More than 250 gathered throughout the day for the second annual Founder Factory, a sold-out gathering of entrepreneurs, investors and students organized by Philly Startup Leaders at World Cafe Live in University City Thursday.
The event was a chance for business-minded folks to gather, discuss, dissect and learn about the work they are doing throughout the spheres of startups, education and investing.
Presenters from Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Wharton Business School, Internet Capital Group, myYearbook and Monetate were rotated with fishbowl sessions – where young startups pitch their idea to experienced business people for advice – each ushered onto the stage to red and blue stage lighting and dramatic rock and jazz music.
During the afternoon, 150 attendees listened to entrepreneurial conversations while seated at long dining tables in front of the stage, standing at the bar, or gazing down from the mezzanine level, while a handful mingled in a nondescript lobby.
Most stayed quiet for presentation, breaking occasionally to network and meet other interested individuals. Chances were better than last year, Founder Factory Co-Chair Doug Bellenger said, that community members ran into someone they recognized.
“Last year was like, you just found this new community and you say ‘what am I doing here, this seems amazing, I want to be a part of it’,” said Bellenger, dressed in a dark suit and red shirt.
“This year is, ‘I’ve been part of it for a year, this is my home.’ It’s got more of a feel of people already engaged that know each other and they’re all kind of moving in one direction.”
Established business leaders, like David Brussin of Monetate and Geoff Cook of myYearbook offered their startup stories and “secret weapons” that helped them along the way. Young startups like PlaySay and RevZilla, both of whom we’ve covered in the past, were offered chops from panelists and audience members in interactive fishbowl sessions.
“I thought I was going to get a lot of great feedback, which I definitely did. [I knew] there was going to be one solid piece of advice I got the entire night. And I did receive something like that,” PlaySay founder Ryan Meinzer said.
A search for the event’s Twitter hashtag shows support and appreciation from attendees. But opinions were mixed. In conversations with a dozen individuals attending the event, some said that last year’s was stronger – that speakers were more inspirational, like Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital.
An angel investor standing casually near the event’s bar, hands in pocket, told Technically Philly that he was hoping to see some more startup activity at the event. Others, like Meinzer, voiced concern about a feeling of disconnect between established businesses and startups that were attending.
“[I was] looking forward to some more presentations more geared towards startups, rather than just an industry analysis,” he said.
“I really want to hear from guys like [MyYearbook.com CEO Geoff Cook], speaking of how he started his business, and how he bootstrapped.”
After the event concluded in the early evening, members networked throughout the venue.
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