It’s now been 3 days since the first Founders & Funders in Toronto. I’ve travelled to Montreal for StartupCampMontreal and had some time to reflect on the events. Founders & Funders was a lot of fun. Istoica provided photo documentation of the people and the proceedings, check out the full gallery. StartupCampMontreal was a fantastic romp with Graham Hill and Albert Lai and 5 interesting startup presentations.
Founders & Funders was a great event. It was probably the most successful event for me about affecting a positive change in the startup community in Toronto. Back in 2005, this all started as a way to find others in the community interested in Web 2.0, starting companies and changing the world. Founders & Funders has always had a different mission. On the surface it looks very similar to DemoCamp and some of the other community activities. And there is a significant amount of overlap between the TorCamp community and the attendees at Founders & Funders. But there is not 100% overlap.
My apologies, if you wanted to attend Founders & Funders and did not get the chance. The size of the event. The cost of the venue. The price of the tickets. The sponsors. The budget. And the desired outcomes prevented us from being 275+ people like the last DemoCamp. The goal was to connect the people that start venture-fundable companies with the people that fund them. We charged $75 per person for a meal, that in the true web 2.0 fashion, cost approximately $140 per person. Honestly, maybe the next time I’ll take my own advice and start from the financial mechanics.
Attending StartupCampMontreal started me thinking about the experience of social networking events. It ties into previous posts, Value to the audience, about what is the goal of these events. Then how do you design the event experience to facilitate the goals. Thinking about Founders & Funders, the goal was a social evening that connected entrepreneurs and funders in a context outside of a pitch. We did a great job, we provide an awesome venue (it was a little noisy), a great meal, some social lubricant, and a great group of people. Many of the funders said “I feel like I know half the people but I haven’t connected with them”. This is no surprise the funders list in Toronto is pretty small (it’s missing a few folks like David Ossip, but he was invited just unable to attend). I watched a few entrepreneurs that were new to the crowd float around, struggle to enter conversations, not because they weren’t capable, but because the amount of effort required to network is huge.
What I realized at StartupCampMontreal is networking where you are the new guy is exhausting. I think there is a real role in the community for ambassadors. There are people who have been a fixture in the community since very, very early. The role of ambassador is to connect people. Every first-time attendee is assigned an ambassador, whose job it is to introduce them to 3 people. Not 3 random people. Not 3 people that are your friends. But 3 people that would benefit from the connection. This means learning a little bit about the n00b. Read their blogs. Check out their Social Graph. Talk to them before hand.
When Austin, Heri, Philippe Telio and Vincent Guyeaux of Embrase introduced me to someone there was a smarter conversation. It was because they had served as editors and were increasing the value of the connections. This is also the one thing, I wish we had done a little better at Founders & Funders. The understanding of that the connections matter, they are the conduits (a series of tubes if you will) that allow for commerce in the community. Figuring out the currency of community is key. It turns out the the currency is connections, it is dollars exchanged, it is link love, it’s jobs offered, networks shared. The challenge is that there is no exchange format.
We can begin improving our events by embracing the role of the ambassador. And working to improve the quality of the connections.