From the Crowd

Commentary and analysis from outside voices in venture capital, hedge funds and economics

Should startups go to conferences?

November 13, 2012: 3:45 PM ET

Startups should pick and choose their conference attendance wisely.

By Paul Jozefak, contributor

FORTUNE -- It is not money that you need to be most careful of when running a startup. It's time! No matter how much cash you are able to raise (or, how's-this-for-novel, earn) time is always working against you. Unfortunately, I recently made the mistake of wasting my own time.

I went to London to attend an event. Many people whom I know had mentioned that it was good and that they would be there again. I let myself get caught up in the "trend" of everyone going. I didn't necessarily think things through to completion, though. Yes, I did see a ton of people and it was great catching up but if I am honest with myself, I didn't need to be there. This doesn't mean I should not have been at an event, just not this event. It also doesn't mean it was bad. In fact, it was the best event in a long time for startups which wanted to fundraise from German VC's. It was also a great event for people who wanted to see the whole German community plus some UK folks in one place.

Was this what I needed? No, I should of been at an event where I could recruit developers or find folks looking to start companies. As I'm focused on the finance vertical, any event directly dealing with this space would of been better for contacts to potential customers, partners or employees. If nothing else, I could of learned something new about my industry or find an idea for something I want to build. My time would of been spent far more wisely.

Here's some questions to ask yourself before booking that next event which can help you make up your mind about how to spend your time:

  1. 1.  What am I trying to achieve by attending this event?
  2. 2.  Will the people whom I want to meet really be at this event?
  3. 3.  Am I fundraising, recruiting, selling, looking for partners. etc.?
  4. 4.  Will I meet new people or do I already know most of the people attending?
  5. 5.  Can I go for a day or do I need to be there for the duration of the event?
  6. 6.  Is it possible to attach any adjacent meetings in the same geography?
  7. 7.  Can I get a speaker slot so as not to have to pay for attendance and gain visibility?
  8. 8.  Could I send my partner or an employee in my stead?
  9. 9.  What other events am I sacrificing by attending this one?
  10. 10. Do I really have to go to this event or am I just going to get away from the office and see that wonderful city where it's taking place (and my wife or husband wanted to come along)?

Bonus question: Am I endangering my relationship or marriage by leaving said husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend at home to see someone else while away?

Be honest to yourself. If 10. and the bonus question threw you off, forget the other questions and rethink this whole startup thing as well as your relationships.

Paul Jozefak (@pjozefak) runs the Liquid Labs incubator in Germany, and previously ran European activities for SAP Ventures. This post originally appeared on his blog

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