If you’re thinking of launching a Bay Area startup, then you’re missing out if you’re not already immersed in the vibrant scene of mixers and pitch events in San Francisco’s SoMa district. We recently attended two startup events specifically hosted to facilitate the success of startup entrepreneurs. The two events were distinctly different, but both gave us the opportunity to meet a fascinating mix of techies, funders and entrepreneurs.
Women 2.0 is a familiar name for female would-be founders, and their Founder Friday series is becoming increasingly popular. Hosted by Bluxome Street Winery, this highly social event is billed as an opportunity for technologists, entrepreneurs and investors to network and connect.
January’s Founder Friday event on January 6th was sponsored by Microsoft Office 365. At the center of the evening was a talk by founder Leah Busque on her experience building and launching the now-ubiquitous startup TaskRabbit.
Leah’s story of the conception and development of her company is especially inspiring for female software developers who are hesitant to make the leap toward founding their own company. You can read all about her personal journey, as well as her advice on negotiating the various stages of growing your company on the Women 2.0 blog.
We were pleased to meet a wide range of people at January’s Founder Friday event. Some of the folks we met included software developers and marketers from several SoMa-based startups, students, independent entrepreneurs, and an angel investor.
The angel we spoke with actually expressed disappointment that she had met more employees and students than entrepreneurs, though she was actively searching for funding candidates. Let that be a lesson to any of you entrepreneurs seeking funding; be sure to mix and mingle, as there could be an angel around any corner.
On January 10th we also had the pleasure of attending a new (and delicious) startup event called PitchCrawl. This event was hosted by Tracy Lee (@LadyLeet), founder of the hugely popular DishCrawl series, which takes participants on a guided food tour of neighborhood restaurants, enabling them to sample a whole range of dishes in one evening.
PitchCrawl offers a new take on the DishCrawl experience by giving founders and investors a chance to meet and converse while searching for the perfect match. Events are typically hosted at one or more startup companies in San Francisco or San Jose.
According to Tracy, PitchCrawl is all about creating serendipitous relationships between founders and investors. She sees it as an opportunity for her to give back to the startup community, following DishCrawl’s success.
January’s PitchCrawl kicked off at the offices of local startup CloudFlare. The energy was vibrant and founders and VCs were setting off sparks everywhere. You can see the full Flickr photo set with pictures taken by Michael O’Donnell of ZapPhoto.com, here.
Several founders remarked on how they appreciated having the chance to make their pitch at their own pace (versus the typical timed format for pitch events), and two reported to us that they had connected with more than four investors that evening. We found the atmosphere overall quite friendly, though the noise level reached quite a din once everyone warmed up.
Catered finger-food, supplied by Mercury Lounge, was delicious, including tasty lumpia and delicate salmon ceviche. One founder expressed concern about sampling the salmon ceviche, whose ingredients featured raw onions, but we threw caution to the wind and can attest it was a worthy dish. There was no word of anyone’s deal falling through due to the after-affects.
Some of the founders we met included Arthur Lozinski, Co-Founder of oomnitza, who described some of the exciting work his company is doing with the development of enterprise-grade productivity applications. Oomnitza has built a variety of mobile solutions around the documentation of assets, expenses, time and much more. Any of these applications can be customized to the unique needs of each enterprise client, with a focus on real-time, cloud-based collaboration. He reported a number of fruitful conversations with investors and it’s not surprising as his passion for his work really shone through.
Other unique founders included Gil Silberman and Rob Pakter of Pilljogger.com, an adherence-focused app created to help folks stay on task with their medicine regimens. Having watched my ninety-something year-old father-in-law juggle pills for his diabetes and blood pressure treatments, I understand how challenging this issue can be. It was a breath of fresh air to find a startup working to solve a real-world problem such as this, as adherence/compliance remains a real barrier to addressing a wide range of diseases and conditions–on both a national and a global level.
Another really unique encounter was with Thomas P. Reynolds, Chairman and CEO of BCInet, Inc. who was carrying his company’s brain-computer interface device called the Neural Impulse Actuator, or NIA. We were fascinated by the implications of this device for both the gaming and disability communities, as the NIA enables hands-free control of computers. According to Wikipedia, this technology falls a little short of mind-control, but the current version integrates a new iteration of design, so the potential may yet be realized. Thomas mentioned his company having been affected by an SEC case not far back, and indeed you can read some of the details around this unfortunate imbroglio at BrightSideofNews.com. We’re only hoping that he finds a suitable match with an investor capable of bringing this fascinating product back to market.
From Cloudflare, PitchCrawl proceeded over to Twenty Five Lusk, where we settled in the lounge and enjoyed a nice, mellow wind-down from the intensity at CloudFlare. Again, the mood was positive and investors and founders we talked to seemed satisfied with the evening’s events.
The next PitchCrawl is in San Jose on March 20th, with a focus on consumer electronics. If you’re a startup founder or investor interested in joining up, you can still purchase tickets online at the PitchCrawl website…while they last, that is.
If you’re interested in attending other local startup events, check out our Megalist of Bay Area Startup Resources, where we’ve been collecting a slew of events, conferences, meet-ups and more.