Last Thursday, I attended SwitchPitch, hosted by start-up hub 1776 at their unfinished 12th floor office space on 15th Street in the District. The event’s premise turns the traditional start-up pitch gathering on its head. Instead of entrepreneurs pitching groups of venture capitalists for funding, local companies like Motley Fool and LivingSocial pitched projects to qualified treps who are more than capable of getting the work done.
Not only was it fun to get better acquainted with the DC tech scene and infiltrate all-male clusters of entrepreneurs networking and flexing their self-employment prowess, but I enjoyed hearing America Online co-founder and former CEO/chairman Steve Case’s keynote moderated by serial entrepreneur and SwitchPitch brain-father Michael Goldstein.
Sitting smack dab in the middle of DC’s startup movement, (Mayor Vincent Gray told us that there are 420 startups in the city of DC alone.) made me realize two things.
One, large companies—much like the small to midsized communications firms aiellejai talks about in our latest white paper Blindsided!—know that they need the right talent to drive the innovation that’s crucial to these companies’ survival. And when these companies can’t identify that talent in-house, they begin to look for smaller companies to acquire that already have this talent in place. Though entrepreneurs shouldn’t build companies with the sole purpose of selling out big-time to titans like Google, (Steve actually said he prefers to invest in “built to last companies,” not “built to flip.”) large companies are definitely on the lookout for smaller companies with insanely smart staffs/leaders and viable products that can augment large companies’ offerings.
Two, a few hundred attendees at the SwitchPitch event and the Startup America frenzy slowly blanketing the nation are both evidence that people are convinced that running a company is sexy and relatively doable. But it was refreshing to hear Steve tell a different story about his beginnings with AOL. He explained that while everyone saw the company as an overnight success, the company as a whole had been grinding away in anonymity for 10 years.
As a trep (I picked that term up from other articles and blog posts. I’m trying it out for the first time here.) who has been in the game for a minute, I know it’s important to tell newer treps that this game is often lonely, thankless and the furthest thing from sexy imaginable. Of course, that statement will probably prompt new entrepreneurs to ask me, “Well, why do you do it?”
My answer? Because the nagging allure of making a greater impact—and a larger return on my skill set—outside of the 9-5 world just won’t leave me alone.
Seasoned entrepreneurs, what’s your answer?
Photo credit: @startupamerica
Read Blindsided! Why the rapid pace of social media communication and measurement is leaving PR agencies behind
In his Forbes.com article, “PR Agencies’ Lost Year?”, Peter Himler of Flatiron Communications makes the argument that while PR agencies are fixated on the obvious rise of mobile technology and the visual web, they’re missing real opportunities to use creative hybrids of earned, paid and owned media tactics to broadcast client messages to already overloaded audiences. Himler’s article prompted aiellejai to produce this white paper. In it, we explore why the PR industry was blindsided by the emergence of new technology and the choices these professionals will have to make internally and externally to remain valuable players in the midst of the new accelerated pace of communication.