Dart Boston: The Hub’s New Hub for Twenty-Something Entrepreneurs

Apparently, social media services like Facebook and Twitter aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be, even for the twenty-somethings who are supposedly their most devoted users. Here in Boston, there’s a new group for young startup types who prefer to talk about their entrepreneurial ambitions in person at actual bars, of all places. It’s called Dart Boston, and it’s now going into its sixth month, with its 22nd meeting planned for this Thursday night.

You don’t have to be under 30 to attend a Dart Boston event—in fact, co-founder Cort Johnson says “people of all ages and backgrounds” are welcome at the weekly meetings, which take place at a different bar or restaurant each Thursday. But you do have to be in your twenties to be a presenter or panelist on “Pokin’ Holes,” the podcast/video/live-streaming show that is the centerpiece of each gathering.

With Johnson as moderator, the show gives one guest entrepreneur each week the opportunity to describe his or her startup and collect feedback from the panelists and the audience. Last week, for example, guest Fan Bi described Blank Label, an online “mass customization” service for men’s dress shirts that will launch at the end of this month. (Bi, 21, is Blank Label’s chief evangelist.)

The show is “really an opportunity to give kids who wouldn’t otherwise be asked to speak their minds a voice, and to give these entrepreneurs who wouldn’t have an opportunity to promote their company the opportunity to share with our community what they’re working on,” says Johnson, who is 24.

Still from Pokin' Holes Episode 21, Blank LabelJohnson and two fellow twenty-somethings, Jake Cacciapaglia and Alexa Scordato, told me they dreamed up Dart Boston over dinner one night last spring. “Jake and I had been working on a company before this, living out in Foxborough, and we would be driving into the city all the time and meeting all these cool young people,” says Johnson. “We finally decided to get an apartment on Dartmouth Street, and we started inviting all these people over to chat about what was going on. Jake had met Alexa, and we had dinner one night and we thought, ‘Why not turn these conversations we were having about the business ideas that kids were executing upon into a more formal atmosphere?'”

The club was originally called Dart 102, after the address of Johnson and Cacciapaglia’s Dartmouth Street digs, but the gatherings quickly grew too large for the apartment, which sent the group barhopping and led to the name change. A typical Dart Boston evening starts with “Pokin’ Holes” at 6:45 p.m. and includes a couple of hours of cocktails and networking after the show. (You can watch or listen to the recorded shows here.)

Scordato, a former employee at Burlington, MA-based social software startup Mzinga who recently took a job in New York with public relations giant Porter Novelli, says she thinks Dart Boston fills a troubling vacuum in the Boston area. She notes that there’s a ton of young talent coming out of the regions’ universities—she calls Boston an “academic Acropolis”—but she says that … Next Page »

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

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