One thing I often hear when talking to entrepreneurs who live outside of the San Francisco Bay Area is that it’s hard for them to connect with other entrepreneurs nearby. It’s not that there are no startup-minded folks in Boise, Idaho or Guatemala City, Guatemala. There are just fewer events to bring them together in one place than there are in networking-happy tech hubs like Silicon Valley or New York City.
That’s the problem that Startup Grind is looking to solve. Founded in 2010 by fellow entrepreneurs Derek Andersen and Spencer Nielsen, Startup Grind’s aim is to create Silicon Valley-esque communities all over the world where like-minded entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, writers, and others can come together and share their experiences.
And it seems to be hitting a nerve: Last month, Startup Grind expanded to its 100th chapter, a big leap up from the five chapters it had just two years ago. Today, there are Startup Grind chapters in 42 countries worldwide, from Karachi, Pakistan to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Though that kind of global growth may seem like it could be overwhelming, according to Andersen, all of the Startup Grind chapters speak a common language through entrepreneurship.
“Our values are what connects our community,” Andersen told me in an email. “Helping others first, giving more than you take, and making friends (not contacts) are the common links between the 100 Chapters and the 300 people that run them.”
Indeed, Andersen follows those tenets himself. As my former colleague Rip wrote in his great profile of Startup Grind back in August 2012, Andersen is not an investor, and he doesn’t demand equity or monthly dues from Startup Grind’s participants. The organization makes money through event sponsorships and ticket sales.
It’s a refreshingly straightforward structure, and that seems to attract an especially genuine crowd. I’ve personally attended several Startup Grind events at the Silicon Valley chapter, and they’ve all been fantastic. (The feature image above is of Startup Grind’s 2013 event in Mountain View, California, where many speakers were met with enthusiastic standing ovations, a nice contrast to the crowd of lackadaisical people staring at laptops that often greets speakers at tech events.)
Andersen says that ideally, Startup Grind will spread economic strength in areas beyond the handful of geographic hubs in which it has traditionally concentrated. “Every country, community, and government in the world is trying to figure out how to support and keep their best local entrepreneurs in their country… Silicon Valley doesn’t need another billion dollar company. But if Melbourne, Stockholm, or Philadelphia got one, it would totally change that city and its people.”
While Startup Grind’s current network of 75,000 entrepreneurs worldwide is an impressive start toward achieving that goal, Andersen likes to point out that there are 400 million entrepreneurs in the world. So in a way, he says, they’re really just getting started.