(with apologies to Josh Quittner, whose mag Business 2.0 I totally loved)
As an entrepreneur … I don’t need another social network letting me meet and chat with other entrepreneurs. Sure it’s all nice and fuzzy and maybe sometimes helpful meeting other entrepreneurs, but hearing from more than a few at a time and it’s over-kill. and Linkedin.com works well, already.
For example, I was a big fan of news.ycombinator.com for a few weeks … then, the excitement wore off. Same thing with GoBigNetwork.
Why do I say this?
Entrepreneurs are a flowing crowd. By the time you make a community of your peers (and it does take months, quarters or years), you have either gotten rich with your startup (and it’s a startup no more), or are struggling soo much that you’ve become weary of over-excited kids raving about their 1-week old startup.
Once you’ve had a successful startup, you are no longer that “loner” entrepreneur. You’ve made it; the investors know and trust you. You can either raise money quickly or find partners fast. You have a team you can trust.
As an entrepreneur … what I do need and what is critical for me is to meet with and connect with these 3 types of people:
1) Vendors who can sell me stuff that can
1.1) Save me money (reduce costs)
1.2) Increase my sales (part marketing & part sales tools)
1.3) Help recruit talent (or fix talent problems)
2) Potential leads, who I meet through
2.1) Industry-specific associations
2.2) Geography-specific associations
2.3) Vertical- and Horizontal- partnering opportunities
2.4) A-list bloggers are not potential target customers for the every type of startup, yet. (read more below)
3) Potential investors, who I meet through
3.1) Personal networking (most of the time)
3.2) Business relationships (my ex-boss’s former dorm-mate who is an Angel investor, types)
3.3) Conferences/trade shows (read more below)
Meeting other entrepreneurs to discuss similar “tax and marketing” problems is passe. I learnt more about sending mass-postcard mailings from an uber cool Photoshop wizard (you, Danny Glix) and a printing company in Tampa than from any other entrepreneur I know. They deal with it all day, not once in a blue moon.
Why I don’t target A-list bloggers?
Honestly, because they don’t link to anyone in my target market. If you are a web 2.0 service company, then, by all means go ahead and get the A-listers blogging about you. But if you happen to be selling sales and manufacturing software for transportation, logistics (www.adeena.net) and hurricane and construction industries (www.HurricaneBOSS.com)… there is little they can do to help you.
(It’s always nice to get the word out through them, but it’s more of an uphill battle for niche industry startups than for a web 2.0 company)
(That does help, with Google ranking, though ;) )
Meeting investors at Conferences/Trade Shows
I don’t think it helps as much meeting investors at a “Venture Capital Show”. But to actually get an investor to talk to you at your (non-investment-related but industry related) trade-show booth is awesome. The potential investor is getting a first-hand look at how you handle yourself with potential clients, seeing you form partnerships and close sales. Also, how you deal with competitive pressure when your bigger and better funded competitor’s booth is just 1 row away! No elevator pitch can beat this kind of real-world demonstration!