For many years between 2009 and 2017 I was that king of standing up. I set up a funky job fair (Big Top) that ran 15+ times. I set up the first community-sourced web news portal (triangletechtalk). I had two Techstars-inspired accelerators, the largest with Dave Neal (The Startup Factory; 2012-2016) and the requisite demo days (2x per year). I was also part of the team that set up a mini version of our SXSW called Paradoxos (2 years) which turned into Moogfest (3 years). This on top of supporting others and their events with speaking or MC’ing.

I stood up

I am very proud of those early efforts but I share those with you to set up today’s thought.

These activities were a little selfish as I enjoyed being the face, the cheerleader, and the mostly single point of contact for many of these. Yes, they had an impact, but they were not sustained. That is the lesson for today. The impact was short lived. I did not create an opportunity for others to take my initial ideas and sustain them.

Take 2 is a new event called Raleigh Durham Startup Week.

In 2019 I was interested in slowing my global travels and putting more effort back into my home base. I had learned a lot about startup community leadership and wanted to take those learnings and put them into action. A networking lunch meeting with Archie O’Connor spawned the idea to roll out our own version of the Techstars Startup Week concept that I was now very familiar with (I had spoken at about 4-5 of these while at Techstars).

But this event was going to be different in my mind. This event was not going to be about me or Archie. This event and the now formed non-profit was going to be the aggregate of many individual efforts.

I call RDSW a “collective” defined by Oxford as – a cooperative enterprise

Next week we will collectively host the 3rd installment of Raleigh Durham Startup Week. We now have 24 active volunteers who have met every week for 30 minutes. This collective has embraced our simple mission – to inspire, connect, support and celebrate regional founders and their teams. These 24 volunteers rally around specific tasks like venues, event volunteers, sponsorship, marketing, and of course the content tracks, workshops and keynote speakers. And every year these 8 then 16 now 24 people all switch tasks. Some have left after an event, and some are new this year. Everyone has a peer as co-captain’s of their task. It is truly a collective organization.

Last year, an old friend who I have worked with, shared a beer with and supported in his community efforts, came up to me and whispered in my ear, “I see what you are doing here. You are helping to create the next generation of leaders”.

You could have seen my smile from space.

April 9-12, 2024 in both Durham, NC and Raleigh, NC register and come see us and this fantastic event if you are in town.  Oh, everything is free and always will be.