What I Learned From Startup ScaleUp 2016

This week, I had the privilege of attending JumpStart’s Startup ScaleUp, an annual event designed to facilitate learning and networking for entrepreneurs in the Cleveland area. JumpStart Inc. is a startup accelerator in northeast Ohio that fosters entrepreneurship through economic incentives, mentorships, and services, and 2016 is their second time putting together the Startup ScaleUp event.

Taking place throughout the Gordon Square area, one of the key focal points of the event was a “sidewalk to stage” pitch competition that rewarded three emerging businesses with $5,000 each—one in each of three categories (tech, lifestyle, and nonprofit). Beyond that, there were more than 40 seminars, workshops, and networking opportunities packed over the course of 12 hours or so in 15 of Cleveland’s trendiest venues, from the traditional Capitol Theater to one of my favorite hot dog eateries, Happy Dog.

I met some great people, tried some great food, and represented dopplepop as a brand ambassador as I made my way through five events, a work break at Gypsy Bean Coffee, and the TechPint Happy Hour to wind down after a full day of entrepreneurial mirth.

It was an eventful day, and I wanted to share some of the best things I learned from the experience.

Cleveland is coming back

Cleveland gets a lot of shit for being an old, boring, dying city, but the life I saw in the city at Startup ScaleUp tells a very different story. We just won an NBA championship, which is exciting, but the real rejuvenation is in the startups that are emerging in this area. I watched more than 100 entrepreneurs line up to submit their startup ideas to the Sidewalk to Stage pitch competition, and I saw people of all ages and backgrounds there. I stepped in and out of dozens of local businesses along Gordon Square. I heard from highly successful entrepreneurs and event organizers, and got a glimpse of some of the amazing economic opportunities Cleveland has in store for the near future. There’s immense life in this city, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.

Brevity is beauty

I have to thank Jeff Shick from MAGNET for the wording on this one. In a talk about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, Shick recounted a story of being handed a 3.5 inch binder of information from a prospective entrepreneur hoping to attract some funding. In his words, “it’s not okay to hand a 3.5 inch binder to anybody.” The point here was that it’s better to be brief and concise than to try to cram too many details down your audience’s throat—and this is a theme I saw repeating in sessions throughout the day.

Attracting ideal clients is all about building a relationship

Jeff Leo Hermann of Fathom Marketing gave an awesome talk about how to find your business’s ideal clients. His main focus? Inbound marketing. If you want your clients to think of you as an authority, to find you in the white noise of your industry, and to start a professional engagement with you on a foundation of trust, you have to offer them something first. Value. Information. Knowledge. Give your clients what they’re looking for, and they’ll learn to trust you.

Everyone is an entrepreneur

Maybe you’ve founded your own multimillion dollar business. Or maybe you’re just working a temporary job as you try to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. It doesn’t really matter. The way I see it, especially after Startup ScaleUp, everybody is an entrepreneur in some capacity. Everyone is trying to create something. Everyone wants to forge their own path in life. Entrepreneurship is a call to the individual and to the creative spirit, and all of us can connect to that yearning. By recognizing this quality in each other, and working together toward our common goals, we can all get a little bit closer to our ideals.

Overall, I was thrilled with how impressively and thoughtfully put-together Startup ScaleUp was. I wish I could have gone to more of the day’s 40-some events, but there are only so many hours in the day (not to mention the physical limitations of only being in one place at a time). I’m excited for next year’s edition, and in the meantime, I’m going to continue doing what I can for Cleveland’s strong base of entrepreneurs. Let’s keep this energy going.

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