As a young Entrepreneur, you know that getting out of the office is key to building a relevant network. You know that a the right events for Startups can propel your business where it can thrive and achieve its business goals more efficiently. However, we are always amazed at how much time Entrepreneurs waste attending the wrong events. Are you also tired of not getting what you expect from events?
Why attend an Event in the first place?
Motivation and goals to participate in an event can be diverse but mostly fall into one or several of these categories.
- Scouting for new ideas, market intelligence and competition
- Reputation marketing to build credibility as opinion leader & employer in your field
- Raising funds for your venture and increasing your visibility to Investors
- Accelerate Customer acquisition and connect with relevant decision makers
- Influence key policies and decisions within your industry
- Have fun, combining team building with business related discovery
As with any business decision, in a resources constraint environment, it is foremost important to ensure you have clear goals regarding event participation.
What types of events can you attend?
Of course there are many different types of events available to startups depending on time, resources and costs of participation.
- Networking & Apero & Meetups
- Pitching competitions
- Startup event e.g. Pioneers Festival
- Hackathon: 1/ 2 or 3 days of rapid prototyping (coding) for project sponsors
- Tech show: horizontal events covering multiple markets, typically focused on selected technology solutions e.g. Mobile World Congress, CES Las Vegas
- Trade show: Vertical events covering multiple technologies but focused on targeted market segments e.g. HannoverMesse
- Accelerator: 2-3-month programs e.g. Kickstart Accelerator, IKEA Rainmaker
- Incubator: 6-12-18-month program often with co-working spaces
Some things to watch-out when picking Events
Whether with customers, investors or partners, it is great to try out some various events formats. However, below are some pitfalls you should be aware of to select the right events for Startups.
- Being in the spotlight: as Founder, you put yourself in front of your business; you use the venture as a vehicle for you to get visibility and positive reinforcement; this syndrome is likely to appear in pure-play startup events, remote from market challenges
- Comfort zone: some Entrepreneurs tend to select those events where they know they have an edge; remember that for a deep tech start-up, pitching and winning at tech events might feel great but does not solve key business questions
- The Booth: getting a booth at an event can be a curse for a startup; A booth is great for established companies to gather partners or customers efficiently. Generally understaffed, startups are better off walking the floor and talking to people
- If it is Free… you are the Product: many events are popping up financed mainly through corporate sponsors; they are scouting for innovation & ideas but not always with a clear purchasing mandate
- Vision vs. Market: as you engage on the growth path for your business, you will encounter many challenges along the way. As you do this, be prepared to call “bullshit” on pitch focusing only on “vision”, “paradigm shift”, “disruption”. As your talks shift away from talking about markets, customer and sales so are your chances of building a sustainable business.
- Selling vs. Discovering: as you start facing commercial challenges, watch out for being stuck in “discovery” event mode; early on you should shape your ideas and technology into a product + pricing proposal you can bring to potential customers
- Escaping reality: as the business challenges increase, attending Events can become a place of comfort away from the tough reality of the business
Making the most out of your event
- Selection: take a bit more time to challenge the need to join specific events; look for qualitative assessments and peer recommendation to meet your objectives
- Priorities: stay focused on key business questions you are trying to answer? Key challenges? Resist the temptation of going to events just because it is free or you “won” a pitching slot! (Remember: if it is free…)
- Liquidity: most likely you are better off not renting a booth and walking the show; as needed, booking a demo room nearby a larger event can be a great alternative to renting out expensive space on event premises
- Time: you might leverage the event platform to connect with speakers or participants but decide not to attend in person; this might prove a great compromise to not participating to the event at all
- Impact: prepare extensively before attending time-intensive events and particularly when you have a targeted audience in mind e.g. Investors or customers; review their specific strategy, focus and priorities so you can be razor sharp in your message
- Value: a thorough and timely post-event follow-up is critical to getting real value from an event and send a clear execution-focused signal
- Focus: Events should only be a means to an end; make sure you do a candid post-event lessons learned to inform your business decisions and challenge further event participation.
To execute the right events for Startups, given the lack of transparency, information and reviews, identifying and leveraging the most out of the right events can be a challenge for most Entrepreneurs. The need for exposure to peers, customer, partners or investors should force a sound judgment on to the few events, which a Startup must attend.