, we called them the "anti-social networking" apps.

Now, we’re not really anti-social, but relying on social media alone will get you nowhere in business. Face-to-face networking remains a critical skill for anyone looking to build a business or career.  That is the whole reason we built the Business Calendar Network (BCN) -- to increase the opportunities for face-to-face networking and make it easy for entrepreneurs and professionals to find the people, resources, and knowledge they need to grow their businesses and their careers.

Version two of our mobile apps is even more focused on better professional networking.  The first versions of our app made it possible for people to find events. This next generation helps people manage their business professional networking.

The new apps feature a range of location-based features that enable users to “check into” business and professional networking events, see who else is at the event, and follow the online conversations at the event. The BCN app’s built-in integration with Facebook and Twitter make it easy to interact while at an event, both in-person and online.

 Who's Here screen 

The new app was showcased recently at the White House Urban Entrepreneurship Forum, held in Philadelphia, where its new interactive features enabled attendees at the Forum to connect and converse both online and in person.

Other new features in the app include an improved advanced search, where events can be searched by category, location, and keyword. Users can also save searches for later recall, so a favorite searches can be called up and refreshed at any time.

    

I invite you to download the new app and give it a try today.

Don’t Wait: Solo Collaborate

Admit it.  The hardest part about “regional collaboration” is getting everyone to collaborate.  Or, getting beyond the talking into taking action.

The case study we released this week, “Using a Calendar to Build a Stronger Regional Cluster,” shows that a single organization, acting alone, can make “collaboration” a reality for their region or industry.

Greetings from Frederick Maryland

“The need for a centralized calendar of events had been identified some time ago,” said Mike Dailey, Executive Director of the Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc. (FITCI) in north central Maryland.  “It had been talked about and talked about, but the same questions always came up:  who’s going to host it, who’s going to develop it, who’s going to pay for it?  It was a great idea, and we knew we should do it, but we never got around to it…

FITCI logo

“[The Basecamp Business Calendar Network] was a great opportunity for [FITCI] to pick up on our own and just do it…  Had we not known about Basecamp Business, we still wouldn’t have an integrated calendar.  You can imagine having 6 different organizations with 6 different webmasters, each with its own priorities of who should be where and how it should look: it was just not going to go anywhere.”

FITCI started using the Calendar, and that inspired the nearby Fort Detrick Business Development Office (FDBDO) to join as well.

“We have about 3 or 4 other partners in the area,” explained Dailey, “and they’re all waiting but we should expect them to be joining us.  But the great thing about the Basecamp Business Calendar Network is that we can move ahead without waiting.”

Read more by downloading our new case study on how FITCI, FDBDO, and others in the north central Maryland area use our Calendar to reinforce the sense of integration and collaboration that they have worked so hard to achieve.

 

Dealmakers per Capita

Thanks to a story by Melissa Harris of the Chicago Tribune, we learned today of a new way to measure the health of an early stage ecosystem:  dealmakers per capita

"[Ted] Zoller defines a dealmaker as someone who owns a stake in three or more early-stage technology companies at the same time...

"These risky investments typically range from $50,000 to $250,000 per company.

"'What you have [in the Chicago tech community] is a small number of dealmakers doing more than their fair share to support early-stage technology companies,' said Zoller, who is on leave from UNC while leading the entrepreneurship program at the Kansas City, Mo.-based Kauffman Foundation. 'That creates highly channeled, highly hierarchical dealmaking. A really vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem would have broader participation.'"

This seems to be an extension of Zoller's earlier research on the most well-connected entrepreneurs, financiers and advisors in the US, where he looked specifically at the universe of early stage investors in the companies in 12 high-tech growth spots - Silicon Valley, Boston, Seattle, etc.  Flip this data around to look at it from the point of view of a regional community rather than from individual investors or companies, and I suppose it can give you a good sense of how broad-based the financial part of the early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem is in a particular community. 

Of course, not every dealmaker needs to be located IN the community.  Harris points out that, according to Zoller's research, the second most important dealmaker in Chicago is New Enterprise Associates managing general partner Peter Barris, who neither lives nor works in Chicago.   Witness, also, the surging interest by Silicon Valley VCs in the New York City tech scene.  My read is that it is the breadth of participation in an ecosystem, not the actual location of the investors.

Do Entrepreneurs Need Luck?

Startup America logo

This quote from Scott Case, in an article on the new Startup America Partnership, speaks directly to why we started the Business Calendar Network:  to remove the inefficiencies in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The problem, says [Startup America] CEO Scott Case, a co-founder of Priceline and an experienced entrepreneur, is that Americans starting businesses tend to figure things out haphazardly. "One thing I was surprised at when I began this job was the startling lack of organized resources for entrepreneurs," he says. "The average startup was finding out about them in a random way. You need luck to succeed in business, but you shouldn't need a lot of luck to get access to tools that allow for better use of Google as an advertising platform or find a good accountant who has experience with startups."

First-time entrepreneurs often know nothing about starting and growing a business.  Every entrepreneur runs into the same problems and makes the same mistakes.  The problems have all been solved a thousand times before, so how can we connect the entrepreneurs with problem with the people, resources, and knowledge they need (which already exist) to overcome the problem.

Rampup

The idea behind the Business Calendar Network is that:

  1. there is an incredible amount of knowledge being shared at the thousands of startup, tech, biotech, and professional networking events
  2. face-to-face networking is the best way for entrepreneurs and professionals to develop the relations they need to succeed
  3. events are a great place to meet the people who matter, but...
  4. there is no easy and integrated way to find the right events. 

That's why we gather the events we find into one central location, provide a common format, give people a framework and the tools they need to find the events that matter to them, and make it easy for organizations to become the connecting point for their region or their industry.

It's not an easy task to build a good calendar, as they quickly get out of date, but we think events are an important part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

 

New Features for the Calendar

We are constantly improving on the Business Calendar Network and its companion mobile apps.  We have just released some exciting new features.  Some of these new features are meant for end users, others for organizations hosting events, and others are for sponsors, so bear with me as I explain.

For Everyone

Users can now search for both City and ZIP.  If you type “Peoria” into the "from city or ZIP" field, you will get a list of ZIP codes for Peoria.

Choosing to search Peoria

The “Hot This Week” list now reflects the Calendar filters.  Before, the list showed the top events for the entire Calendar Network.  Now it only shows those events relevant to the default filters set for a Calendar.

For Organizations Hosting Events

A change to how Host Organizations are selected when adding an event.  We have added a new “organization picker” so that you can select from a list of the Host Organizations we track in the Calendar.  It’s easier to show you than to describe it.

A new way to pick the host organization for your event

You can search by location, by name, or by keyword.  (Name searches only in the Name, while keyword searches the whole record.) Searching for “hispanic” will show you all the organizations with those letters in their name.

You can then add them to your event.  To add multiple organizations, just search and add each organization in turn.

If you don’t find your organization, you can submit it as a new organization.  Please be sure to search carefully when looking, because we seen a few people adding organizations we already had.

Changes to our Registration system.  You did know that the Calendar can do RSVPs and registrations?  It is free for RSVPs, and there is a small charge if you want to have your attendees pay by credit card.  There are a few minor tweaks to the Registration system:

For paid events that have sold out, we tell people that "This event is sold out."  This seems like a no-brainer when you explain it in those terms, but we honestly didn’t think of this until recently.

Event organizers can approve or decline registrants.  If you are holding an event where you want to "vet" your attendees, you can hold acceptance of the registration pending your approval.  Be sure to use our "Questions" feature to collect the information you need to make a decision.

Event organizers can edit the post-registration message.  We now allow organizers to write text that will be displayed after the user has registered for an event.  We also added a new post-registration confirmation email, and event organizers can add text to that email, as well.  You can paste any HTML code you want into these fields, so feel free to get fancy with the message to your attendees.

The new post-registration message

For Sponsors

Regional sponsors can now place their logos on the weekly updates sent from their Calendars.  This is the first step in our strategy to transform the weekly updates into “white label” newsletters that sponsors can use to interact with their members and communities.

Highlighted Events being held by the Calendar host are given special emphasis.  This way you can highlight both your events and those of your alliance partners, and yours will still stand out in the listings.

New highlighting features

 

We Take Care of Everything

The whole idea behind the Basecamp Business Calendar Network (BCN) is to help organizations like yours to become the place people go to find out what tech events, business events, biotech, and startup events are happening all over your region.  Drive more qualified, relevant traffic to your website.

We know how difficult and expensive it can be for a busy organization such as yours to build and maintain a regional calendar -- the web development costs, the time spent on research, the time spent on updating the calendar.  A regional calendar can be a great resource for your community and a great source of traffic for your web site, but it can be a huge commitment in time and resources.  That's why we designed the BCN to make creating a regional calendar simple and inexpensive.  It is "set and forget":

 

  • Cost-effective, turnkey event capturetell us what to look for, and Basecamp Business will keep your Calendar up-to-date, for as little as $500 per year
  • Not dependent on other organizations adding their events – Basecamp Business tracks and captures the events, automatically
  • White-label mobile app available – people can find events on their iPhone and Android phones using your mobile app
  • Sponsorship and custom newsletters available – your logo will appear on every email newsletter and on every BCN Calendar in your region

 

Stop sign

Stop kidding yourself.  Your current “regional calendar” doesn't work.

  • You have a "regional calendar" of events, but no one ever adds their events
  • You have endless meetings over who owns, builds, and pays for the calendar
  • You lose a day every month adding your partners’ events to your web site
  • Your “regional calendar” lists only one event in the next 6 months
  • Your web person keeps telling you they can “build” you a calendar

Problem Solved.  The turnkey Basecamp Business Calendar Network won't put any demands on your time or strain your resources.  It WILL make you the Connector in your region.  It WILL get the right people in the seats.  It WILL promote your events and organization.

Give us a call today. We'll take care of everything. You'll be the benchmark.

Are You a Connector?

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell asked, “Are you a Connector? ”  Gladwell was talking about people, particularly the people who know everyone.  These Connectors play a major role in accelerating the spread of a new idea, helping it leap from one social circle to another.

The Tipping Point

So if people can be Connectors, can organizations also be Connectors?

Yes, and the way to do it is through events.  There is no replacement for meeting face-to-face.  At events you meet the people that matter – the people that can help you move your idea forward, or introduce you to the people that can.

But how do people in your region find the events that matter?  There are too many web sites to keep track of.  Google does a poor job at finding events. 

What happens when you search for “technology events” in your region?  Is there one place that lists them all, or are they scattered among a dozen different places?

Be the Connector in your ecosystem!

 

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