To pull back the curtain a bit on the ExitEvent Startup Social planning process, September's first-ever, lay-it-on-the-line, let's make it bigger than huge version in Raleigh got moved around like a twenty in a shell game. And exactly five minutes after I finally got it all figured out, ready to go full force with an epic Startup Social on Wednesday, September 19th, I got a very nice email from some guy at CoFoundersLab who was really excited to meet me when he came here from DC to do a Cofounder Match Meetup in Raleigh.
On Wednesday, September 19th.
Not that it would have been that big a deal. Most entrepreneurs in search of cofounders are still at the idea/planning stage, and haven't actually started yet, so they're not candidates (verified entrepreneurs and investors only) for the Social. But, you know, in the spirit of lifting all boats, I moved the Social up a day.
And I'm glad I did, because I then had a chance to have breakfast with CoFoundersLab founder Culin Tate on his way back to DC the day after his meetup (and two days after the Startup Social -- so no hangover!), and I came away pretty impressed with the model.
I have some experience here, having written about Aaron Houghton's StartUpWithMe.com over two years ago, so I know that:
1) There's already plenty of competition out there. In fact, during planning for the Raleigh Social, HUBRaleigh brought up another (out-of-state) cofounder matching startup that had been in touch with them.
2) It's not the most immediately viable sounding model in the whole world (Yeah, a lot of doubt an hedging in that assessment).
CoFoundersLab is a true startup, and Culin and team graduated the Fort in July and immediately started setting up shop along the DC/Philadelphia corridor, as well identifying twelve strategic cities from New York to Seattle. Once they landed their seed round, they started bringing their meetup event to those cities.
This helps them get the lay of the land in each city, which is always different from each previous city. It lets them find and reach out to startup community leaders and establish relationships.
Which, frankly, is what their business is all about anyway.
They're working on automating the capture and matching processes, and they have the muscle on board to do this, including advisor Dr. Julie Edge, who conducted the first-ever cofounder study with a grant from the Kaufman Foundation, and Carl Leubsdorf, Jr., former CTO of Match.com.
Yes. Match.com. It's all about relationships.
And it's another in this growing example of what I'm calling offlining that we're seeing in more and more tech startups these days. The theory that everything can be done digitally has long been disproved, and we're starting to see companies blend online and offline where it makes sense -- customer service and retention (the good ones anyway), sales, marketing, even the product itself.
It's why we have that Startup Social every month and why we'll move it back a day to help an entrepreneur out.
Furthermore, if my theory of startup evolution is correct -- the one that states that all these entrepreneurs forming around hubs like the 12 that Culin has identified is actually not a fad, but progress -- then someone has to crack the cofounder dating thing.
It was one of the top four things entrepreneurs told us they wanted when we did our survey back in April. I still get, I don't know, 5-10 requests a month - Do I know anybody who can do X and wants to start a company?
The process is currently all offline. It's inefficient, there's no science to it, and it's certainly not automated. Whoever does that and finds a way to make money at it will solve a rather large problem.
Money. That's key.
And Culin has those requirements on the front burner -- freemium model, advanced tools to make the search process easier and more accurate, and features he wasn't at liberty to delve too deeply into. There's also the period following the match, which I believe is not only part of the process, but crucial, like the runway out of an accelerator.
In the meantime, like I said, I like the model as it mirrors ours. Get people out and meeting face to face, then provide enough value digitally to keep the conversation going.