[joe procopio] about me


How Deals Got Done at the March ExitEvent Startup Social
A Recap

Monday night was the 29th(!) ExitEvent Startup Social, and by 5:45 p.m. on what turned out to be an fantastic evening, weather-wise, entrepreneurs and investors started trickling in to FullSteam brewery in downtown Durham.

A few were already there. For example, Craig Stone from Triangle Angel Partners had even taken the liberty of scheduling a couple meetings at FullSteam beforehand, and was chatting with Zenph's Kirk Owen (formerly of Merscom and Playdom as well), when I arrived.

It was Owen's first Social. He said it won't be his last.

FullSteam turned out to be a great location -- walking distance for about 20 independently-housed startups, not to mention all the folks from American Underground and AU @Main who were also within a short, pleasant walk. As has been the case with every venue thus far, everyone at FullSteam was incredibly nice and accommodating.

Local is part of the charm, so to speak. When I started ExitEvent, I made it a priority to integrate the event and the site with any willing local vendor, to any extent it made sense.

Thus, we still use Adzerk for ad-serving and Argyle Social for social media. For the first 20-or-so Startup Socials, we exclusively poured Mystery Brewing beer (before they could even sell it), and we're thinking of going to their Public House for April's Social. ExitEvent was a beta customer of BoostSuite, I got initial digital marketing help from MethodSavvy, and we just started using Contactology to eventually replace those all-text emails you get for Startup Social invites and the weekly newsletter.

That will be awesome, because that part of ExitEvent is some of my most horrible coding.

With the acquisition of ExitEvent behind me, and the transition not only going smoothly but already starting to pay dividends, I've gotten wrapped up in another mission. This isn't a startup, there's enough work at Automated Insights to keep me extremely busy for decades. This is a mission, something I'm passionate about making happen.

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Five People You Want to Seek Out at Monday's ExitEvent Startup Social
The Cool Thing is, Everyone There Should Be One of These

Hard to believe that we're coming up on Startup Social #29 on Monday (March 24th). What started as a little get-together that got out of hand turned into a... larger get together that's still pretty much out of hand.

But even with all that history and all the noise that I've made about the value of the Social over the last three years, the message still doesn't get as far as I'd like. No agenda? No speeches? No name tags?

"Well, what the hell do you do there?"

The uniqueness of the Social is the fact that you can strike up a conversation with the person next to you and chances are almost 100% that said person is an entrepreneur or an investor. I can't make that guarantee at a place like Fullsteam because we're not closing it down or anything like that (that would be a very un-ExitEvent move). But here are the five types of people you'll be talking to at Monday's Social -- and why you should be talking to them.

Active Entrepreneurs

I can't tell you how many entrepreneurs helped me or advised me or otherwise lent their time and talent to ExitEvent. But the same holds true for the help we've received at Automated Insights (the VC-backed, customer-filled startup where I've been for nearly four years).

Even with all the smart, connected people on board at Ai, we rely on advice, introductions, and have even received consulting from other entrepreneurs in their various areas of expertise.

Got a question or an issue or a concern? Chances are at least one other person at the Social has something similar they've gone through or are going through right now.

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Warning: You May Already Be Reading Computer-Generated Content
The Stigma of Automated Content is Fading

In an article today in The Daily Dot, I talked with writer Aaron Sankin about the proliferation of automated content in news stories. The article was inspired by a couple recent events.

Two weeks ago, Karstad University's Dr. Christer Clerwall published the findings of his study of automated content vs. human-written content in the 2014 volume of Journalism Practice. Dr. Clerwall used samples from Automated Insights' StatSheet product (which Robbie Allen and I built over three years ago) to compare against actual journalist-written articles of the same NFL game.

His conclusion: Not only is automated content virtually indistinguishable from human-generated content, but in most cases it is deemed as more credible and trustworthy.

By the way, I've since spoken to Clerwall, and it's obvious he gets where automated content is going and why it's so valuable.

As you might imagine, this news got picked up by a lot of outlets, including PandoDaily and the Daily Dot.

Then, the Monday, March 17th Los Angeles earthquake story was "broken" in the LA Times with a computer-generated story published by QuakeBot, which monitors and reports on the data feed from the U.S. Geological Survey.

People were fascinated, and rightly so. This is a perfect example of machines being able to break news at a moment's notice. However, much like those automated weather service warnings you get on your television and radio, it's not exactly brand new.

In fact, you've probably already read your share of automated content, especially in the areas of sports, finance, weather, real estate, and personal fitness.

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The False Choice of Cursive Versus Coding
Don't Toss the Basics In the Name of the Future

This opinion is completely devil's advocate for me. As I've been spending the last few months digging down into how we could and should teach entrepreneurism, I've been investigating how we teach coding and technology in both elementary school and high school.

I also have three kids under 10, and I'm teaching all of them how to code.

But I'm beginning to wonder if we're doing it wrong.

To disclaim, I've been on board with calling out the critical need for more STEM education, specifically more technology and coding skills, for years. I'm of the generation where from eighth grade until my junior year, I was the ONLY kid in my high school's computer class.

By the way, do you have any idea how alienating that is? It's a total miracle I'm not more messed up.

Where you lose me is the argument of how pitiful and morally wrong it is that we still teach kids cursive but not coding, a false choice that reached a collective fever pitch with this article in The Week.

The same argument was made with Latin probably 30 years ago, and when Latin fell by the wayside (I remember it was still an elective just before I got to high school), there was still no coding in its wake.

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Under New Management: A Recap of Monday's ExitEvent Startup Social
At First Glance, It Looked a Lot Like Previous Socials

Monday night marked the first ExitEvent Startup Social where it was public knowledge that I was no longer in charge. To be honest, I've actually not been in charge for a couple of them now, but with the news having broken earlier this month of ExitEvent's acquisition by American Underground, there was no more false pretense, so to speak.

Now, I can't say I spent a whole lot of time between the acquisition and the formal announcement worrying about whether or not things would change. This is due to two reasons:

1) The team at American Underground and I spent a lot of time making sure that what I didn't want to change would not.

2) We then spent an inordinate amount of time making sure that everything else would.

I like change. Change is good.

Those changes are starting to play out. They were noticeable Monday night in downtown Raleigh, where over 130 entrepreneurs and investors from all over the Triangle came out to the new American Underground @Raleigh facility. There they enjoyed a selection of half-a dozen local craft beers provided by Tasty Beverage and, for the first time ever at an ExitEvent Startup Social, wine.

Because there's money for that now.

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Are You a Founder or a Number Two?
Props for the Unsung Hero of Startup

Last week, I was in lurking in the back of a room (which is usually where you'll find me), listening to a rather successful entrepreneur give a talk to a bunch of young entrepreneurs, most of whom were students. At one point, he made this careful distinction:

"I'm not that guy. I'm not the visionary. I'm the number two. I'm the guy that you give me the idea and I'll get it started."

He then asked how many Number Twos were in the audience. Given that the room was full of students, and that most young entrepreneurs think they're the second coming of Elon Musk, I expected crickets. Instead, much to my surprise, several hands went up, including one young entrepreneur who had made a presentation earlier in the evening.

I was aware of the distinction, of course. The Number Two is the person behind the founder or founders who takes the idea and creates the product or gets it to market or otherwise makes it tangible and successful.

But I had never really given it much thought. Like most tech-founders or tech-CEOs, I've been both the visionary and the Number Two, sometimes at the same time, for the entirety of my career. I've had pretty much equal amounts of success and failure in both roles.

So I tend to take that distinction for granted. I had certainly never heard an entrepreneur with a solid amount of success admit to being "just" the execution guy.

Everyone loves the idea, the home run, the slam dunk. But the world wouldn't move without the producer. Think of Moneyball and Brad Pitt's Billy Beane begging a team of has-beens and never-wases to focus on getting on base. Closer to home, think of Dean Smith and the tradition he created to "point to the passer" when a star player scores.

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ExitEvent Acquired by American Underground
Here's How It Went Down

How it Started - by Joe Procopio

Well, one thing to note is there was acquisition interest almost from the beginning. I'm a working entrepreneur, and ExitEvent was something I started because I was convinced it needed to exist. Because I'm an entrepreneur, I built it like a startup -- that's pretty much all I know. I don't know how to run foundations or dot-orgs, I know how to build and run companies. But because I'm a working entrepreneur, I knew I could never devote more than 3-5 hours a week to the cause.

I invited 12 founders to the first ExitEvent Startup Social, and 50 showed up. When I first opened up the network, requests came in rushes. When I first put content up on the site, the audience exploded. It was always more than I could handle, and the sacrifice was to keep ExitEvent underpowered. This sucked, because for over two years I knew it could be more than it was. Turning away business is a good problem to have, but when that business is making startups better, it's not a good problem at all. It's just a problem that needs a solution. Stat.

It took the better part of those two years for me to swallow my pride and decide that there was probably someone out there who could do ExitEvent better than me. In any case, I knew there were several people out there who could devote more time to it, because they were already coming to me. So this past summer I started seriously listening to what the options were, and thankfully, one set of options made perfect sense.

I've known Adam Klein since he was doing really cool things at the Durham Chamber, making a lot of something out of next-to-nothing. With each project he took on, there was always more to it than what the average person saw, and when he went over to American Underground, he brought that ethos with him. Today, American Underground isn't just about a place for startups to sit. It's a lot more than that. I'm not sure anyone has the exact handle on what it'll become, but now it has a voice.

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Stop Taking Paper Advice and Start Thinking About Your Exit
This Site is Called ExitEvent For a Reason
Published at ExitEvent

As a startup founder, you're going to get inundated with advice for building and running your company. It's inevitable. You'll be able to tune out 90% of it, but it's going to seep in, whether it's from your advisors, your peers, or your grandmother.

Everyone and their brother knows how to build and run a successful startup. They just don't make you aware of this until you've actually started your own.

A good chunk of this advice, and again, you'll tune a lot of this out, is the stuff you're going to pick up casually, mostly by way of expert articles by thought leaders and mostly via websites like this one you're reading right now. Guilty. You'll also get a trickle of it from books, if you're into that sort of thing, other forms of media like television and movies (although this is the worst possible advice ever), and even random conversations with anyone from other entrepreneurs to, well, your grandmother.

I should point out that this casual advice stands in stark contrast to formal advice, and that's advice you seek out from actual experts in your field or those who have done roughly the same thing you want to do and have had at least a modicum of success at it. This is usually good advice, and you should probably take it.

Not that the casual advice is necessarily bad, mind you, it's just likely not meant for you. It is, by its very definition, generic. It's meant to be broad in scope with a wide target, and that inherently keeps it from being very meaningful to you, with your company, in your market, at your point on your timeline.

read the rest at: http://exitevent.com/stop-taking-paper-advice-and-start-thinking-about-your-exit-14130.asp

Luck Favors the Bold, But Opportunity Favors the Present
The Recap of the January ExitEvent Startup Social
Published at ExitEvent

It's not that I'm totally against name-dropping. I mean, let those without sin and all, it's just that when other people do it, and when they do it with the thinnest of veils as if it's an accident or it has some deep and obvious meaning to crystallize their greater point, I can tell. And so I assume you can tell too.

So I'm going to avoid any sort of implied pretense and just come out and tell you that I'm going to name drop, partly because it has some deep and obvious meaning to crystallize my greater point, but mostly because if you're an entrepreneur or investor, I really want you to come to the next ExitEvent Startup Social on February 24th in Raleigh, which you can do by signing up and getting you and your startup verified.

Anyhow, to recap this past social, which was Tuesday, January 21st at Lonerider Brewery, I'll throw out an anecdote. A founder I had never met, one from a startup that had recently generated a little buzz, introduced himself to me Tuesday night and told me it was great to meet me. I returned the sentiment, we chatted for a bit, and then I pointed to a table where sat Jason Caplain (Bull City Venture Partners/Southern Capitol Ventures), Lister Delgado (IDEA Fund Partners/NC IDEA), Bill Warner (IMAF-RTP), Aaron Houghton (BoostSuite/iContact co-founder, also an angel) and Sumit Vohra (Lonerider founder), and said:

"Wait. Stop talking to me and go introduce yourself to those guys if you haven't already."

He hadn't.

read the rest at: http://exitevent.com/luck-favors-the-bold-but-opportunity-favors-the-present-14124.asp

The Startup and Shifting the View
And Why You Should be at the January ExitEvent Startup Social
Published at ExitEvent

The January ExitEvent Startup Social is Tuesday, 1/21, at 6:00 p.m. at Lonerider Brewery (and if you're not a verified entrepreneur and it's still, say, Monday, join now, it's invite only). And if I have to pick one overarching reason why you should be there, it's this:

Because you thought 2014 was going to be a boring year. Admit it.

OK, I will. In an amazing stretch of singlemindedness of purpose, I spent the entirety of my summer heads-down working on some big projects for Automated Insights. No secret, most of it was the fantasy football stuff, but we had other projects going on as well, even non-sports related customers.

That resulted in me not having a single day off from July 1st through to September 14th (the weekend after the first weekend of NFL football). Not a Saturday or Sunday went by when I didn't work at least eight hours, on top of the 12-14 on the weekdays and scheduled weekly "late nights" where we all stayed until past midnight. All of us.

I'm not complaining. Nor was I alone, pretty much all of us were in that boat. This is what you do when you do startup (although, to be honest, we've all decided we're never, ever doing that again, we're insane, not suicidal).

So when I came out of the haze, I was expecting that I had missed a bunch of cool stuff that had been going on while I was losing my vision and brain cells to giant swaths of data and artificial intelligence. This was only partially true. Cool stuff had happened, but I had actually managed to stay on top of it -- I was still writing, if just to switch gears. But it seemed like, while the velocity was still there, the acceleration had slowed.

Then it hit me, during September's Startup Social actually, when we packed nearly 200 entrepreneurs and investors into (iContact/Boostsuite co-founder) Aaron Houghton's house in Chapel Hill a mere two days after my first day off in months.

Here was something completely different. Better keep doing that.

read the rest at: http://exitevent.com/the-startup-and-shifting-the-view-14117.asp

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Copyright 2014 Joe Procopio • @jproco