The ExitEvent Startup Social - 14

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The ExitEvent Startup Social - 14
As Aaron Houghton, current co-founder and CEO of BoostSuite and former co-founder of iContact, walked me through his house a few minutes before the kickoff of the 17th ExitEvent Startup Social, he kept repeating one thing: "If people want to come and hang out in here, that's cool."

And the more he said that, the more I realized that it wasn't about who Aaron was or how successful he had been. The fact was, one of the most veteran entrepreneurs in the Triangle was opening his home to the startup community. He was inviting them to come on in, hang out, be themselves, play a little pool, whatever they felt like doing.

That's cool.

I'm not going to lie to you, if you missed the Social Monday night, you missed not only the best Social yet, but you missed an experience. A happening. When you talk about the startup community and the need for it to be led by the entrepreneurs -- to be honest I just can't think of a better example.

The Startup Community and the ExitEvent House Party - 2
We packed well over 100 entrepreneurs (hard to count, too many rooms) into Aaron and Sarah Houghton's home in Chapel Hill, and on their deck, and in their yard. It was of epic proportion, and yet, it was still the Social -- Erik pouring Mystery Brewing beer, awesome food laid out, plenty of introductions and conversation. No selling, so name tags, no bullshit.

Just my own anecdotal: I was able to discuss a potential strategic partnership, found out someone I knew left their job to go work for a startup, got to catch up with AutoPilot's Ben Lee, who came all the way from Charlotte just for the Social, made what I hope turns out to be a hiring connection for someone, and talked about startup direction with three different founders and two writers (Ann and Monica were there, so was Jake, but we just talked about Automated Insights and Method Savvy, which I guess counts).

Aaron and I had been trying to do this since February, when he, pretty much out of the blue, made the offer to host. At that point, February was already locked in for Raleigh and I had planned to take March off (the Charlotte Social came together in about two weeks). So we tabled it for April, which turned out to be an excellent idea, thanks to some great weather.

It marked our first Social in Chapel Hill. I finally got a chance to see Aaron's new place, which is actually kind of odd because I live about three minutes away. And to be honest, he was as excited as I was, and for the right reasons -- he wanted to get to know all these people he didn't know, wanted to do something to bring us all together. He's been a huge supporter of ExitEvent from the beginning (see his excellent post a few weeks back), and he understands the mission.

The Startup Community and the ExitEvent House Party - 3
And this is exactly what we need right now. I'm not calling for every founder of every successful startup to suddenly start throwing house parties (although, come on, how awesome would that be).

But the entrepreneurial community should be familial, open, and constructive, not sterile, preachy, and competitive. It should be led by the entrepreneurs, and since this is the Triangle, that may not mean throwing exit-related gains into early-stage investments, but, for real, how often does Mark Zuckerberg throw a house party for entrepreneurs?

I actually don't know. Maybe he does. In which case, we're copying him.

One more thing. Even though I learned something Monday night, it's by no means a slight to our other hosts. Neu Concepts jumped on board from the beginning, and their place, along with HUB Raleigh and even newcomer Packard Place, feels like home when we go there.

They want to help, and they want NOTHING in return. It's actually quite humbling. I get hugs from Cathy and Liz and Brooks when I show up (not yet from Adam Hill at Packard, but we'll get there). In fact, we'll be back at Neu Concepts in May.

The Startup Community and the ExitEvent House Party - 4
So Tuesday Aaron emailed me before I could get to him (although I was watching the dozens of tweets relaying appreciation to the Houghton family for their graciousness) and he told me how awesome it was and how he'd love to do it again.

So maybe we should have all of our veteran entrepreneurs throw house parties once a month, whether under the ExitEvent banner or not. If that's what it takes to make our community stronger, then I'm all for it.

After all, nobody else is doing it. Nobody else but the entrepreneurs could.