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Boston Beta educates local entrepreneurial community

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 14, 2012 01:28 PM

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montage1.pngBy Marissa Lowman

This city has no shortage of networking events, but Boston Beta aims to educate entrepreneurs and those interested in startups by hosting three different types of events, each with its own unique structure.

After graduating from college and moving from Chicago to San Francisco, Christian Perry founded Boston Beta’s parent organization, beta ltd -- then known as Room Full of People, Inc. -- in 2006. The organization started out hosting events in San Francisco, but due to growing interest, has expanded to Boulder, New York, Seattle, and Boston within the past year. It also maintains an international presence, with chapters in Dublin and Sao Paulo.

Event producer Kara Morris said Perry chooses to expand to other cities “wherever he sees an innovation economy.” Morris started volunteering with Boston Beta at its kickoff event last October, after which she convinced Perry to let her organize the local events. Although Perry recently relocated to Boston, Morris is the one who runs the show.

“A lot of entrepreneurs I run into, in addition to trying to build a business, are also trying to be benevolent and fix social problems, which is one of the reasons to be in entrepreneurship,” Morris said.

One type of event Boston Beta hosts is a quarterly Startup Strategy speaker series, in which about 100 leading local founders and investors engage in a discussion with entrepreneurs around a particular topic. The next speaker event focuses on what it takes to build a successful investor-founder partnership and will be held at the UK Trade & Investment Office.

Bill Warner, a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and founder of Avid Technology, Inc., will lead a discussion with some of the entrepreneurs he has funded.

Boston Beta also hosts Ask Entrepreneurs Anything, a series of intimate gatherings that give budding entrepreneurs the chance to engage in a candid, off the record discussion with an experienced entrepreneur. However, in order to attend, one must apply and be selected. Dharmesh Shah, founder of HubSpot, spoke at the kick-off event.

As if two types of events weren’t enough, Boston Beta also hosts a quarterly Signature Event series, in which attendees both network and learn about companies within a particular industry through interactive demos. These events bring together a wide variety of professionals working in the industries represented by the events’ themes, which vary each time. Morris said the Beta team tries to select industries with a significant startup presence. Because these events attract such a diverse group of people, they tend to be larger, with an average of 400 people in attendance.

Unlike other networking events, Signature Event attendees are given tokens that look like poker chips, which they can then use to “invest” in their favorite startups. The startup that earns the most money is announced at the end of the night.

Boston Beta’s next signature event will be held in July, and will focus on biotech, health, and fitness. Morris said she’s excited to organize this event because nutrition and health are areas she’s passionate about.

The city as a whole, it seems, is passionate about it, too.

“Boston is fairly big when it comes to health startups,” Morris said. “There are a lot of local professionals, people in healthcare, professors, and athletes, so our event will provide a valuable experience for those who aren’t in the entrepreneurship world, but also for startups to get advice from the larger health community.”

“Healthcare, depending on how legislation goes, could become very expensive,” said Morris. “I want to learn more.”

Boston Beta will hold its next event, part of their Startup Strategy Series, on Thursday, May 24, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the UK Trade & Investment Office (One Broadway, Kendall Square). Registration/more information.

About Marissa -- Marissa is the founder of EdTechup, an organization that brings together education technology entrepreneurs and educators. She currently works at AisleBuyer, a mobile commerce startup. Her writing has appeared in Time Out Boston and BostInnovation, among other publications.

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