The second, still name-challenged, Monday morning gathering of Louisvillians with entrepreneurial spirit started at 8:30 a.m. at Insider Louisville HQ.
While our fair city has multiple resources for businesspeople and entrepreneurs, we used to lack creative density – the ability to pack the right people into the room.
Seventeen “members” attended the event, a healthy mix of people who came to the first meeting and new people who read about it on IL or Twitter or heard about it from a friend.
The focus of this meeting was to further define the group, its needs and its goals. As with last meeting, IL’s CEO Tom Cottingham moderated.
The morning began with attendees introducing themselves and their main focus of concern when it comes to what’s next for Louisville’s entrepreneurial community.
Ideas bounced back and fourth about how best to advance individual businesses while at the same time advancing the Louisville start-up ecosystem.
Three issues repeatedly bubbled to the surface:
1) How do we find/get/create/retain tech talent in Louisville?
According to Jay Garmon, who is about to be formerly of Backupify, the number one reason that Rob May relocated the tech start-up to Cambridge, Mass. was the challenge with finding tech talent in Louisville. Garmon explained that Backupify basically needed to hire 25 Ruby on Rails coders in fewer than 90 days.
Garmon said they could hire all the Rails coders in Louisville and still need to fill five spots.
While the group said there were plenty of people who could teach Rails here in Louisville, none of those people is teaching tech at the University of Louisville. Rounsavall mentioned that David Jones, Jr. is teaching a class in entrepreneurism at the U of L next spring. It’s just a one-off class; he’s not on the faculty. Could the same thing happen with these more exotic tech skills?
“Existing talent,” says Garmon, “may be in corporate handcuffs.” How do we liberate some of this talent? Lots of corporate coders would never even think to pursue an entrepreneurial option or joining a start-up
Stacey Servo of New2Lou and Elizabeth Rounsavall agreed to organize a break-out group of talent-focused people to brainstorm these issues.
2) How do we educate our local investors about tech investments? How do we educate our entrepreneurs on how to pitch?
Deborah Boyer, president of the LDA, let us know that the next Louisville Digital Association on Wed., Dec. 12 will focus on crowd-funding and will feature a number of locals who have seen success on Kickstarter and other platforms.
Crowd-sourcing normally yields a relatively small amount of money compared to investments by venture capitalists. Even our local Kickstarter superstar, Tyler Deeb, raised only a fraction of what would be consider “seed money” by your typical tech start-up.
IL’s CEO Tom Cottingham is a veteran investor and has agreed to organize the break-out group focused on investors and investments. He also offered, as he had last meeting, to hold a “Pitch U” perhaps in conjunction with IF University sometime in the near future.
3) How can the entrepreneurial community share resources?
As someone who only recently took the plunge into freelancing (for money – I’d been doing it for free or for coffee money for years), this particular issue resonated with me. Deborah Boyer discussed the need for a directory of resources of some sort, an Entrepreneur’s Guide to Louisville.
If you’re an entrepreneur, how do you find a lawyer to help you incorporate? How much should that cost? How do you go about paying yourself and filing taxes if you work for yourself? Who’s trustworthy? Who understands what it means to be a start-up? What should warehouse space in the West End cost per square foot, and how do you know when you’re being ripped off?
What better way of vetting these services than sharing recommendations with each other?
Patrick Goodman of Red e App is organizing the break-out group for this topic and will be working with Nathan Anderson, a startup entrepreneur
Other issues raised:
- The Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement with which Alex Frommeyer works. This young professionals group is planning a Start-up Weekend-ish event for researchers — taking great researchers from local universities and colleges and introducing them to the entrepreneurial world.
- The packed calendar at Louisville Digital.org. When you check it out, you’ll undoubtedly be shocked at how many events there are every day. But, says Garmon, “The problem is that these people don’t talk out of their very narrow corridor. PHP coders don’t even want to talk to people who code Cocoa.”
- The need for an early adopter community. Apparently Lexington followed our lead and had a similar Open Coffee event after we had ours last week. Kelby Price of Pivyt reported one of the concerns the Lexington start-up community had was the need for informed beta testers. There is some need for the same in Louisville. Businesses like Roobiq and Red e App are entering that phase of development.
- The need to define the group… or not. We resolved to continue to meet at 8:30 a.m. every Monday morning. After the meeting, Servo tweeted, “No better way to kick-off our work week.” Goodman responded, “It was great caffeine infusion of entrepreneurial energy!” We also decided to keep the “rules” about who can attend the Monday morning coffees relatively loose. “Every time you set a hard and fast rule, someone wants to lawyer the rule,” said Garmon, “Trust me, I’ve run enough D&D to know this.” The general consensus was that this gathering had to be a “pitch-free-zone.” No vendors. No solicitations. You must be an entrepreneur or have an entrepreneurial spirit to come. The group leans toward tech entrepreneurism, but we’re not exclusive to that arena.
- The desire to engage Brad Feld’s “whole stack.” If you don’t fit the profile for someone who should attend these nameless Monday meetings, you may still want to engage with the people who do. We’re working on a social aspect to the group (we don’t need much help with that… the IL HQ didn’t clear out until way more than an hour after the meeting convened). There may be a holiday party in the works.