Founders Live (founderslive.com) is a social platform and media channel created by Nick Hughes to inspire, educate and entertain entrepreneurs around the world. The Founders Live experience includes unique and unforgettable 99 second pitch competitions in select cities, which create local founder celebrities and bursts open additional pockets of creativity and entrepreneurial activity, as well as within the online network delivering curated articles, videos, livestreamed expert talks and AMA’s, posts and private member messaging that together make us world-class entrepreneurs.
It all started on a rainy Friday in Seattle
Nick Hughes noticed a growing disconnect between inner early stage entrepreneurial circles and the more general global business population. Specifically, local business networking events lacked uniqueness, authenticity and inspiration. Pitch events tended to be too long and often lose audience attention. He also noticed how disconnected the pockets of local entrepreneurial activity are around the world. During research, he noticed most social media platforms were ill-suited for entrepreneurs who desire connection, content and relevant experiences. Combining it all, Nick was hard pressed to find a centralized environment to connect with other entrepreneurs around the world, highlight emerging entrepreneurial talent, discover relevant and up-to-date content, all within a brand that tied together the detached and separate local startup cultures into the wider global entrepreneurial community.
In March 2014 a simple Friday evening gathering was created for the Seattle startup community, but with a little twist. Nick wanted to create a fun and casual networking event at the same time offering an opportunity for early-stage founders to announce something they recently launched to a roomful of eager entrepreneurs, potential partners and employees. What started as a simple monthly gathering emerged into a must-see event with a cult-like following in the city of Seattle. Feature Friday as it was known at the time became a rite of passage for Seattle founders – giving their 99 second company pitch in front of more than 100 of their peers – gaining both recognition for being a leader in their community as well as learning valuable feedback from the audience. It was during the fall of 2016 Nick put to work much of the feedback the Seattle community had given him, listened as people in other cities asked if they could offer the same event, and ultimately realizing if this event was popular in Seattle it would probably be popular in other parts of the world too.
The birth of Founders Live
Coincidentally, in early 2016 Nick had another revelation. Although his writing, videos and other posts were gaining traction with his followers, they lacked a certain shared community element he so desired as a fledgling founder. The entrepreneurial path is lonely, and Nick thought he couldn’t be the only one desiring connection to other founders. Simply put, he wanted a virtual place where others could join him in trading secrets, telling crazy stories, share bits of wisdom and entrepreneurial experiences with each other.
Founders Live was launched in May 2016, with the aim to inspire, educate and entertain entrepreneurs around the world. Pretty quickly after Nick launched the Founders Live brand, he noticed a similarity between Feature Friday and his new online community. They both celebrated entrepreneurship and brought people together, connecting like minded individuals around topics, products and companies they were passionate about. The only difference was one was virtual with no borders, and one was a hyper local community event, serving as a beacon of light and inspiration for entrepreneurs in the Seattle area. In the fall of 2016, Nick made the decision to combine these two entities into one entrepreneurial focused brand called Founders Live and bring it to other corners of the world. The unique event equation offers a values driven community, fast-paced pitch competitions, real time audience voting, livestreaming to social media, and inspiring leadership. By combining locally organized pitch competitions with an online community, Founders Live celebrates entrepreneurship and brings people together, connecting like minded individuals around informative entrepreneurial talks, AMA’s, industry topics, products and companies they are passionate about. The Founders Live brand serves as a beacon of light and inspiration for entrepreneurs and aims to empower leaders in other cities to create their own Founders Live events in celebration of their local entrepreneurial community, initiating a movement to burst open additional pockets of creativity and entrepreneurial activity around the world. Our vision is to grow the next globally recognized entrepreneurial brand – which raises the tide for ALL startup regions but specifically 2nd and 3rd tier markets – to ultimately power the pulse of early-stage entrepreneurship and creativity around the world. And now here we are!
Founders Live growth hinges on the ability to expand the signature event into new cities, spreading its influence and gaining members along the way. The Founders Live event is currently running in 15 cities (see them all here) and launching two new cities each month on average. We anticipate 40+ cities Live by end of 2018 reaching and inspiring tens of thousands of people monthly with projections to reach millions globally within a few years. We do this by identifying and onboarding local leaders in specific cities who organize and run the event each month as a volunteer, joining a growing army of Founders Live leaders around the world. The Founders Live global community is growing at 5% weekly.
The mission and why it’s important
Steve Jobs once observed “Look around you, everything you see – from the chair you are sitting in, to the cup your coffee is in, to the building covering our heads, to the cars we drove here in – everything was at one time just a vision in someone’s mind before it was created. Everything around us was created by someone with a vision to make the world a better place.” Entrepreneurship and creativity are paramount to society’s progress and security, and Founders Live takes upon itself a responsibility to create virtual and physical spaces for people to gather, learn, celebrate and explore entrepreneurship in hopes to make the world a better place. Given we are living in unprecedented times – any direction we turn we see uncertainty surrounding our present and future – the Founders Live mission to spread the joy, entertainment and education of entrepreneurship is a large and important responsibility. We at Founders Live don’t take it lightly. But we do have fun in the process!
The Founders Live Values
The below values were identified by Nick as the four things we as an organization hold to the highest regard and infuse in everything we do. We hope you do too! The following unique values are woven into the very DNA of Founders Live and they are what we look for in anyone who is part of the organization or leads in any capacity:
- Respectful Authenticity
We encourage everyone to be their authentic selves, in everything they do. This means we also respect other individuals in their unique beliefs, practices and anything else that makes them who they are. We do not tolerate anything less than respectful authenticity.
2. Gather around the Campfire
Where there’s a campfire there’s usually a creative story being told by someone who enjoys entertaining. Although Founders Live does not take place around a literal fire, we embrace community, creativity, storytelling and entertainment just as much as those in the wilderness gathered around their favorite campfires.
3. Open the Door
Nick owes much of his success to those who came before him, and who at one time or another graciously opened the door of opportunity for him. Make the extra effort to open doors for people, whether it’s asking them to present at an event, introducing them to someone they might not know but should, or offering them free help or advice. You never know where it will lead them, and you.
4. No Nametags
The world does not need another boring business networking event, but it does need a lot more fun! We believe you can have fun as well as a great business. Using nametags as a metaphor, we remove anything which creates awkwardness, boredom or dullness at Founders Live events and within our online community to create a fun and unforgettable atmosphere.
Some thoughts from the Founder of Prints.ly, a recent winner of Founders Live Seattle
“Founders Live is an unbelievable experience and I would highly recommend it to any startup founder. The 99s format forced me to concisely explain the value proposition of my startup to an audience that is looking to be engaged. Providing 3C (3C Communications) as a sponsor gave me the resources to improve my presentation skills and I am sure I would not have been able to win this event without their unique insight. They truly cared about supporting my startup and seeing it succeed through winning this event. Their main insight was how to make my pitch more appealing by focusing on describing my startup as a story that an audience member can resonate with.
The intangible and unexpected benefits of the event were numerous. Nick’s event gave me the confidence to get out of my comfort zone and present my ideas to a large audience. The event’s entertaining 99s format attracts amazing entrepreneurs from the community. After winning, I was approached by half a dozen people including prominent CEOs, Advisors, and key talent in the photography industry. Beyond their extraordinary credentials, it was surprising to me how warm, welcoming, and helpful this community is in providing the resources to help me succeed. I am also confident by adding twenty more seconds of content I could turn my presentation into a convincing investor pitch. Nick himself is an incredible entrepreneur, I had the opportunity to a meeting with him after the event, his deep knowledge of the startup industry and his ability weed through the noise to decisively give me advice to help my business reach the next level is inspiring.”