I’m teaming up with the New England Venture Capital Association to create StartupGrid, an authoritative compilation of advice, expertise, and thought leadership from New England’s top VCs, angels, entrepreneurs, and service providers.
What is Startup Grid and Why is it Needed?
As entrepreneurship becomes more fashionable, so does offering startup advice. But it’s everywhere, it’s messy, it’s disorganized and it’s of inconsistent quality. Instead of leaving it to a time-starved entrepreneur to navigate a whole Internet’s worth of content, we’re gathering, curating, and organizing the best startup material in one place. To this collection, we’re adding a much-needed human element by including video clips from New England’s startup authorities. It’s our way of helping entrepreneurs save valuable time and avoid reinventing the wheel.
Who are my fellow early organizers?
C.A. Webb and Kitt George from the NEVCA will be helping coordinate with the VC community, intern Jake Vacovec will be leading a team of Middlebury College students cataloguing content, and my old colleague Adam Bouchard, head of Agilion.com, will be leading the web app development. I will be reaching out to many more of you, though, for help. In January, we are getting an entire flotilla of Middlebury students to crank this out as part of their J-term project. Expect an early version out before the end of Q1.
How will the StartupGrid work?
Imagine a giant spreadsheet that contains links to curated quality content about starting up a company that currently exists on the net, whether that be in blogs, videos, podcasts, or slideshares. Each column of the grid will represent a person, cataloguing much of the best of that person’s published content. Every row of the spreadsheet will feature a question or topic, sorted into logical categories. “How aggressively should I try to price my seed round?” “What are the best rules of thumb on burn rate?” “Where can I find comparables about compensation for my new hires?”, “What sectors do you invest in?”
Want to know what opinions these thought leaders have on a topic? Travel across the row. Want to see everything posted by someone? Go down their column.
Additionally, local New England experts–not just VCs, but angels, lawyers, bankers, and prominent entrepreneurs–will each be asked to give 5-10 minutes of their time to briefly introduce themselves and talk about any relevant topic where they have a strong opinion. Jake will take the raw video footage, chop it into segments as appropriate, post the on Wistia/YouTube, tag the contents, and then put the link in the appropriate row and column of the grid. Voila: an easily searchable, free resource. In time we hope to link in all media, including audio and video podcasts, slide shares, web content from Quora and from startup personalities around the globe, the works. But starting now, we’ll be focusing on interviews and blogs.
Benefit for Beginning Entrepreneurs
How can this be used? Entrepreneurs, let’s say you are going to meet a potential VC or angel who has been interviewed and is on the grid. Want to do some homework before your meeting? Simply click on the investor’s icon (representing the “column”), and learn his or her opinions on any number of subjects. More importantly, get a sense of the person. And maybe do the same for all the other partners at that venture capital firm.
Or let’s say you need help on a troubling topic. Troubled by some issues related to, say, equity options? Go to the topic page, click on “Equity Options”, and all the rows with questions that apply will show up. You’ll quickly have access to what the entire New England community has to say on your topic.
Benefit for Seasoned Entrepreneurs
If you’re one of the stars we invite to participate, this may be a great way for you to build your personal brand, helping you both in recruiting talent and letting investors check you out.
Benefit for Investors
For investors and service providers, this is not just a place to get some inbound marketing, this is a way to make some deposits in the karma bank and pay it forward. You control your message, and we’ll do the rest. Hopefully this is a source of more qualified leads, and is an efficient way to show what you know and what it’s like to work with you.
Benefit to service providers/experts
Show off your stuff! ‘Nuff said. And get a chance to make a deposit in the karma bank. You KNOW it pays in the end.
What happens to the content
Anyone will be able to access the content and link to it. If, for any reason, you should change your opinion, your job, or want to go into the witness protection program, just say the word and we’ll remove the relevant files.
What questions will be asked?
We all know there is nothing new under the sun. We will be going through many of the major blogs, Quora, Venture Hacks, etc., to crowdsource the most commonly asked questions to start us off. But if there’s any topic you want to sound off–feel free, and we’ll include it.
Is this a one-shot deal?
Who knows? For now, it’s just a fun side project and experiment. If people use it, we can probably harness an unlimited supply of interns willing to catalog and update the project. All of the material is UGC, but think more HackerNews rather than Wikipedia, as we’ll vet the content before it goes live. And, like Zemanta, we will make connections not just to current content but also blasts from the past, so entrepreneurs get the best of both the old and new advice.
Interested in participating?
Great! We’ll start doing interviews and collecting materials through the rest of 2014. Feel free to contact me in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll connect. At a VC firm? C.A. or I can arrange for us to come to your offices to do all of your investors in one setting. If scheduling doesn’t work out for an in person visit, we can do interviews via Skype—my guess this will be most of them, but don’t worry, we’re not about production values, we’re about quality content.
It can take as little as 5 minutes or as much time as you like–we aim to make you look good. Don’t have Skype and want to do it on your own schedule? We can arrange for you to do it solo, via the TakeTheInterview webapp.
Think about what matters to you, where you have a strong opinion–especially if it may be different than that of the herd. For example, I want to talk about best practices in managing advisory boards and how that differs from a board of directors, and best ways to communicate with investors. What do you want to talk about? The podium is yours.
Don’t want to interview, but want to help?
Call me at 802 922 2916. Suggest your favorite material for us to catalogue, tag and cross-reference. Toss in some sponsorship bucks for the interns. Talk up the idea. We gladly accept all help.
Should be fun!
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