Boost Your Karma: Check Out MarksGuide

12/7/07Follow @wroush

Cross Craigslist founder Craig Newmark with Web-networker-par-excellence Joi Ito, add blond hair and blue eyes, and plunk the result down in Boston—and you’d have Mark Doerschlag.

The Mark behind the eponymous MarksGuide Boston, Doerschlag is the man to know if you want to get the word out about a local networking event in business, technology, finance, media, or the sciences. On any given weekday, his website lists six to a dozen events of interest to Boston-area professionals. Next Tuesday, for example, you can choose between a Boston Security Analysts Society event on “Understanding the Subprime Mortgage Crisis,” a Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange forum on “Seeding your Web 2.0 Company,” or the New England Direct Marketing Association’s networking holiday party. (Or heck—why not go to all of three?)

Doerschlag isn’t just the creator of MarksGuide; the 33-year-old software entrepreneur and consultant is one of its biggest users, attending several events every week, often out of pure curiosity. “I might check out an event on search engine optimization just because I happen to have 15 questions about that,” he says.

He’s also likely to collect 15 business cards at that event—and then, three weeks later, when you happen to mention to him that your website traffic is strangely low, he’ll know the perfect SEO guy for you to talk to. He’s one of those people, in other words, who network because they can’t help it—who connect dots for the pure joy of bringing people together, and because they trust that it will come back to them someday. “It’s already come back to me over and over,” says Doerschlag. “It’s a very full-circle thing.”

Mark Doerschlag, Founder of MarksGuide BostonI first spotted Doerschlag at Michael Arrington’s huge TechCrunch Boston bash in November. Naturally, he was busy networking with someone, so we didn’t get a chance to speak. But I caught up with him yesterday at Jam ‘n Java, a laid-back coffeehouse in Arlington Center.

Doerschlag  grew up in Ohio and in various places around Europe and moved to Boston three years ago after a stint with a startup in Stockholm, Sweden. He says he started MarksGuide two years ago when he realized that the lists of events he was compiling as part of his efforts to promote his social-media software company, Xentiva Consulting, might be of general interest to local Web users. “I was creating these big Word and Excel files and e-mailing them to the people I wanted to network with and saying, ‘Let’s go to this event together.’ Someone eventually suggested, ‘Hey, this is like Mark’s Guide to Boston—you should put it online.’ I checked to see if the domain was available, and amazingly, it was. So I put up a blog and started listing and reviewing these events, and the response was positive. That’s how the idea started.”

About six months ago, after observing that about 98 percent of the people visiting MarksGuide.com were going straight to the event listings, Doerschlag scaled back the blog and relaunched the site as a pure Web-based event listing application. The site collects the events calendars for 175 to 200 local organizations and presents them in an easily scanned, day-by-day format. If you register for an account, you can then see … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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