Last week's New York Entrepreneur Week (NYEW) brought together over 1800 entrepreneurs, potential entrepreneurs, investors, and advisors from 3 continents and 18 states. The non-profit Relentless Foundation, started by Gary Whitehill, launched Entrepreneur Week New York in 2009 and this past week was the third iteration.
Whitehill's idea for NYEW started at the depths of the recession, when he saw people without jobs and a mature but fragmented NY ecosystem where non-profits, city and state resources didn't always work together in favor of growing jobs. NYEW is a platform intended to 'Leverage networks of great speakers and experts and groups of entrepreneurs for a week-long event that would be more scalable than connecting people for one-on-one or small group meetings.'
The auditorium held 300 and was full all week, and events such as 'Do It In Person' on Thursday night had over 350 networkers making new connections. Capping NYEW on Friday was a talk by noted serial entrepreneur, and author of Four Steps to the Epiphany, Steve Blank. Paula Diaz Antonopoulos-Wolfe, Founder and CEO for EDUCADEMY, a consulting and research firm that ensure students reach highest learning potential, said she learned from Blank how investors see a business plan. 'He taught me to focus on my model rather than my plan. Every type of business has different customers, and I need to show how I can target them effectivelyto provide them the best service they need. Blank's talk as well as other sessions left me motivated and inspired.'
Flowing from NYEW, StartUp Weekend (Previously covered in StartUp in A Weekend) ran an event from Friday night through Sunday at NYC Co-Working Space New Work City . It lets people with ideas find others with tech talent and business savvy and encourages them to create website or mobile app that could form a 'credible business over the course of a weekend.' NYC's winner was Matt Talbot's BelliElla.com, a site that intends to rent high-quality fashionable maternity wear to expectant mothers who need outfits appropriate for business or going out with friends. Talbot, who has worked at Johnson and Johnson on a corporate finance track for 4 years, recently took a new part-time role there to pursue this idea. 'After seeing several amazing panels at NYEW, including one on PR and Branding, I found two people at Startup weekend that helped me flesh out the business model and put up a landing page for our website. Winning the event got me an incorporation package for free, but more importantly it connected me with the CEO of a fashion and branding company who is helping me work on distribution and suppliers.' Talbot is funding the venture, but will be looking for a seed investment when he launches with a test group of customers.
From experiences of Talbot, Diaz Antonopoulos-Wolfe, and others, NYEW has helped move the community forward. Behind NYEW is another hidden motive: Whitehill envisions that all school kids K-12 will be exposed to entrepreneurship at in-school programs by the year 2030. 'Not all kids will be entrepreneurs, just as not all kids will play the saxophone. But if we expose them, they can learn if building businesses is for them – especially underprivileged kids.'
If he keeps expanding his Entrepreneur Week programs to different cities, by 2030 he'll have plenty of people to teach in schools and share learning and curriculum from practical experience.
What was your NYEW experience, or do you know of similar programs in other cities? Let us know in the comments below.
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