How founders can find events that are actually worth it

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Image Credits: Namthip Muanthongthae / Getty Images

Events can be critical to helping founders build their company, but not all events are created equal. Founders shouldn’t feel like they have to waste their time trying to unearth the diamonds in the rough. But there are ways to judge if an event will be worth it ahead of time.

Last week, we published the results of a survey that asked founders if they’d change how much time they’d spent at founder-focused events if they could. More than 50 founders replied and revealed that there wasn’t a consensus on how many events they found helpful to attend. What was clear, though, is that many founders have figured out ways to not waste their time.

Mohammed AlKaff AlHashmi, the co-founder of Islamic Coin, said that founders should have a strategy for how many events they want to attend in a given period of time. This essentially forces them to look critically at which events may provide value. He said he attends just one event per quarter.

“Attending four well-planned events each year, one per quarter, is far more beneficial than going to many events with low impact,” he told TechCrunch+. “In these four events, we’ll be sponsors, set up booths, and take part in talks, panels and speeches. This is way better than spreading ourselves thin at numerous events.”

Many founders said that they’ve found industry-specific events to be the most beneficial, much more so than founder-focused events. These events keep founders informed on what other companies in their specific industry are doing and are more likely to lead to an introduction to a potential hire or even a customer.

“I believe the industry-specific events yield a higher return on investment, as they offer specialized insights, relevant connections, and opportunities directly tied to our startups’ growth,” said Ritwik Pavan, the founder and CEO at Krava. “They also keep me informed and up-to-date on the latest industry trends, aiding in swift adaptation to changes.”

Industry events also tend to have a very different vibe than founder events, too, said Amanda Li, the co-founder and COO of Banyan Infrastructure. “Notably, attendees seem to deeply care and follow more of a ‘pay it forward’ approach,” Li said. “We have gotten introductions to customers, investors and job candidates with no horsetrading involved.”

Many of the more generalist events, like conferences, often feature the same speakers and panelists, said Orchards Near Me founder Lisa Gibbons. So attending general startup or VC events comes with the risk of seeing the same people over and over again, some of which may not have been relevant to a founder’s specific situation to begin with.

Dan Pinto, the co-founder and CEO at Fingerprint, said the best events are the ones that allow him to get face time with potential customers. “These events allow me to actively get feedback from customers on the problems they are trying to solve and how we could match our technology to their needs,” he said.

Getting face time with others seems to be key for many founders. Many responded that they avoid events that don’t include open time for founders to network or meet each other, regardless of the event’s focus. Vikas Gupta, the CEO at Azibo, said it’s especially helpful if the event attendees have a mutual connection.

“The most valuable founder events are ones where there is limited posturing and people can have candid conversations about the challenges and difficulties we are all facing as founders and CEOs,” Gupta said. “These conversations often only happen when we have a chance to build relationships with each other (which means meaningful time, and often repeated interactions with each other).”

But, respondents cautioned, if someone’s just going to an event to meet other founders, it might be more valuable to instead find a handful of people to talk to and just reach out to them directly. “Founders events are too generic, and the risk is an overload of information that [is] not necessarily relevant to me,” said Leonardo Piumi, the co-founder and CEO of Shai. “However, I find it very useful when (especially successful) founders in my industry open their calendar to chat 1:1 even for 15 minutes.”

Founders get bombarded with event invitations. And while they shouldn’t necessarily ignore them altogether, taking the time to evaluate the potential outcome of attending each event can allow founders to get the benefits that many of these events do bring, without losing as much time.

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