Creating a vibrant startup community

How a full calendar of high quality startup events and meetups increases entrepreneurial activity and strengthens the startup ecosystem.

By Samantha Deakin and Laura Bennett

We want to start this post by announcing the latest addition to the TEAM SY tech startup ecosystem family…

*drumroll please*

drumroll
📅📅 Enter the South Yorkshire Startup Events Calendar 📅📅

This is the place to find out what’s happening across South Yorkshire’s technology startup scene. Including meetups, startup events, conferences and all manner of startup goodness, never miss another opportunity to connect with entrepreneurs on a similar journey to you.

And why a startup events calendar? Well, in the words of Brad Feld, author of “Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City”:

“The startup community must have continual activities that meaningfully engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.”

Let’s break that down a little bit…

 

What is a Startup Community?

First of all, what do we mean by Startup Community as opposed to entrepreneurial ecosystem? Essentially, what we’re talking about here is entrepreneurs and those who have direct interest in the success of startups – founders, investors, employees. They are the Startup Community. They are the heart of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which also includes universities, local government, accelerators, and other stakeholders who contribute towards creating a supportive environment for entrepreneurs.

Read more about entrepreneurial ecosystems in this previous post.

 

Why are startup events and meetups important?

An entrepreneur’s network is hugely influential in her business. Having access to a network provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to seek out peer support, learn from others, forge relationships with potential mentors, and meet potential investors. A wide variety of regular events and meetups give entrepreneurs plenty of opportunities to expand their network, and contributes to the vibrancy of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Events and meetups also allow for serendipitous meetings-of-minds: by getting out and meeting people, entrepreneurs are more likely to meet that one individual who knows someone who knows someone else, who can unlock a particular challenge or problem that moves the entrepreneur’s business forward in some way.

When it comes to what’s available for an entrepreneur in a region, continual activities are key. We’re not just talking about one event a month here. We’re talking about several events a month, or even several events a week. There should always be something happening within the next few days and, as an entrepreneur, you should be able to network with other entrepreneurs on a very regular basis. 

Both of us have experience in organising startup meetups and running events for entrepreneurs. It’s a wonderful feeling to bring together like-minded people in a supportive environment, but it isn’t always easy. Two things that we have grappled with in particular are, one: getting bums on seats, and two: how to meaningfully engage the entrepreneurs that attend our events. We’ll look at each of these in turn, to share some of our experiences in the hope that it can help others.

 

Getting bums on seats

Whenever we (or others) have asked, entrepreneurs have always said that they really enjoy events and meetups, and that they get a lot of value from them. Great! But as any event organiser will tell you, getting people signed up and through the door can be incredibly challenging. Even when there’s a great speaker lined up, even when the topic is something that has been requested, even when previous attendees have said they will definitely come to the next event. This can be very disheartening for events organisers, and is certainly a feeling that we are both familiar with. Allow us to offer a few suggestions which have worked for us in the past:

 

  • Don’t give up! It can be hard work but also incredibly rewarding. We met each other (and many of our good friends) through startup events.
  • Seek out support. We at TEAM SY can play a cheerleader role here!
  • Look for a co-organiser. We’ve seen it work where two people come together to organise each meetup, and we’ve also seen it work when two people take it in turns to organise an event every other month. Both approaches help ease the burden.
  • Try a different time of day. If after-work meetups are falling flat, what happens if you start them at 4pm? Or does breakfast work better for your target audience?
  • Try having the meetup more or less frequently. If it is an informal get-together, perhaps try weekly. If it is a more formal meetup, perhaps try monthly, or even every other month.
  • Build up your own list of super connectors. Who are the people you know (or know of) who have direct access to your target audience? For a general entrepreneurship event, the list is long and includes managers of incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and people working within business support functions at the local authorities, just for starters. 
  • Spread the word far and wide. This is where your list of super connectors comes in handy. Send them an email to ask for their help, but make it as easy as possible. Include some suggested tweets and a short paragraph about the event that they can include in a newsletter or email to their networks.
  • Get social media savvy. As a starter for ten: do you have a hashtag and / or a meetup specific social media profile? Which platform has the most reach for your target audience? Which individuals are likely to share your content? Make sure you tag them in your posts!

Run a startup event or meetup?

Add your event to the South Yorkshire Startup Calendar and reach a wider audience.

Meaningfully engaging entrepreneurs at events

There has to always be some kind of value add for attendees – otherwise why would they bother? For a three-day long intensive Startup Weekend, the meaningful engagement may come from the immersion in the startup experience, the practice of developing ideas and pitching, and the benefit of meeting potential collaborators and co-founders. For a regular, monthly startup meetup, the meaningful engagement could be hearing what an insightful speaker has to say or catching up with entrepreneurs who are struggling with similar challenges to you.

The entire entrepreneurial stack is unlikely to be catered for in one event, hence the need for that full calendar of continual activities. The entire entrepreneurial stack includes founders at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey whether startup, scaleup or established company. But it also includes those who may have ideas, passion or are dipping their toes into the startup pool. They may not have launched a product or startup yet, but they’re the entrepreneurs of the future, the next generation of startup employees, and events that meaningfully engage them let them know that entrepreneurship is a route they can take. That it’s possible for them to have ideas and solve problems they’re passionate about.

 

See you soon?

Check out what’s on the agenda for entrepreneurs in South Yorkshire this month. We’re particularly looking forward to Blue Lake’s Raising First Funds workshop and the Sheffield Startup Meetup / After Work Drinks so come hang out with us. We can’t wait to meet you.

Authors

  • Regional leads for Capital Enterprise on the TEAM SY project (Technology Ecosystem Acceleration, and Market-Making South Yorkshire) | Super Connector | Community Builder

  • Regional leads for Capital Enterprise on the TEAM SY project (Technology Ecosystem Acceleration, and Market-Making South Yorkshire) | PhD Researcher | Entrepreneurship Ecosystems | Partnerships & Programmes