From speaking with countless entrepreneurs and startups, two things are clear. One, it’s nearly impossible to start something on your own. A strong network is an entrepreneur’s best friend. And two, many of the emerging startups in Columbus are really eager to help each other.
The Columbus Founders Group is putting some structure around these principles, building a tight-knit network of young founders.
The group started when two of the founders, Alex Purtell of Rekovo and Dave Comisford of EduSourced, met at the gym, sharing “war stories” of being a startup.
“We ended up talking for longer than we were working out,” Purtell says.
And they knew they weren’t the only two facing the woes and triumphs that is startup life, so they decided to start a group that would serve to leverage each other’s resources.
The Columbus Founders Group has grown organically, largely by referrals, and now includes Ryan McManus of ContentVia, Dustin Studer and Suprasanna Mishra of Capstory, Zak Dziczkowski of Garageio, Will Zell of Nikola Labs, Venkatesh Ganapathy of MoveEasy and Stephanie Murnen of Ardina.
“We just realized we were all in similar places,” Comisford says.
Murnen says the group fills the void of an outlet for younger founders and co-founders. Purtell speaks to how many of the programs already established in Columbus like NCT Ventures or Rev1 cater to a more senior group, an observation backed up by McManus when comparing businesses that receive funding in San Francisco versus Columbus. The coast embraces youth.
The group is bound together by their unique experience of being a startup now. The ecosystem for startups today is different than it was 10 years ago. People who have already weathered the process won’t experience the same thing or the same environment that today’s founders will.
Since the group formed in July, they’ve met about once a month, but are in contact on a nearly daily basis through messaging app, Slack.
At their meetings, “Mostly we just update each other what we’re working on what we’re thinking,” Comisford says. “And asking how we can help each other,” Murnen adds.
Help comes in all sorts of forms, from introductions, to suggestions on products or vendors to use, to I’ve been there, don’t do that or here’s how to handle it next time, to even sharing promising talent for hire. Their varied backgrounds bring different perspectives and experiences to the table.
The Founders Group knows that one of their businesses doing well is really a win for all of them.
“We’re trying to put our minds together so we can all grow our companies at scale,” Purtell says.
It’s more than Columbus, but regional. An exit for any company is good for the region.
The Founders Group also hopes to be a resource and support system for those interested in entrepreneurship. It’s serving that purpose for some of its own, namely Murnen and McManus who more recently came from the corporate world.
But, the group is actually aiming even younger, as they mull around ways to focus their efforts on talent right out of college. Purtell says there’s a huge gap in the talent pool in the city, but plenty of capable people – they either go for the coasts or corporate. Entrepreneurship is a career path, Comisford says, and McManus wants to ingrain that mindset as soon as possible.
“We’re going to live here, we’re going to be hiring these people,” Comisford adds.
That early-adoption mindset is something the group hopes will impact Columbus’ startup culture, the thing they all agree is missing from the city’s startup scene.
The Columbus Founders Group would grow their membership, but is looking for quality over quantity. The basic criteria is are you the founder or co-founder of a startup that’s in a similar place.
“Personality is more important that skill set,” McManus says. “The founder perspective is different than someone who comes in a few years later,” Comisford adds.
Purtell says they have had a lot of interest and individuals in contact and are always interested in meeting new founders.
For more information, visit columbusfoundersgroup.com.