Dennis Bone: Many of these startups don’t have a lot of resources. They have an idea, they have some support, but they’re out there trying to find partners or relationships that help them fill out their business model and get their product or service off the ground. These meetups are where this takes place.
NJBIZ: Is this proliferation of groups connecting or fracturing the startup and entrepreneurial community in the state?
DB: I think the challenge is that we’re all so busy. We can only afford to be out so many nights a week at a meetup. I was looking at the profile of one person on my meetup page and they belonged to 47 meetups. So, you can’t be participating in all those events.
But I think it’s different for different people. Let’s say you were offering a service to the startup community and if you are a member of 47 meetups and you’re getting notifications on 47 upcoming meetings, you can take your pick on which ones may look valuable for you.
NJBIZ: From your perspective, what is the relationship between these meetups and the state’s investors? Do these groups help startups better connect themselves to funding?
DB: I would say that there are not as many investors as there are attorneys or accountants. The traditional format is that you might bring a good speaker in to talk on some topic, but you also provide opportunity for two or three startup companies to pitch. I certainly have been in audiences where there’s an investor there who goes and chats with the team afterward, gets to know them and maybe sets up a meeting to go meet with them. I’m not sure it’s the most efficient and fruitful way to put startups and funders together.
NJBIZ: Are there any methods you think might be more efficient?
DB: Absolutely. For example, TechLaunch and (founder) Mario Casabona — where he puts a group of startups through an accelerator program where they get intense coaching and they get some seed capital. They really are able to take their idea from a very initial stage to a much more sophisticated stage. And at his demo day, when these teams pitch, there are definitely a bunch of investors in the room. I know two or three of those that got fairly significant funding this year.
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