In our first post on How to Create Your Own Startup Week in 6 Months, we covered the basics – how we built out the infrastructure for Denver Startup Week 2012 and assembled the team to get things moving.
Once those elements were in place, we needed to start building buzz around the event. Which leads us to…
6. Leverage the establishment
Denver has a number of well-established companies tech companies in telecom and data storage, as well as some startups that have had good exits (Photobucket, Mapquest, and iTriage are a few examples). We saw a great opportunity for mutually-beneficial relationships where the established companies provided funds, experience, and services while startups provided a new potential customer base, access to leading-edge technology, and talent.
We engaged the establishment to support Denver Startup Week as sponsors, provide their common space to host events, and to make sure that these companies and their employees took part in events.
The establishment can greatly amplify your event’s success. Make sure they are involved.
7. Leverage the entire startup community
The name of the event was Denver Startup Week so this seems pretty obvious, but leveraging the entire startup community is incredibly important. And incredibly difficult. We wanted to bring in startups of all kinds – idea-stage startups, bootstrapped startups, startups seeking funding, and those that have already raised.
Bringing together startups across the different lifecycle phases and from different verticals involved a little more work, but helped create an event that appealed to a larger spectrum of participants and also increased the chances of that all-important serendipity that the founders of GetSatisfaction talk about.
Reach out to as many different startups as possible. Get them involved and create events that appeal to them.
8. Maximize free and social
FullContact took our entire team down to SXSW last year, and the biggest thing we took away from it (besides a hangover) was that making things free and providing plenty of social lubrication was a recipe for maximizing the opportunities for networking.
In the case of SXSW the free only appears after you buy an incredibly expensive pass, but once you’re there you don’t pay for anything. Because of our big win and our champions we had the sponsorship dollars to make all of our events actually free to Denver Startup Week participants, and offer plenty of beverages to aid in the social.
(I’m not advocating turning everything into a booze fest, but lets be honest: nothing helps us geeks be social like free beer.)
Come up with fun events and figure out a way to pick up the tab.
9. Let it roll
The kick-off for Denver Startup Week quickly approached. Events were planned, participants were registered, and we funds were (mostly) in the bank. We didn’t know exactly how it was going to go.
Most events were fully-registered and waitlists were starting. Some people were indicating that they were confused about the details, but most seemed to know what was going on.
The organizing committee put methods in place to report problems and realized that we would likely be the ones to have to put out the fires, but that was all we could do. It was time to just let go and let the event run.
And run it did. There were a few hiccups here and there, but for the most part the people involved were all professionals and able to run each one of the moving pieces.
If you build a quality framework with quality people the event almost runs itself.
Once the event was over, Denver Startup Week did a post-mortem. We identified what worked, what didn’t, and where there were opportunities for improvement. We will make the tweaks and then start the whole process again with a goal of making the second annual Denver Startup Week even better than the first.
Build, measure, learn.
Every city is different, but you can easily take these steps and create your own city-wide startup event – even if you only have six months (hey – we did it, after all). In our experience, it’s a great opportunity to strengthen your own startup community and make a name for your city.
That being said, how do you feel about the startup community in your town? What do you think it takes to build an engaged, active community of startups?