Events and Networking for Boston Startups

It’s been over two years since we discovered WebInno and were subsequently invited by David Beisel to be a sidedish. Among other notable Boston area events, WebInno was probably the most exciting for us, and it really gave us the shot in the arm that we needed. We also met some fantastic people that evening, many of whom we stay in close contact with. In fact, we met one of our advisory board members at that first WebInno. Each time I attend a WebInno, I’m not only shocked by the spike in attendees each event seems to have but also by the genuinely good vibe in the room that lasts for hours.

My point here is that as a startup company, and as an untested business seeking an identity and a place in the Boston entrepreneurial and startup scene, WebInno was really just one of many pivotal networking events for us. As this blog continues to be about entrepreneurship, and my perspective from the trenches, I don’t want to forget about these events and opportunities. Furthermore, I really encourage other entrepreneurs to be sure they get out there – hit the streets, attend events, network, don’t be shy. It’s like anything, once you get some momentum and get into a rhythm it just gets easier.

Here are some events that I’ve either attended or would like to attend in the Boston area:

  • WebInno – Cambridge, MA, about once every 3 months or so. Well worth it! And if you’re in the Internet space, check with David to see if you can a shot at a side dish or main dish. David’s very accommodating and open minded.
  • MIT Enterprise Forum – Cambridge, MA. Hey, it’s MIT man, you know it’s gonna be interesting! I’ve been a member of the MIT Enterprise Forum for about two years now. While not all their events interest me, specifically the bio-tech stuff, they do host many very helpful and relevant events and networking opportunities. From big, globally broadcasted panels on angel investing and venture funding, to small networking opportunities where David Weinberger shares his perspective on the digital world, MIT Enterprise Forum is well worth your attention.
  • MIT Entrepreneurship Center – Cambridge, MA. Are you an entrepreneur? Doesn’t really matter what industry you’re in – go to these events! Get involved! There’s a ton of value to be gained at this event. If you’re in the Boston area – don’t be a schmuck, take advantage of all the MIT has to offer!
  • The Capital Network – Waltham, MA. An organization for entrepreneurs seeking funding. I had the honor of being on one of their recent panels and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. TCN offers some really powerful resources for entrepreneurs, and they really take their time to make sure you’re absorbing all that you can. It’s very much a dialogue at TCN.
  • TechTuesday – An event hosted by the Mass Technology Leadership Council and growing in strength and numbers.

Here’s a bunch more (write-ups courtesy of Don Dodge, thanks Don!):

New England Angel Capital Conference – The Angel Investor groups of greater Boston meet once a quarter to review their best companies. Each group nominates companies to present. They are all looking for a round of funding that is bigger than any one Angel Group can handle. This meeting lets all the groups get a look at promising companies and pool their investment dollars.

Entrepreneurial Team Building – a panel of entrepreneurs that have built companies from the ground up and know the ins and outs of building great teams. What really makes a team come together? How can you be sure that you are bringing in the right folks? Who should be hired first, second, next? We’ll talk about teams at the senior management level and at the BOD level.

Entrepreneurial Series – Plain English Term Sheets – This is a webinar for startup entrepreneurs who want to understand the details of financing term sheets. What to ask for…and what to avoid.

MITX – Mass Innovation & Technology Exchange have lots of great events for technology based startups. The next session is “Building Social Applications and Widgets“.

The 128 Innovation Capital Group – The regular meetings are held on the second Thursday of every month at the Best Western Hotel on Totten Pond Road in Waltham. Every month an investor provides our formal program. After Q&A, our speaker generally remains to speak with audience members, one on one. After the meeting, a roster with the contact information of all attendees is made available to those who came to the meeting.

Nantucket Conference – The 2008 Nantucket Conference audience will consist of approximately 150 of New England’s top entrepreneurs, investors, and tech executives. Rather than sitting through a series of speeches and PowerPoint presentations, the audience will be engaged in a dialogue – and sometimes a heated debate – with Conference presenters.

Get out there! Spring is here, so you’re out of excuses!

Perspective

Today’s New York Times had a brief but attention grabbing article on its cover page titled “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.” Greg Sterling responded before the sun came up in Oakland, Om Malik also responded, and Michael Arrington is quoted in the article saying, “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen. This is not sustainable.” It’s truly shocking to me sometimes how so many people I know, or know of, who are also so bright and intelligent, choose to work themselves to … well, to death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m including myself in at least the later half of that statement. I work 90% of the time I’m awake, and I, like Michael Arrington, have a sleeping disorder. I’ve been to neurologists for it and I’ve undergone sleep studies and the doctors ultimately conclude that I need to relax and get into a more consistent sleep schedule. So I’m guilty of it too. But I like to think that I’m getting better at it and that I do have some perspective.

Work can quite literally become one’s life, making the delineation between “work” and “life” nearly undetectable. Many of my own friends and family would say that CitySquares is Ben, and some might dare to say that Ben is CitySquares. Frankly, I find both of those assessments bordering on offensive, but I do understand their perspective.

What drives me might be different from what drives, say, Om Malik. What drives Om might be quite different from what drives Mike Arrington. And as an entrepreneur on my second business, and knowing many other entrepreneurs in varying stages, I can comfortably say that I know what drives me, but I cannot profess to know what drives them.

Over the past few year I’ve learned a good amount about balance too though. Sometimes a death in the family brings you back to earth, or the birth of a child – whatever it may be, but usually a major life event has a way of doing that – giving one perspective. I’d like to think that I don’t need a life event to remind me. Om Malik needed a heart attack to bring him back to earth. I’ve had some of my own personal wake-up-calls that I frequently use to keep my feet on the ground. I am constantly reminding myself that nothing is more important than family and health. And ironically, it’s precisely those two things that I’m working so hard for!

I’ve forced myself into a pattern of a fairly regular sleep schedule, which has significantly lessened the symptoms of my sleeping disorder. I’ve also learned to set time aside for the most important people in my life as well as time for myself. I’ve been practicing turning off the Blackberry, closing the lid on my laptop, taking a deep breath and just – letting go. But if I don’t practice balance, and it does take practice, than I start to forget why I’m doing all this, why I’m working so hard, why I choose this life – rather than this life choosing me.

This blog, Your Suspect, is most often about these very themes – these struggles between my own identity and Self, and my identity as an entrepreneur. I hope that this blog will tell a story one day, a story that I am living and that I plan on sharing with my own child.

I’m reminded of a line from John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy”, Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

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