As a blogger who writes about Start-ups, I often get calls, emails or get stopped at parties because people need something for their company. They may need to hire a person with specialized skills, a lawyer who can help them patent or trademark their unique creation, or even accountant who can use Quickbooks on a Mac. New Yorker Bonnie Halper got so many of these same questions, she created a list for entrepreneurs to help each other.
A long-time recruiter in the tech industry who also is an entrepreneur, Halper got a dream call last year. An investor was looking for 3 CEOs, and 3 CTOs. Then she got a dose of the new reality: everyone she spoke to told her they were done working for someone else, and they were starting their own thing. So Halper put up 'Start-up One Stop (SOS)' to connect these start-up folks to each other. People offer help, or ask for it. When Halper kicked off the effort she sent out 500 invites and got 212 responses – a real New York number.
'We get requests for employment lawyers, insurance agents, php programmers, designers and other specialized hires. And I no longer have to reply to five emails a week asking ‘Do you have a client with extra office space?' I also know Investors and VCs are also on the list, trolling to see interesting start-up ideas go by. At least one company has been contacted.'
SOS notes go out twice a week. 'I hate getting something everyday – and start-ups are too busy to read something daily.' Time sensitive items get priority, and no multi-level marketing items ever show up. The list has no spam – it has to be real to get past Bonnie.
The feedback from people using the list has been positive. An anonymous legal question from a start-up founder got his query answered by a partner at a firm, who helped the entrepreneur for an hour - for free! The lawyer loved the challenge too much to charge him.
An original inspiration for SOS was Craig's list since Bonnie was an early subscriber. She discussed it with HARO's Peter Shankman (covered in December's column "Promote Your Start-up, Help a Reporter") who encouraged her to go for it.
Isn't this competing with her recruiting business? 'A lot of these folks are unfunded and can't yet afford a recruiter – but I hope they'll come back to me when they need me.' Halper's not charging for the list at this point. She thinks it is the right price for a start-up, and contributing to the community is valuable. But her involvement hasn't been without benefit. Since she started the list, she's been invited to join the boards of 4 start-ups.
While there are several thousand subscribers, Halper knows people have taking to reposting the list to their own friends on LinkedIn. While this violates her rules, Halper is enjoying the company. 'People at start-ups don't like to meet recruiters at events any more than used car salesman – they hate us until they need us. But they love to meet another entrepreneur - especially one who is helping start-ups out.'
What resources do you recommend to help other start-ups out? Make a comment and let us know.
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr