As a Founder, time is the most valuable asset you have. Attending great startup events and conferences can propel you forward, but attending the wrong one will waste your time. Here is a guide to help you evaluate and choose the best conferences to attend in 2023.
Tip 1: Match the Size of the Conference to the Size of Your Startup
The big, impressive conferences CES or SXSW may get all the press, draw the biggest names in tech, and have thousands of attendees, but unless your startup is clearly headed for Unicorn status (valued at $1B) then the big conferences really aren’t targeted at you. Before you buy a ticket to a really large conference, take a few minutes to examine who the conference is targeting and what you’ll gain from the event.
While attending the large conferences may be fun and inspiring, many Founders grinding away on their Startup would benefit more from a short vacation than paying a $2k+ for tickets, hotels, food, and travel. There is nothing wrong with these conferences, but you are putting your time into something that will not directly benefit your startup.
If you are an early-stage Startup, you want to find an event tailored specifically toward your startup stage. These events should list their specific industry focus, theme, and/or audience in their messaging. Looking at those details creates an excellent filter to help you find the best fit.
Tip 2: Seek Experienced Speakers Who Meet Your Needs
Conferences that rely on huge names, corporate CEOs, and other non-founders for the bulk of their content typically have motivations outside of supporting Startup Founders. These entities typically do want to help Startups, but they are forced to try and bridge their organizational needs with those of the wide-ranging Startup Community.
Hearing from the tech elite and other big names can be fun and inspiring. However, hearing from someone who has recently solved the same problems you are currently facing can be a game changer. The best startup conferences seek out these individuals to share information that you can actually use in your own ventures. If the speakers at a conference are offering advice, stories, and messages that will help startups move the needle forward, you are attending an amazing conference!
Tip 3: Focus on Networking, Not Investment
Large events that claim you will get to meet tons of high-profile investors (or especially if they lead you believe you are guaranteed to raise investment) are events to avoid. If the networking events are exclusive or speakers are too removed from the attendees, you rarely get to meet and interact with them. In contrast, if the speakers and other presenters are participating in the same spaces that you attend, you are likely at an amazing conference that will provide you access to incredible connections. Plus, when the speakers are from the startup community, they are often approachable, giving, and helpful.
Another bonus to focusing on networking is when the event hosts curate unique experiences and less formal events to bring people together. This creates a better atmosphere for networking instead of simply walking around a room playing the “What do you do?” game. Investors typically love warm introductions, casual conversations, and direct connections to those they want to invest in. Meeting them at a small focused event is much more likely to result in a strong relationship and future pitch opportunities. You can find events like this in your own network or through local accelerator programs and entrepreneur centers.
The best event hosts make it clear how to get involved, how to network, and how to make the most of the conference you are attending. You may have to apply to speak, or RSVP for someone because of space requirements, but everything should be open to everyone that attends. These conferences are in it for the right reasons and are trying to make a difference in the attendee’s ventures.
The Bottom Line
The best conferences are tailored to specific needs of the startup community they serve. They focus on providing excellent and relevant content that helps Founders drive their businesses forward. Any conference that puts a focus on relevant content you can use, curated networking opportunities, and direct access to potential funding opportunities creates a unique experience that will keep you coming back every year.
Announcing a New Event for Startup Founders
Over the last 10 years, I’ve been attending Startup conferences across the country. However, In the Southeast I’ve yet to find a truly excellent conference focused on early-stage Founders. There are some excellent 1-day events and conferences targeted at later stage Startups, but the early-stage space has been lacking a large and impactful event, despite the incredible growth happening in the Southeast.
I also recently found myself in a position to create such an event for Southeastern Founders. Before I went into action, I did what any Founder would do. I immediately started talking to Founders, investors, and event hosts to learn as much as possible on what makes a great startup conference. Then I brought together an incredible team and we are excited to announce:
The Summit will take place on October 25-27th in the beautiful mountains of Johnson City, Tennessee. The speakers, investors, and workshops have all been curated to provide incredible value to the attendees. The networking will put you in unique environments designed to make connections and engage with the event’s presenters. At Startup Mountain, every aspect of the event has been curated to help you move your Startup forward.
We can’t wait to share our speaker lineup, event schedule, and the full details of our curated events. Follow us to learn more and to get access to early-bird tickets and specials!
We are excited to bring this event to you and your Startup because
Every Startup Founder Has a Mountain to Climb.
Reach Yours at the Startup Mountain Summit.