While at the annual F.ounders conference in New York City last month, I became fascinated with both the people I met and the very idea of the event itself.
If you haven’t heard of the conference, F.ounders started more or less as a pub crawl in Ireland back in 2010 to bring founders of companies together to talk about what they do in a relaxed, social setting. Here’s the kick – Paddy Cosgrave, the founder of F.ounders, has never actually founded a company himself.
His ability to convince some of the world’s top entrepreneurs to come to what was originally an unknown event is a reminder of a basic key to entrepreneurial success: Figure out how you can give value for your audience that people can’t get anywhere else.
For Cosgrave, the value was simply a space for founders to meet. I’ve never been at an event quite like this one, where so many founders of so many interesting companies can meet and talk about the origin of their ideas and the development of their businesses. It was the first event I had ever been to where I could go up to anyone and say, “What do you do?” and hear a truly compelling story every single time.
I met the founder of a fantasy sports website called FanDuel. I met a founder who successfully created a currency platform called CurrencyFair. I met another founder who started an internet marketplace for tutors called WyzAnt, on which college students can post a list of their strongest skills and drum up some business for themselves. I met the founders of TaskRabbit and Care.com. I met two guys who were so good at selling high-end razor blades that they created an online razor blades store. Their business has been so successful that they were able to buy one of the world’s top razor blade manufacturing plants, in Germany.
Another founder created an alternate publishing platform popular among women and teens called Wattpad. I thought of my daughter and texted her to ask if she had heard of it. Of course she had.
The more founders I spoke with, the more clear specific common trends became across all of these founders.
1. People are disrupting a range of markets by creating cloud-based apps.
2. Many founders have created marketplaces to serve a very specific need.
3. These companies are thriving, establishing real top line growth and bottom line profits.
Hearing so many success stories, in so many different industries, at such a ridiculously fast pace really inspired me. It felt like the middle of the dotcom boom again, except this time people are actually making money. It was a reminder that Adaptive Insights is part of something bigger than the performance management space. Adaptive, like these so many of the companies started by these founders, is one example of the collaborative, consumer-centric, user-empowering tools that are changing the way businesses do business and consumers consume. Together, these founders have turned the business-consumer relationship paradigm on its head. These intuitive tools have given the power back to the user/consumer, whether it’s being able to buy the razor blade of your choice at the best price, or purchasing a BI & CPM software suite to help finance teams make strategic decisions and accelerate business growth.
So you’re probably wondering how I managed to get a giant photo of myself lit up on the side of a New York City skyscraper. Well, this year’s F.ounders event took place at the NASDAQ building in Times Square. I missed my chance to get on the market floor during the opening bell because there was no announcement. I was so determined to make it for the closing bell that I managed to dodge the masses and maneuver my way down to market floor, where I was pushed right into the center of the closing bell ceremony. A small group of us surrounded Paddy as he pressed the closing bell, and we all clapped and cheered as confetti exploded around us. And when I looked out the window, there I was clapping on the side of the NASDAQ building, towering several stories tall above Times Square.