When starting a new business everyone tells you to network, network, network. “Be out there,” “meet people,” – call it what you may, but the truth is that as the Founders of an early stage company, a VERY large part of our job right now is selling the concept of Urban Interns and building our brand. While you can fill every minute of your calendar with networking events, quickly learned it’s more about quality of affiliations than quantity. We deliberately keep our list of organizations and affiliations short. That said, Ultra Light Startups, started by Graham Lawlor, continues to be one of our favorites.
What is Ultra Lights Startups? “It’s a group Ultra Light Startups is a group of technology entrepreneurs who collaborate online and in-person to help each other launch startups quicker and cheaper.”
Okay, so what does that mean? It means that month after month, Graham fills a room of early stage entrepreneurs, all of whom have at least some tech component to their businesses (and who doesn’t these days, right?) to meet, connect and listen to a panel of experts speaking about a cutting edge topic relevant to today’s start-up environment. The first Ultra Light event we attended was on employment-related business models. In the last few months, he’s also had events based on twitter-based business models, bootstrapping a startup and monetizing online video. The event starts with an opportunity to do a brief pitch about your company, and dedicated networking (and pizza!) midway through. All this for $10, $20, or $30 per event, depending on whether you pitch, don’t pitch, or pay at the door.
Graham told us the other day that he began ULS because he was tossing around a number of business ideas and wanted to bring together like minded entrepreneurs, also in their early days, and looking for peers to discuss business ideas and challenges. Why “Ultra Light” (or pre-funding) as a requirement to pitch at ULS? Because Graham also believes that an entrepreneurs first job is to focus on building a profitable business, not to run out and secure funding. There are a lot of resources available for later stage companies. ULS is very unique in its focus on the earlier stage ones.
Why do we like ULS and continue to go back? Great info from the panels, a collegial environment and we never know where the connections will lead. As a business that focuses on serving small businesses, we’ve gotten a great response from the ULS crowd—who needs an affordable extra set of hands more than entrepreneurs?
ULS has chapters in New York, Boston and London. Their next event on August 6 is on Local Business Models. More info here: http://ultralightstartups.com/newyork/