By Joe Procopio
You might know about the Startup Madness event coming up Thursday, 3/31, at Bay 7 in American Tobacco. You may have even attended the event in its former incarnations, Launch Days I and Launch Days II: The Launchening. You probably aren’t aware of the Launch Days Organization, or that it’s bootstrapped, but if you are, you’ve possibly heard of or may even have met its one-man-band, Scott Kelly.
If you’re familiar with any of this, you likely have questions.
Who is this guy?
What is Startup Madness?
What is his company and what does it do?
What’s the plan?
What’s the endgame?
Does Joe still have a beard?
I’ve Got Answers
I’ve known Kelly for about a year, back when I was doing ExitEvent and he was trying to get his mind around the concept of what Launch Days should be. I’ve never worked with him directly, but I’ve been impressed with his sheer relentlessness if confused about the why.
He successfully pulled off Launch Days I in May 2010, getting over 100 people to pay admission for a networking event that celebrated early stage companies. The first batch of companies included Ruzuku, NeoBudget, BuzzBox, and Argyle Social.
Getting people to pay for anything, especially startup related, especially early-stage startup, is a Rubik’s Cube. And the admission fee also raised the question of Launch Day’s mission. Some light sponsoring of the event, including that from Kelly’s employer, KeySource Bank, added another question mark.
But look, you can’t put on an event without recouping the costs. It’s a for-profit organization and decidedly and unabashedly so.
Launch Days II had more of an agenda, including a voting portion for a prize package consisting mostly of advice and introductions from known entities and experts, and this raised a few more questions. Was Launch Days trying to be an accelerator like LaunchBox? And the similarity between the names of the two orgs caused even more confusion.
The answer to the first question is maybe then, but not now. Launch Days had been churning on its focus and reason for being. It could have been an accelerator of sorts, or a network, but has since settled to focus solely on the event.
As for the second item, no, the two organizations have no relationship at all, thus the name change to Startup Madness (which, unluckily enough, is also being used by Brad Feld and TechStars).
Kelly has a list of new names under consideration. I suggested LaunchJournal South.
The companies presenting at the second event were Group Story, JobKatch, Loyalese, SpotPulse, School House, 31 Projects, and WeGeo. School House won the vote handily, and they’re currently rocking along.
Method to the Madness
This time the point of the program is to open up the startup community to the early-stage entrepreneurs and vice versa. The prize is the open rolodex, introductions to various parties, but mostly it’s the opportunity to demo a product or idea to a room full of people who might be able to help.
And that answers a couple more questions
The goal of the Startup Madness event and Kelly’s soon-to-be-renamed company is to create a valuable experience for the entrepreneurial community, and that includes the early-stage companies who present, the audience who wants to help – that could be talent, investment, connections, customers, as well as those invested in the RTP startup ecosystem at large.
Kelly has no intentions of competing with TechMedia’s Southeast Venture, CED’s Venture, or any other investor event. In fact, the point of Startup Madness isn’t to raise money. It’s more to raise awareness.
It’s his hope that these companies eventually graduate to the larger investor events, and overall the ecosystem here grows larger, receives more recognition, and ultimately deal flow is improved.
Kelly seems to be settled on the events, and also settled on the connection and networking principles of those events. You won’t get a monster windfall from winning Startup Madness, but it will open some doors.
And in the spirit of networking and connection, this time around there’s an afternoon session that includes a spot for students from UNC, Duke, and NC State to compete and receive feedback from a panel with Preation’s Aaron Houghton, Palmer Labs’ Miles Palmer, and EvoApp’s Joe Davy. There’s also an entrepreneur-only lunch and Q&A with Appia’s Jud Bowman.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s time dedicated to public introductions and updates from LaunchBox, NC Idea, and Bandwidth’s Henry Kaestner.
The companies are broken down into two groups this time, Windsor Circle, gokit, and Rippple (with three Ps) are ready to release a product while Adzerk, Obsidian Solutions, Fitsistant (obviously my favorite name), and Motive Logic are existing early-stagers looking to add customers.
What’s the Endgame?
That’s the final question. Beyond pulling off a successful third event in Durham, next on Kelly’s to-do list is to change the name and then replicate what he’s done here in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro, tweaking and expanding as he goes.
So you see, it’s not crazy.
Well, no more so than any other early stage venture.
Joe Procopio heads up product engineering for sports media startup StatSheet (StatSheet.com). He also owns startup consulting firm Intrepid Company and creative network Intrepid Media. Joe also suggested InterLaunch Partners, LaunchStick, and C-E-Launch before realizing it had stopped being funny. Joe can be reached via Twitter @jproco.
- Firm to launch, five to present at Durham Launch Days event tonight
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- DC-based LaunchBox Digital pops 8 new startups into the real world
- Entrepreneurs aren’t born, they’re launched
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Tags: 32 Projects, Aaron Houghton, American Tobacco Campus, Appia, Bandwith, Columns, Events, EvoApp, Exit Event, Group Story, Henry Kaestner, JobKactch, Joe Davy, Joe Procopio, Jud Bowman, Launch Days, LaunchBox, Loyalese, Miles Palmer, NC IDEA, Palmer Labs, Preattion, School HOuse, Scott Kelly, SpotPulse, Startup Madness, WeGeo