Tag: capital entrepreneurs

Capital Entrepreneurs: How To Start A Founders Meet Up Group In Your City

I’ve been involved in the startup community in Madison for about 6 years now, but had a hard time fitting into the networking scene, especially as a college student who was also running a business.  Most of the entrepreneurship and networking events in Madison were either overrun by service providers trying to sell you something, cost too much for what they provided or were at bad times or locations.  The signal vs. noise ratio at most of these events was pretty poor.  At some of the other events, I’d be the youngest person by 3o years.

There really wasn’t a good, free, entrepreneurship organization that was limited to founders.  To fill the gap, I founded Capital Entrepreneurs, an invite only meet up for founders of startups.  We meet up once per month at a bar in Madison, grab drinks and talk about our businesses, ideas and how we’re moving forward.

Here’s some Capital Entrepreneurs stats from the last year:

Best of all, it’s been something that we all look forward to each month.  It’s lonely starting a startup.  In the early stages, you might only see one other person (your cofounder) each day for months at a time.  Founders groups like CE help create a scene and allow you to commiserate with others in your situation.  You also get “coworkers” and if you’re lucky like we are in Madison, most of the startups will be located close together to facilitate lunches and happy hours.

The awesome thing is that it’s been really easy to get Capital Entrepreneurs started and it’s been incredibly successful, moreseo than I ever envisioned back in May 2009.  If your city doesn’t have a good founders group, I’m here to give you the steps to take to replicate the success that we’ve had with Capital Entrepreneurs.

Your startup group should have the following characteristics:

  1. Exclusive to Founders – No attorneys, accountants, people searching for jobs, consultants etc.  These are all nice people, but do not belong in an entrepreneurship group.
  2. Private Email List – People like to keep their emails private.  Use BCC to send out invites
  3. Open to new members – You’ll never grow if you exclude startups
  4. Free – Do not charge admission
  5. Website – Create a website and post updates
  6. 1-2 people should control it – If there’s more, it gets too complex
  7. Sponsors – After you’ve been going for awhile, you’ll find that attorneys, accountants and others will want to be invited.  We started offering sponsorships where service providers can attend one meeting per year as long as they do not try to sell their services.

Step 1

Survey the existing startup groups in your city and try them all out.  There are 6-7 entrepreneur and young professional groups here in Madison.  All are valuable, but none provided exactly what we wanted to do with Capital Entrepreneurs

Step 2

Reach out to your network.  I emailed all of the founders that I had gotten to know, about 15 of them, and asked if they were interested in a meet up specifically for founders.  I got a good response and moved forward.

Step 3

Set up a wordpress site.  I bought the Capital Entrepreneurs domain name and installed wordpress.  I created a members page that includes everyone’s logos and a 2 sentence description of their business.  The home page is a feed of press that our member companies gets and we have a contact form so that new businesses, press and other can get in contact with us.  We later added a resources page that lists some service provider sponsors to advertise to our members, along with a list of helpful articles and resources that came from Entrepreneur 101.

Step 4

Find a location.  We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had a regular meeting location.  The great guys at Brocach let us have a private room upstairs, give us free appetizers and run us a tab for drinks.  I called 5-6 bars in town to find the one with the best deal and you can too.  Try to find a place that will not charge you fees.

Step 5

Pick dates and time that people will be able to come to.  We’ve picked Wednesdays or Thursdays from 7-9pm, as we are a somewhat younger crowd and most of the people walk to the events.  Pick a time that works for your members and your city.

Step 6

Send invitation.  Shoot emails to all of the people who’ve expressed interest and tell them that they should forward the email on to any other startup founders.  Make sure that everyone understands that it is for founders, not service providers like attorneys, accountants or for people searching for jobs.

Step 7

At the first meeting, make sure to introduce everyone so that everyone is comfortable.  Explain that this will be a monthly event and that it is for founders.  Keep it casual and then schedule the next monthly meeting at the end of the event.


Overall, you want to create a place where founders can come to meet up, exchange ideas, get to know each other, without the burden of talking with service providers are those handing out resumes.  Once you get a group together, make sure to keep emails private and set up a twitter handle and website where you can post updates about group members.

If you follow these steps, you’ll likely be able to replicate what we’ve done in Madison.  I think cities of just about any size can benefit from founders groups.  Even if the groups are small, they can be fun, easy ways to connect with your fellow entrepreneurs.  If you’d like help starting a founders group in your city, please feel free to contact me.

Are there good startup groups in your city?  Have you started one?  Would you go to one if there was one in your city?

Burrill Business Plan Competition 2010 and a Look Back


The 2010 Burrill business plan competition was held yesterday at UW.  One year ago today, Jesse and I won the students choice award for Entrustet.  Writing the plan, talking to the judges and presenting at the competition helped us launch the company.  Almost one exactly year later, we had our launch party in Madison and we’ve been featured on Mashable, The Financial Times and tons of other media.  It’s amazing what a year of hard work on a cool idea can bring!

I went to the 2010 public exhibition yesterday to check out the new companies and invite participants to join Capital Entrepreneurs.  It’s safe to say that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well on campus.  There were some really cool ideas this year, with the top prizes going to im-Bed Biosciences ($10k), Sector 67 ($7k), ProPov ($4k) and MycoLogyx LLC ($1k) with Student Spill taking home $1k and free office space in the Metro Innovation Center.  Buffalo Shoals took home the Green Credit worth $1k.

I took some pictures of some of the cool new businesses I checked out.  I only had my iPhone camera, so the picture quality does not match the business quality.  Sorry for that.

Sector 67 – Chris Meyer

Sector67 is a start up TechShop / Hacker space / Makerspace / Collaborative Environment in Madison, WI dedicated to providing members the opportunity to work on tomorrow’s technology; to build, collaborate, learn, and teach about next generation devices.  It’s basically a place for engineers and others who are trying to improve products or create new ones to use shared equipment and shared space.  Sector 67 is a non-profit and will be an awesome addition to the Madison community.  Chris is also one of the original members of Capital Entrepreneurs.

Student Spill – Heidi Allstop

SPILL is “an anonymous network of students who have formed a venting outlet for college problems that everyone seems to go through, but few people want to LISTEN to. We’re an email based support system FOR and OF college students …just to provide a place to spill your guts or console others who need to vent.”

Allstop started Spill as a student organization and has successfully helped students all over campus.  She has the potential to expand to other campuses across the country and won $1k plus free office space for a year.  Heidi is also a CE member!

ArcherVision Concepts – Raul Correa, Rahul Kamath, Alexander Jacobs, Divya Seethapathy, Sriraman Santhanvaradan

This team has a really cool product.  Many bikers use helmet mounted mirrors to see what’s behind them.  The team created a prototype that updates this system for the 21st century.  They have a camera that goes on the back of the helmet which transmits to a front mounted LCD screen.  They are in the early stages, but have a cool prototype.  Their goal is to embed the camera and the wiring into the helmet so that it will not hurt you if you crash.  Bikers love to spend money on the latest  gadget, so if done right, I could see it catching on and becoming profitable.

Flyboy Carnival – Kevin Burgess, Christopher Martinez

Flyboy Carnival is a cool tshirt company based out of the UW business incubator in the Univesity Square building.  They have some cool shirts, but my favorite part is their creative packaging.   They sell their tshirts in red and white striped popcorn boxes with their tshirts inside. Check out the picture below.

ProPOV – Jon Mumm

Jon has a really interesting backstory. Originally from Milwaukee, he got really good at the first person shooter Counter Strike.  He was so good that he was able to turn pro and earns money playing the game on the pro circuit.  I know many of you are thinking, “what? turning pro to play video games?” but there is actually a well developed professional video game circuit in the USA and an incredibly popular one in Asia.

Jon always had people asking his for tips on how to get better at the game, so he started a website called JuanSource to help teach counter strike players the tips they would need to get really good at the game.  He saved video of him playing the game and commented over the action, helping people get better.  Naturally, he charged money for the commentary and started to have a profitable online business.

His new software the he developed, ProPOV, takes in game commentary to the next level, allowing gamers to comment live over the game.  ProPOV has a nice niche that could be very profitable as it gets rolled out.


Overall, I was impressed by the quality of this year’s ideas.  You can watch all of the presentations in full on the Burrill website.  I’ve been involved in the competition as a participant or viewer since 2006, and it seems like the ideas keep getting better each year.  30% of this years entries had at least one female on the team, which I believe is a big improvement over past years.  What was even more impressive is that most of the women who entered the competition were doing so outside of fashion, which is a great improvement.  Imagine how many more cool companies there would be if women started startups at the same rate that men do?