As many firsts go, our first Startup Meetup was filled with plenty of anxiety and coordination. It’s not every day that you bring 30+ perfect strangers into a room, for a couple of hours, to discuss business ideas together and have a presentation from the President & Co-Founder of a well-funded startup. Where do you find the room? Where do you find the people? How ’bout that speaker? What’s that speaker going to present on? There were about another 30 additional questions we weren’t prepared to answer, but we’re happy to say that after Thursday night, we have all the answers. Well, most of them. OK… just a few…
We called various venues around Los Angeles. Libraries, co-working spaces, event spaces, art studios; we checked on PeerSpace, eVenues, Venyooz – you name it. Most wanted 4+ hour minimum requirements, some were charging a ton, and others simply could not accommodate us. How were we to find a place that fits our budget and time constraint? Ask nicely and be patient. One of the first places we reached out to, dots SPACE, got back to us and said they could help. Their generosity was what helped move everything along. Once we had a venue and a day, we were almost there!
For our first Meetup, we decided we wanted to have a speaker kick things off. We looked high-and-low because most people simply would not respond back, and we couldn’t really blame them. How does a brand new startup, with no history, clout or funding, ask people to put together a presentation and lend us their valuable time? Persistence! After a bunch of unsuccessful outreach, Will Keenan, President & Co-Founder of Streamup said he was in. We had no idea how much magic Will was going to bring to the table!
Many emails back-and-forth, a projector rental, equipment and snack purchases later, and we were in business. We also had a lot of help from some amazing friends to make sure things ran smoothly, and we could focus on having a great Meetup. Internally, we hashed out the agenda up until a couple days before because we wanted to get the tone and atmosphere right. Having people feel comfortable asking questions, and answering, was a big part of what we were hoping to accomplish; nothing would be worse than allotting for 30 minutes of Q&A and not a single person opening their mouths.
For the actual startup Meetup event, we started off with everyone giving a brief intro about themselves and why they were there. Thanks to the spoils of Los Angeles, the crowd was very diversified! We had a few angel investors, people in entertainment, someone interested in fintech, someone running an incubator, startup veterans, and a bunch of people just starting to scratch the surface of an idea. Oh, how could we forget—we also had a real-life rocket scientist (technically an astrophysicist from JPL)—how cool is that? Once we were all done with intros, Will came on.
Will’s energy was great all the way throughout his presentation, and he was pushing this theme that “Hey, if an actor can somehow rise through the digital and startup ranks, so can you!” It was great hearing about his background, and the audience was really engaged when Will was going through some of his work-life mantras. His closing segment was full of great life advice, anecdotes of successful people in his life, and some really practical tips. A common theme he presented was “never lie”; honesty is paramount to all of your business dealings, and people will remember you for what you say.
Our open forum discussion was a lot of fun. During this segment, we prepped people to have questions ready to ask the entire group, and there were several great questions that people bounced around with. Here are some favorites:
How do you find a co-founder?
After you have your idea what do you do next?
How do you balance your time to startup and your time to your significant other?
It felt like everyone was really open and in the moment. There was no ego, just really good discussion and helpful questions and answers. Many of the inquiries—not just the answers—took some examination and we all contributed to get to the heart of the question. This was a really lively portion of the Meetup!
As organizers, we truly learned some valuable lessons that we will apply to future events. Plenty of helpful and constructive feedback but all in all people were able to connect, exchange ideas, and learn something. Not bad for a Thursday night. Til we do it all again…twice…next week!