Entrepreneurs' stop at Dyn in Manchester focuses on startup strategies
MANCHESTER - New Hampshire's growing reputation as a haven for high-tech startups was a recurring theme Friday night as Mario Schulzke brought his cross-country road show to the corporate headquarters of Dynamic Network Services.
The gathering at Dyn offices in the revitalized mill building complex on Dow Street attracted a group of about 30 young entrepreneurs and would-be business owners, all anxious to hear success stories from a handful of speakers with startup tales to tell.
The event was hosted by IdeaMensch , a spinoff of a website by the same name created by Schulzke that focuses on "entrepreneurs and how they bring ideas to life," using interviews, feature stories, links, social media and a variety of other Internet tools.
Schulzke and two associates have spent the summer on a four-month, 48-state roadtrip across America, with a mission 'to help inspire thousands of people to start bringing their ideas to life,' according to IdeaMensch .com. The trip, dubbed #IM48, is described by Schulzke as 'one Honda Element, three guys, and a quest to ignite entrepreneurship in America.'
In addition to Dyn CEO Jeremy Hitchcock, speakers at the Manchester stop included Errik Anderson, COO and co-founder of Adimab, a biotech startup based in Hanover; Jeffrey Vocell, co-founder of Trendslide, a mobile app for aggregating business metrics; Michele Pesula Kuegler, CEO and editor-in-chief of Wasabi Media Group, an online publishing company; and Jamie Coughlin, CEO at the ABI Innovation Hub, a Manchester-based nonprofit resource center for new businesses.
Schulzke has worked in advertising for the past 10 years, most recently with a West Coast agency, WDCW, based in Los Angeles. He launched IdeaMensch .com in 2009. 'I've always admired entrepreneurs for their ideas, but when you work in advertising, a lot of ideas come up that never see the light of day,' he said. 'A few years back, I started IdeaMensch : A community of people with ideas, almost as an outlet for me to be connected with these people. I love that entrepreneurial energy.'
The business plan behind IdeaMensch , which is funded by corporate sponsorships and events revenue, is to feature successful entrepreneurs, and get them to share the lessons they've learned. 'They get the publicity that comes with that, and the audience gets to learn from it.' Beyond that, Schulzke said, a community emerges that helps the innovators flourish, both locally and online.
Mirjam Ijtsma, who recently started a human resources consulting business with an office at the ABI center, said the Manchester stop lived up to its advance billing. 'What I liked about it was, for once, no one was looking to find more business; they were looking to share ideas with each other and to share challenges. And I think that's key. As I left, I thought, 'Geez, I did not give out one business card, and I did not receive one business card, but what a great night I had.' '
Each speaker had a different focus. Vocell talked about the importance of a good mentor, describing his relationship with the chief technical officer at Dyn.
Hitchcock, the Dyn CEO who is building a reputation as one of the leading advocates for tech startups in New Hampshire, focused on the three things he said are key to entrepreneurial success: resources, institutions and people, and said all are present in Southern New Hampshire or within reach.
Anderson, whose biotech products are used in cancer research, described how he learned more from his failures than successes. 'The tools (for tech companies) are evolving so fast, the big companies can't keep up,' he said. 'That's a great environment for innovation.'
Kuegler described how she built her network of 24 websites, each with a special topic, such as health and fitness, featuring only original content. 'We have no plan to build new websites now,' she said, 'We want to improve what we have ...''
The heart of the event came after the five presentations, as the attendees mingled amid the bean bags, pingpong table and neon colors of the cafeteria at Dyn headquarters. They were offered a free url for one year from Dot-co, national sponsor for #IM48. Wired magazine describes Dot-co as 'a contender that wants to one-up dot-com as the top spot in domain names by going one letter less.'
The dot-co domain name became available to the public in June, coinciding with the #IM48 tour. 'They wrote a big check for this tour,' Schulzke said. 'They are really trying to target entrepreneurs and people who try to make things happen. If you have an idea, there's a good chance the url you want isn't available with dot-com. So dot-co is really focusing on offering free urls and domains to the kind of people who come to our events.'