Many of the best things that happen for startup founder come from people they know, so building a high-quality network can be powerful. But traditional networking events are ofter a terrible waste of time. Startup Poker 2.0 brings serious founders together to build valuable relationships with their peers.

Startup Poker 2.0 was the origin event for Startup Haven and has been running every month in multiple cities since 2006. The format of Startup Poker 2.0 is a fun, low-stakes poker tournament. The event supports the startup community by bringing them together in a relaxed and fun atmosphere where the free flow of ideas, beer and trash talk are encouraged. Participants include founders, execs and investors representing 100’s of startup companies. Each event draws 30 – 80 entrepreneur players as well as investors and core members of the startup community; the stakes are kept low in deference to the bootstrapping startups and in keeping with the relationship-building mission of Poker 2.0.

Wanna get on the invite list?

Startup Poker 2.0 is an invite-only event exclusively for Startup Haven members. If you are unsure whether you’re qualified for the list, here’s a link that should answer all your questions.  If you’re confident you’re in the right place, then you can go directly to the simple Startup Haven application form.

The Back Story:

Startup Poker 2.0 began in early 2007 as a friendly, low-stakes poker game among a few Seattle entrepreneurs, execs and investors who wanted to learn how to play the game better.  With the blessing of spouses, the game would move from house to house.  As the invitee list grew, the event out-grew the home-based venues (and the patience of our spouses) and so the event moved to a semi-permanent home — a large conference room at my own startup’s offices.

In the first year, we averaged 10 – 15 attendees each month in the humble conference room.  But the event grew slowly month by month.   At first, we were lucky to fill one table… then it was two tables… then three… then four… then five… then a waiting list.  Our regular event now draw between 30 and 50 attendees and the venues move between iconic technology venues such as Blue Box Group and Microsoft, and tech community fixtures like SURF Incubator, NWEN (now WTIA) and Techstars.

From the beginning, it was clear that sitting around a poker table had a leveling effect on the players — suddenly, the traditional barriers that existed between young or inexperienced or bootstrapping tech entrepreneurs, their successful serial entrepreneur counterparts, venture capitalists, investment bankers, private equity partners, etc. disappeared.  Now they were just colleagues hanging out, playing poker and trash talking.

What also consistently happened was that important ideas were exchanged and valuable connections were made that could not have been made at virtually any other “networking” event.  This was the revelation that lead to the vision of Startup Poker 2.0 as an “un-networking” event that could connect entrepreneurs with each other as well as the business and investment ecosystems that so many of them needed access to.

It’s no secret that many tech entrepreneurs are not natural networkers, except perhaps in situations where they are among their engineering peers.  The power of Startup Poker 2.0 is to create an esprit de corps that leads to meaningful relationships within the startup community.

Startup Poker 2.0 looks for ways to highlight the startups and sponsors that attend by encouraging (and rewarding) 30-second pitches or startup company announcements at every event.  We also look for ways to incorporate the products or services of startups into the Startup Poker 2.0 experience.

As examples, San Francisco-based food startup Sprig and Seattle-based Molly’s Salads have provided catering, Tippr provided Tippr Bucks as prizes, delivered beer and wine and upstart Seattle distillery, 2 Bar Spirits, hosted an event and moonshine tasting.  We are looking forward to featuring many more innovative startups in the Startup Poker 2.0 experience.

As Startup Poker 2.0 has grown, so to has Startup Haven and it’s mission to support tech entrepreneurs through other events like Geeks on a Trail, Founder To Founder and sponsorship of other startup community events.