GreenhornTV: Boston’s Weekly Networking/Events Guide for Entrepreneurs – Episode 1

As I’ve mentioned in my recent series, The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide, it can often be difficult for young entrepreneurs to get “plugged into” the community. Some of this challenge is simply getting comfortable and experiencing the community first hand, but there’s also an issue of knowing what’s out there.  To help resolve that, we’re launching GreenhornTV, which will be a weekly webcast covering all the upcoming events for the week as well as highlighting major events to keep your schedule open for in the future.  So, without further adieu, here’s episode one for the week of November 9th-16th:

Notes from the show:

MONDAY:

Boston INNOBEER #InnoBeer
Description: “Join Boston-area innovators for beer and fun conversation about innovation, social media, and whatever comes up! Cash bar.”
Location: the Asgard Pub in Cambridge
When: 6:30pm to 9:00pm
Price: FREE

MIT Enterprise Forum Innovation Series –  “Vaccines & Global Health: New Technologies Create Global Opportunities”
Description: “Join us for a stimulating discussion on the state of vaccines and global health today and into the future.”
Location: 600 Memorial Dr., W98-1st Floor, Cambridge, MA
When: 5:30pm to 9:00pm (Networking then program begins at 6:15pm)
Price: FREE for Students, $25 – Forum Members, $40 – Non-members..

Where you’ll see Greenhorn: I’ve never been to InnoBeer, but it sounds great, so I’ll be checking it out.

TUESDAY:

WPI Venture Forum’s Business Plan Competition Final
Description: “Inventors and innovators with a new product or process test their business ideas with seasoned professionals, and the judges seek new and fundable ideas.”
Location: WPI Campus Center – Odeum Room
When: 5:30pm to 8:30pm (Networking then program begins at 6:30)
Price: Free for $125 members, $15 for $50 members, $30 non-members

Tech Tuesday
Description: “Join your fellow geeks, tech savvy professionals, DIY-ers, press, and other industry luminaries for this informal gathering. Bring your laptops, robots, OLPC XO’s, Amazon Kindles, new cell phones, gadgets, and other new-fangled devices.”
Location: Microsoft NERD, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA
When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Price: FREE
Why it’s special: Huge turnouts and great demos including things like Rock Band. Great View at NERD too.

DartBoston’s Capitalize: #Capitalize
Description: “Capitalize has been created to help break down the barriers between VC firms and young entrepreneurs in Boston.  The goal of the series is to provide young entrepreneurs and students with the experience of what it’s actually like to pitch a start-up to a VC or Angel.”
Location: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/capitalize
When: Live @ 7:30pm or watch it anytime after
Price: FREE (Seats were raffled off to watch in person, check out any DartBoston event to get a chance to attend the next episode in December)

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Enjoying the big tech loving crowd at Tech Tuesday, then rushing home to watch Capitalize

WEDNESDAY:

Mass Innovation Nights: #MIN
Description: Big event featuring: startup presentations, networking, tables for companies to show off their products and “Expert’s Corner”, where service providers like banks, investors, lawyers and other consultants will talk with anyone in attendance in 15 minute blocks.
Location: Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation (Waltham, MA)
When: 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Price: FREE

Boston Young Entrepreneurs: Emergent Group Presentation: #BYE
Description: Emergent Group’s team was named by Business Week among America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs. They’ll be presenting their business plan to BYE. Join us as we learn what Emergent’s model of sustainability consulting is all about and help them solve a few problems.
Location: Workbar Boston, 129 South Street, Boston, MA
When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Price: FREE

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Visiting our friends at BYE and Workbar to hear the great story of Emergent.

THURSDAY:

Ultra Light Startups: Leveraging Social Media: #ULS
Description: Hear from leaders in the social media field for best practices and great tips. Featuring: Rick Burnes – HubSpot, Paul Gillin – Social Media Marketer, B.L. Ochman – WhatsNextOnline.com, John Rogers – Local-Motors.com
Location: Workbar Boston, 129 South Street, Boston, MA
When: 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Price: FREE

DartBoston’s Pokin Holes #Pokinholes
Description: Podcast/live stream show for young people starting companies to get feedback from the most talented young professionals students and entrepreneurs in Boston. This week:  The Second Glass
Location: Hubspot
When: 6:45pm to 11:00pm
Price: FREE

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Ultra Light Startups to learn more Social Media tricks then catching up with the after party with Dart.

SPECIAL WEEKEND:

Intersection 2.0 – “The Heart of a Leader”  (A White Rhino Event)
Description: Two day event ““Exploring the Art of Leadership Together “
Location: Microsoft NERD, 1 Memorial Dr, Cambridge, MA 02142
When: Saturday, 8:15am to 9:00pm, Sunday, 10:30am to 4pm
Price: $25 to $65
Why you should check it out: Hear Scotty Smiley – West Point Instructor blinded in an IED explosion in Iraq.  After sustaining his injuries, Scotty climbed Mt. Rainier, learned to surf and finished an MBA at Duke!

Events you should register for now:

Northeastern University Entreprenership Week
* Informative and interactive events promoting entrepreneurship at the collegiate level occur from Nov. 16th – Nov. 20th
*Invention to Venture: All day workshop showing you how to turn your technology idea into a commercial opportunity

MassChallenge’s MassAccess: Speed Networking
* The event provides an opportunity for students, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, service providers and investors to discuss innovative ideas and prime future collaboration through speed dating style meetings.
* Cambridge event, Nov. 17th
* Amherst event, Nov. 18th

Web Innovators 24
* Large event featuring informative presentations, companies with tables to present their products, and lots of networking. Bonus: companies that are actively looking to hire wear a sticker with their name tag, so you know who to approach.
* Dec. 7th, 2009

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This will be a weekly show, airing on Sunday nights, so stay tuned for future episodes and if you have any feedback or ideas for improving the show, please comment.

If you have an event you’d like featured on GreenhornTV, please send an email to jason [at] greenhornconnect.com and put “GreenhornTV” in the subject line.

Field Report: WebInno23 Session: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Bootstrapping PR

Last night, a near-capacity crowd of people passionate about the web congregated at the WebInno23 event at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.  There were a number of interesting companies making their pitches, including The Idea Startup, Happn.in, and Book of Odds. It was a great event all around, but my favorite part was the journalist panel on “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Bootstrapping PR.” The real title could have been more bluntly named, “How to effectively reach journalists and get them to write about you without wasting money on PR people.”

The panel was a who’s who of distinguished innovation economy regional journalists: Peter Kafka (AllThingsD), Scott Kirsner (Boston Globe), Wade Roush (Xconomy),  and Bob Brown (Network World). Despite the varied backgrounds, they all seemed to be in agreement on most issues:

The Best Way to Reach Journalists

It turns out, journalists are just like regular people; if you want someone to help you out, they’re more likely to do so if they personally know you.  Peter Kafka recommended getting a referral from someone he trusts; if they’re excited about it, then he will be as well.  However, en lieu of such a connection, they all agreed that speaking to them face to face at an event or a conference is the best way to make them interested in your company.  The also emphasized that the meeting needs to be natural; they don’t like it when PR people or others grab someone and try to force an interaction.  Just thinking logically about reaching them this way, it makes a lot of sense.  Are you more likely to help someone if you were randomly messaged by them on LinkedIn or if you met them in person before?

Tips for Blogging

If you’re going to blog, you need to be passionate about what you’re blogging about and blogging itself.  A number of the panelists mentioned checking company and founder blogs to start a story.  If it isn’t current, they’re less likely to be interested and as Scott Kirsner said he’d hate to be at a company and have to ask, “‘What’s happened since your last post on July 23rd?'”  Bottom line: Write regularly and with passion or don’t blog at all.

Best Hooks for Journalists

If you want a journalist to write about you, you need to give them something they find interesting to write about. These are what they said were the most likely items to be written about:
1) If your company gets  a new leader (Someone was likely removed)
2) If you just completed a big round of financing
3) If you’re an established company making a significant change in direction for the company
4) If you have a major product being released (NOT version 7.2.1.1)
5) If you tie to a hot topic or are taking on an industry giant (David vs. Goliath is always a good story)
No surprises here.  What else does a company do that others might really want to read about?

Thoughts on Embargoes and Exclusives

The general feeling was that embargoes are a dying concept.  With sites like TechCrunch breaking news as soon as they can find it and others “accidentally” breaking stories early, there’s not a lot of incentive to wait.  The panelists were mainly concerned with spending a great deal of time on an article only to be beaten to the story by another site.  They also posed the question, “Why do you need everything to break at the exact same time?”

A similar feeling was echoed for exclusives.  Unless it’s a really unique and deep story, being exclusive isn’t a big deal to the journalists; they said they understand an entrepreneur has to try to get their story out. Their main thoughts seemed to focus on the fact that you really just need to understand your desired audience for a story.  Sites like Gizmodo will get you a mention and a quick paragaph, but to have a full story told, you’ll want to target a journalist.

Final Thoughts

The main message of the event seemed to focus on three concepts: personal relationships, passion and personality.  They all get spammed by PR firms trying to convince them to write a story and press releases filled with gobbledegook.  Neither is likely to get a story actually written.  Instead, they want to get to know you and your company personally.  As Bob Brown said, “Put away your powerpoints and put you and your company’s personality in front of us.” They also want to see your passion and personality come through in the content on your site, your blog and your tweets.  These places are where you can control your message and may even attract interest from journalists (David Meerman Scott and Hubspot would be so proud).

In the end, journalists are just like everyone else; they want to be treated like a colleague, hear interesting stories and get to know you and what you’re passionate about.  PR people are still very important for companies for a lot of other duties, but for a new startup trying to get press, the panelists don’t believe they can help much.