(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
For entrepreneurs, the line between business and personal is occasionally blurred, and often erased completely. So, in putting 75 startup founders together in one room for last Thursday’s inaugural Startup Soiree, it’s perhaps no surprise that the discussion gave equal weight to relationships and credit lines.
For every tip to keep equity close to the vest, there was also talk of the personal sacrifice involved in starting a business, and room for quips about gingers.
Held at the Pixilated Photo Booth headquarters off South Caton Avenue, the event was made up completely of startup founders (with the exception of a couple reporters). Co-organized by Pixilated’s Patrick Rife and Intrinsic Events, the mixer is envisioned as a last-Thursday-of-the-month get-together where local founders can network and listen in on roundtable discussions about the ups and downs of the startup life. Of course, there was also a photo booth.
Familiar faces like SmartLogic President Yair Flicker, OrderUp CEO Chris Jeffery and Allovue CEO Jess Gartner made the local tech scene well-represented, but many attendees commented that the guest list extended outside of the usual tech faces to include marketing pros, event planners and at least one make-up artist.
The “Founders Only” gathering made for a relaxed atmosphere. “Moderator” Ethan Giffin, the founder of Groove Commerce, didn’t mind talking about his early days of running the business out of a cramped apartment in Federal Hill and posting ads on Craigslist. At another point, he referenced the tumultuous month that led to the company’s founding.
“I’m oversharing, aren’t I?” he quipped after talking about how there were too many desks in his initial apartment to have guests over.
The added honesty also brought out pride in starting a business in Baltimore. When he started Groove, Giffin said he was at a point where he was spending time in multiple cities, and determining where to throw down roots. But the ability to affordably start a business and have access to top talent ultimately led the Maryland native to stay home. The community didn’t hurt either.
“I loved it because I thought the community of people that I met along the way were so interesting and talking so much about how to grow an organization,” Giffin said. “All of that together really sold it to me. And I was at a point where I could have gone anywhere.”
The declaration gave way to plenty of cheers from the crowd. Soon, Pixilated’s Rife was espousing his love for Baltimore while standing on a chair.
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