I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Startup Grind in San Francisco alongside Isaac Saldana, the co-founder of SendGrid. The presentation discussed SendGrid's journey from the inspiration behind their now publicly-traded company, to actually ringing the bell on the New York Stock exchange.
Like most startups, their journey was not easy. The conversation looked at both the positive and negative experiences that took place along the way. And it was for this reason that we were swarmed by audience members after the talk -- to glean even more about their path to success.
Most startups that come through Techstars want to be thought leaders in their space. They want to be on the main stage, giving people the keys to success. But some may skip a step: attending these events to learn from their peers.
Here are the main reasons you should front the bill to attend industry events:
1. Market research
Like the audience at Startup Grind, most use the opportunity to learn. Whether it's to learn about your competition and their efforts, learn from like-minded individuals in your industry or even to learn about the event's programming so you can plan your submission for next year, there are plenty of great takeaways that are worth the entrance fee.
Market research is often left on the side after a startup gets through their initial planning phase. They know the direction of the company, the roadmap and the people that will get them across the finish line, but within months the landscape can change. And if you're not staying in-the-know, you may be working towards a goal that the industry quietly deemed outdated. Attending industry-specific events give you a broad view on what's important to the community and allows you to ensure your roadmap doesn't lead to a dead end.
This may be a no-brainer to some, but oftentimes entrepreneurs are so wrapped up in their work they forget to build an outside network.
Industry events are a great way to meet others in your field to bounce ideas off of. These types of relationships may lead to future new hires, or maybe one day you'll be tapping them for an opportunity to work on their team.
On top of the other influential people you'll meet in the crowd, like VCs or big-time CEOs, there are ample opportunities for sales leads, so don't forget to bring your business cards.
3. Events spark ideas
Confining yourself to the office day after day is an easy way to get things done, but hinders the creative juices. And it's a driving factor for many startups to create open workplaces, in place of cubicles, or to relocate offices to co-working spaces, like WeWork.
But even if your company calls WeWork home, surrounding yourself with individuals focused purely on your specific field can be a great way to get new, fresh ideas flowing.
If you find yourself at an industry event, take some time to stay off your daily agenda --capturing leads, meeting with VCs, etc. -- and take some time to browse the halls and talk to folks with the mission of sparking a new idea. Maybe it's product innovation, marketing tactics or discussing the internal leadership team breakdown among a similar company. You never know what may spark an idea that could change your future.
4. Media connections
While startups keep thought leadership at the top of the wish list, media is usually another aspect that drives interest in event participation. But startups don't need to be the keynote speaker to grab attention of media at these events. Simply being in the same room is enough to get yourself an intro conversation.
By attending most events, you gain access to a list of media that will also be present. Take some time before the event to look through and determine which contacts write about your technology. You may already know some of the folks on that list. Ping them before the show to see if you can grab a few minutes during the event to discuss what you're working on. But don't be deterred if they don't get back to you. There are a lot of companies fighting for their attention.
5. Time away from the desk
There are plenty of reasons to attend an event that can be useful for your company and its future. There is also another great reason to attend an event - you can take some time away from the office to refresh.
Think of events as an off-site field trip. Sure, there are business objectives you want to accomplish, but you should also have some fun with it. Meet new people, create new friendships and don't forget to take full advantage of the open buffet (and bar).