The First Rule of FounderDating, and More Takeaways from the Group’s First Seattle Event
The next big startup out of Seattle might have been conceived on the top floor of the Washington Athletic Club this past Tuesday. That’s where 35 carefully selected tech entrepreneurs and business people gathered over drinks and light appetizers for the first-ever FounderDating session in Seattle.
The idea, as we reported on a couple weeks ago, was to have an event dedicated to helping prospective co-founders meet new people who could be complementary in starting companies or at least talking about ideas. FounderDating started in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Brian Schultz—formerly of Seattle startups Ontela and Djinnisys, and now at Microsoft—helped bring it to the Northwest.
I asked Schultz yesterday how the event went. He says he is in the midst of surveying the attendees, who were culled from more than 100 applicants. “I’m really excited about the feedback,” Schultz says. “People were definitely passionate about it.”
The tech sectors represented that evening included mobile, enterprise software, advertising, commerce, and recommendation systems. Nametags helped distinguish business people from tech people (engineers), as well as their sectors of interest. Schultz says there was a big range in experience—some people were in their first jobs out of school, while others were former CEOs with multiple successful startup exits or executives at big companies.
The identities of the attendees are supposed to be kept secret to the outside world, because some have employers who might not appreciate hearing that they’re looking to start something new. As Schultz jokes, the first rule of FounderDating is you don’t talk about FounderDating. (Which makes me think, a CEO fight club in Seattle would be pretty awesome. I can think of some good matchups already.)
There was freeform mingling, a 60-second speed dating round, small-group activities, and more mingling. Early reviews seem to indicate most attendees weren’t recruiting for a specific startup, but were focused on meeting a variety of new people. Several wanted to see more younger and hungrier engineers. “It’s really about the people,” Schultz says—not necessarily their startup ideas.
In any case, it sounds like the event was successful enough that Schultz will try to organize them quarterly in Seattle, and create stronger linkages between Seattle participants and those in the Bay Area via the FounderDating website. The next Seattle event will probably be in May or June, Schultz says, and he’s looking for more help in organizing and screening applicants.
Schultz also says he wants to survey the same 35 people three to six months from now, and see what new projects have come about from their discussions. Because ultimately that’s what this is about—doing something new to help startups get formed. “Can you attribute anything to the people you met that night?” he says. “There were definitely some new connections made.”