MeetUp: Liberty Valley Initiative

Liberty Value InitiativeOn Wednesday January 28, I attended the Liberty Valley Initiative’s 4th MeetUp. The Liberty Valley Initiative is a MeetUp organization dedicated to developing a “vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in the suburbs.”  One of the group’s organizers, Anthony Gold, spoke about how the organizers were impressed by the level of activity in Philadelphia but felt that the suburbs lacked the infrastructure and critical mass despite having the ingredients of smart people, great schools, and available capital. Thus, Anthony Gold, Brian Dainis, Jonathon Beschen, and Mary Fuchs organized the Liberty Valley Initiative to try to spark engagement in entrepreneurial ventures in the suburbs through MeetUps where individuals of all experiences and resources can meet. This particular MeetUp was hosted by The Headroom, a share space where new ventures have 24/7 access, a business address for legal use, and can use any room 40 hours per month. Furthermore, The Headroom houses several resident experts whose skillsets are at the disposal of ventures in the space. The Headroom’s West Chester equivalent, Walnut Street Labs, was also represented at the event and boasts co-working space and events for startups among additional services.

The MeetUp involved a talk given by Jonathon Beschen, serial entrepreneur and co-organizer, followed by a series of pitches from entrepreneurs present in the crowd. These two activities were sandwiched by two periods of networking with snacks and refreshments including beer, pizza, and wine provided by goEmerchant, a payment solutions company. During the networking periods, I had the pleasure of speaking with a number of fascinating individuals involved in the Philadelphia suburbs entrepreneurial space including Janelle Snyder, an attorney for SnyderLAW, a law firm specializing in intellectual property. Janelle was kind enough to provide her perspective as an investor saying that the first three things she looks for are how the venture is formed (e.g. S-Corp vs. LLC), what legal documents they have insofar as articles of formation, and gauges their competency through contractual literacy. Another interesting individual was Jim Lauckner, a Senior Project Consultant working with the Innovation Technology Action Group (ITAG) to help develop individuals and companies through workshops while promoting the latest technologies and best practices. Jim indicated that ITAG is always looking to place technology minded individuals with startups in the area. While these are only two of the many individuals I met during this networking session, they are indicative of some of the great resources and perspectives that everyone had to share with each other.

The actual talk of the MeetUp covered Jonathon Beschen’s tips on starting up ventures while still working another job from 9 – 5. Opening up the talk, Beschen indicated that entrepreneurs starting up a venture on the side will typically face severe hurdles in a lack of time, money, and skills. He mentioned however that if you have money you can buy skills to save time or if you have skills you can spend time to save money. To help combat this issue, Beschen suggests a data-driven method of entrepreneurship where the entrepreneur builds a minimum viable product, measures the responses it gets, and learns from that feedback to establish a better next product. When making a minimum viable product, Beschen strongly advises that entrepreneurs make their products as minimum by the strictest definition. He notes that what makes entrepreneurs good at innovation – vision and drive – make them bad at settling for a minimum viable product. This means entrepreneurs will often waste money and time on a product with features the customers might not even desire. Thus, Beschen emphasizes that entrepreneurs spend only what they have to, learning as much as they can before leveraging that for better.

For more information on the Liberty Valley Initiative visit their MeetUp page.