Early stage startup founders are always seeking knowledge. They want to learn how seasoned entrepreneurs gained traction. They want to know what gets an investor’s attention. They want advice from experts with deep knowledge of their specific fields.
Yes, experienced founders offer valuable insights. But, exchanging ideas with fellow young founders can sometimes be even more beneficial. They’re often tackling similar problems, have common inspirations, and can push each other to achieve great things.
The team behind Next Gen Summit knows this all too well. That’s why they recently brought 20 entrepreneurs to LIFT Labs PHL, ditched the typical keynote speaker format, and offered workshops to help emerging entrepreneurs think critically about the businesses they’re building.
In an exercise, each entrepreneur submitted “asks” to the rest of the group. One founder asked for honest feedback on the SaaS product he’s developing. Another sought graphic design support. Someone else wanted advice on effective time management.
Mike Glaicar wanted feedback on his product TrueConnect.io which gives busy sales teams real-time insights on the people they’re meeting with.
“I need user feedback. Beat me up on it. Tell me what you hate,” said Glaicar. “The feedback coming from fellow founders is valuable because they know what kind of feedback to give; it’ll be less ‘this should be green and this should be blue’ and more about ‘will this make my life easier?’ ”
Arianna Armelli asked for beta testers for her product, Dorothy, which accurately maps flood zones and offers comparable insurance quotes to homeowners.
“I’m interested in being connected to people in insurance or real estate who could be potential beta testers of our platform and help direct us on how we build it,” said Armelli. “Around 90 percent of the time, other founders say they could help me.”
Next, the entrepreneurs discussed hot tech topics in small groups. When the conversation turned to data privacy, Glaicar said he learned a lot: “One breach can absolutely bury your company. I’m glad we went over that today. To have people from Comcast NBCUniversal and LIFT Labs offer their perspective on privacy was really valuable.”
When discussing marketing in today’s era of minuscule attention spans, Bryce Fender’s ears perked up. He’s the Chief Operating Office of Wilminvest. His company provides affordable housing in Delaware and he is looking for better ways to get the word out about his business.
“Marketing is fishing. You’ve got to know what kind of fish you want then you can work backward from there,” said Fender. “It can get very complicated very quickly, but if you really know your product, your service, and the value you provide, marketing should come naturally.”
Overall, attendees were happy they set time aside to connect with fellow founders. Armelli said the event gave her a much-needed jolt of energy after months of pitching her product, traveling, and networking to get her company off the ground.
“Being around the other founders, I’ve gotten my energy back,” she said. “Being around the energy of the other founders working equally as hard