Whether you’re an entrepreneur in San Francisco, New York City or even Lincoln, Neb., you could fill your calendar twice over with nothing but “startup” events. From daily meetups to conferences, demo days, coffee chats, happy hours and more, the number of events is constantly growing.
From a community perspective, the proliferation of events is great, because it signifies a growing focus on innovation and communal support for entrepreneurs. However, for entrepreneurs, this growth can also create problems. Entrepreneurs are constantly forced to identify the value of each event: Is this worth the precious time that could be spent working directly on my business?
From my experiences across ecosystems -- balancing both running a startup and community involvement -- here are five tips to effectively overcome what I like to call “startup-event overload.”
1. Define events
“Startup”, “tech” and “entrepreneur” are very broad terms but are used to categorize many events, people and companies. At a high level this makes sense, however, when trying to understand the value of an event or conference deeper insights are necessary.
Key questions include "What are the topics being discussed?" and "Who will be there?" As an example, my startup Travefy builds travel collaboration software. As a result, we have more to learn (and can often get more value) from events with non-startup players in our industry -- like HomeAway or Expedia -- than from other companies under the vague “startup” brand who may be in unrelated verticals.
By fully understanding the networking and knowledge opportunities, you can best assess the value that you provide or derive from attending an event.
2. Know your objectives
With the overload of startup events, knowing what your goals are is key. With that information you can best determine what types of events will set you up for success.
As an example, when targeting recruitment or hiring, we focus on attending tech meetups or language specific conferences to become a known entity and meet the right people. To meet potential customers or partners, travel industry specific conferences are ideal given our business model.
Related: Networking Is a Contact Sport
Team morale is also a very real objective and for many on your team simply being connected to the local community is a part of the value-proposition in working at your company. If that’s the case, sending those team members to startup events, especially Happy Hours, is a great use of time.
3. Recognize that time is money
Time -- not cash -- is the most precious and scarce resource for young companies. With only 24 hours in a day and the constant race against burn and competition, time is something most entrepreneurs don’t have to spare.
As such, all startup events represent time that could be spent working directly on your business. Understanding this direct tradeoff is vital in determining what events to prioritize for you and your teammates.
4. Differentiate between what is for you and your company
I love my local entrepreneurial community with its energy and innovative spirit. As a result, I try to be as involved as possible -- mentoring at local accelerators, attending regular speaker series like 1 Million Cups and more. Furthermore, I recognize that a stronger entrepreneurial community has a positive impact on my company, our hiring abilities and future.
However, before every event, I honestly evaluate the impact on Travefy to determine whether I’m actually attending for me and my own enjoyment or my company and our direct goals. As one might expect, it’s a true mix between events and time spent for me versus my company, which is completely fine. We’re all human and a sustainable lifestyle calls for time spent doing what we enjoy outside of work.
Nonetheless, out of fairness to the Travefy team and our investors, all time committed to events for me come out of my personal time (and, of course, there is a tradeoff there from family time) as opposed to work time.
5. Be strategic
All taken together, startup event overload can be overcome.
By being strategic in more deeply understanding each potential event on your calendar, your goals, and time trade-offs you can most effectively balance running a startup and community involvement.