Who Can Join Startup Haven

(Note: these membership guidelines change from time to time.)

This is the hardest part of Startup Haven (and requires a little reading.)  The startup community attracts tremendously smart, talented, friendly, helpful and inspiring folks — in short: terrific people. Unfortunately, most of these amazing people do not qualify to participate in Startup Haven.  If you discover that you don’t meet the qualifications for Startup Haven events please understand that it’s not personal… you’re probably still awesome.

In order for Startup Haven events to be a good fit, you should be living, breathing, eating, sleeping and crying the startup experience FULL TIME as a core member of a founding team of a venture-scale startup… or recovering from such an experience.  If you’re an active startup angel investor or VC then you’re always welcome at the tables as well, however investing in startup should be our only motivation for joining — if you also provide professional services to startups then Startup Haven may not be a good fit.

READ THIS: Startup Haven is intended for serious startup company founders, C-level execs and investors.  In general, by “startup companies” we mean growth-oriented, venture-scale companies. The definition of what counts as “venture scale” and “growth” varies. Here’s what we have in mind.

  • A venture-scale company passes through various stages of traction — idea stage, MVP, pre-product, pre-revenue, pre-funding, seed stage, profitability, Series A, B, C, growth stage, acquisition. Startup Haven requires that startup companies have achieved some meaningful traction before joining. Idea stage, MVP stage startups are too early for Startup Haven membership. The baseline for consideration for membership in Startup Haven is that the company has build a functioning (although perhaps still very basic) product. So, pre-product companies are usually too early as well unless some other meaningful milestones have been achieved.
  • A venture-scale growth company does not deliver it’s principal customer value by human beings performing work for another person or company — in general, services performed by humans do not readily scale.
  • A venture-scale growth company has as it’s intended trajectory one of significant scale — e.g., aiming for national or global reach and/or aiming to provide a product or service to a significant market (typically valued in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.)  There are some exceptions, but they are rare.
  • A venture-scale growth company founder is interested in building a company for which their financial incentives are not the money they make while they are building or running the company (i.e., their income or the company’s profits) but, rather, the financial upside that comes from building a company of great value that produces an out-sized outcome in the future (typically through a liquidity event such as a merger, acquisition or IPO, but also sometimes through immense scale.)
  • A venture-scale growth company need never raise venture capital, however the company is of a kind that investors would recognize, in principle, as ‘investable.’ As a rule of thumb, this means companies that can scale to millions in monthly revenue, grow to tens of millions in annual revenue and produce liquidity events in the range of tens of millions, hundreds of millions… and possibly even one billion or more.

If you still think you are a fit, then read the rest of this page and then fill out this form to apply to be added to the invitee list.  

1) I’m working FULL TIME as a member of the founding team of a venture-scale startup… can I join?

If you’re a full-time founder, co-founder (as CEO, CTO, CFO, COO, etc.) of your growth startup then rock and roll… Startup Haven is for you!  What makes this role so special?  There are many shared experiences that only founders can understand.  Then there’s the risk.  Your compensation and success depends almost entirely on the long-term success of the company.  Employees get salaries and perhaps a tiny bit of stock; founders get heaps of stock and little or no salary.  If the company fails, founders can lose a lot… sometimes everything.  Employees go get another job (perhaps with the new realization that stock options may not be as valuable as once thought.)

2) I’m working on my startup but I haven’t quit my day job yet… can I join?

The answer is usually “no”.  Passion, confidence and commitment are hallmarks of entrepreneurship.  Most often, this means pursuing your startup 24/7… and jobs get in the way of that.  Of course, quitting your job to pursue your startup is not a litmus test of a true entrepreneur nor a true startup… but it’s definitely a leading indicator of commitment.  If you haven’t quit your job at Microsoft or Boeing or Amazon in order to pursue your startup then you may not be ready for Startup Haven.  That said, you may be extraordinarily passionate and confident about your startup idea but still need to support yourself (or your family) financially.  That’s totally understandable.  But if you haven’t yet turned your passion into something that most entrepreneurs would recognize as impressive commitment to a viable startup… then Startup Haven may not be a good fit for you.

What’s “impressive” and what’s “viable”?  In a nutshell, something that a room full of serious, committed, full time entrepreneurs who are making huge sacrifices would recognize as kicking ass and taking names.  To be clear, that’s a high standard to meet.  And just because you’ve been working on our ‘nights and weekends’ project for three years doesn’t mean you have something impressive or viable.  We all hope you do someday and one of the ways you’ll know that is that you’ve quit your job to pursue it full time.  And yes, the bar is set higher for you if you’re not working at your startup full time.

If this doesn’t sound like where you are then you may want to wait to join Startup Haven.  We’ll be here when you’re ready.

3) I’m working with/for a startup as an advisor/employee/fractional exec… can I join?

Regrettably, no.  It takes a village to raise a startup and the employees, advisors and even families of startups are critical to their success. But Startup Havens’s founder-oriented environment requires that we restrict membership to full-time founders, C-level execs and investors.  There are lots and lots of ways for non-founders to connect in the startup community and you should partake heavily of those opportunities.  When you make the leap yourself and dive deeply into your own startup then we’ll be here for you!

4) I’m the founder of a growth startup but I haven’t (or don’t plan to) raise capital… can I join?

Absolutely!  Boot-strappers are one of the reasons that Startup Haven events are mostly free and the buyins for Poker 2.0 events are kept really low. As long as your working full time on a venture-scale startup then boot-strapping is highly-respected in the ranks of Startup Haven.

5) I’m the CEO or C-level exec of a company that was a startup back in 1996… can I join?

If you were the founding CEO or C-level exec then maybe; the key is how actively involved you are in the startup ecosystem TODAY.  If you were hired to replace a founding team member after the company raised money or in some way “took off” then probably not.  Although if you are now an active investor in startups then welcome aboard!

6) I’m growing my company; so it’s a ‘growth startup’, right? 

Not always.  The phrase, “growth startup”, is a technical term.  Generally, growth startups are companies for which their principal value is not delivered by human beings performing work for another person or company and the intended trajectory of the company is one of significant scale — e.g., aiming for national or global reach and/or aiming to provide a product or service to a significant share of a large and compelling market.  There are some exceptions, but they are rare.  For example, if your company is a firm that provides consulting or other services, then you’re very likely NOT a growth startup.  However, if your company has built a marketplace for people to find the right consultant or other service provider, then you may well be a growth startup.  Avvo is a good example of this, as is Porch.

7) My company has a cool web site… can I join?

If a cool web site supporting an essentially-non-technical, non-scalable, and/or non-internet-based product/service is your claim to innovation as a tech startup then you’re probably not in the right place.  If you are making innovative use of a web site to broadly scale an essentially non-technical business then welcome aboard.  Zulily is a good example; so is BiteSquad, LyftLittleBorrowedDress Zappos, ShapeWays.

8) My startup company offers a product or service that would be valuable for startup companies… can I join?

While there are a few exceptions, the answer is usually “no”.  Examples of companies not qualified are technology and marketing firms, design firms, software development firms, recruiting firms, accounting firms, HR services, financial advisors, hosting companies etc.  The general rule of thumb is that if most of the folks at the tables would be good customers of your company then you’re more suitably a sponsor for the event… although sponsors also get to play so there’s your chance! That said, if your tech startup company provides a hard core technology Platform (capital “P”… not just a methodology or set of in-house tools) that startups might use then the answer might be “yes”.  For example the CEOs of Twillio and Big Door Media would both be welcome at the tables, even though they have startups as customers.

9) I represent a non-profit supporting startups… can I join?

Absolutely.  However, you’ll be in a special category of member that may exclude you from certain founder-only events and communication.

10) My startup isn’t a growth startup… or I’m not sure.  Can I join?

Probably not.  One of the primary missions of Startup Haven is to unite startup founders who share a common experience.  In most cases, that means trying to start, scale and run a growth business.  There is a definition of what a growth startup is at the opening section of this page.  If your still not sure if your business is a growth business then drop us a note at info@startuphaven.com and we’ll suss it out.

11) I’m a service provider who understands the value of developing relationships with the tech startup community… can I join?

Tech startups need lawyers, bankers, accountants, financial advisors, office space, PR, web hosting… and lots of other stuff.  Startup Haven recognizes the value that great service providers bring to startups and to founders.  And if you are the founder of your firm, then you’ve done something entrepreneurial.  But in order to maintain a high-quality experience for startup founders (and our sponsors), attendance by those working as/with/for service providers is strictly limited.  Even if you were/are a startup founder, exec or investor, your current work with or as a service provider would disqualify you (see below, “Luke, I am your father”.)  But don’t worry… once you’re back on the startup track without a service provider conflict then you’ll be welcomed back.  In the mean time, the best way for you to participate as a service provider is to become a sponsor.

12) Luke, I am your father.

Entrepreneurs are typically highly capable, confident and often are very well connected in the startup ecosystem.  So after their startup has been acquired or… well… doesn’t get acquired, it’s no surprise that many of these awesome entrepreneurs then go on to get hired by awesome companies that provide valuable products or services to startups and to entrepreneurs or they start their own such company.  The entrepreneurial perspective and insight they bring to their clients is invaluable, for sure.  But when this happens, those former entrepreneurs usually become ineligible for Startup Haven events because it is virtually impossible to avoid a conflict of interest.  We look forward to those awesome folks getting back on the horse and doing what they were born to do… and when they do we’ll be here for them.

Similarly, many practicing lawyers, bankers, accountants and real estate brokers often are also investors and advisers to startup companies, often investing hard cash or trading their services for equity in their clients’ companies.  While these folks are on the journey with their founder clients and there is a real sense in which they are an investor, they do not meet the technical criteria of being an active startup investor for the purposes of membership in Startup Haven. As with former founders who have entered the ranks of service providers, we look forward to these folks leaving their professional work behind to focus on investing… or to become a founder!  In the mean time, the best way for you to participate as a service provider is to become a sponsor.   Contact info@startuphaven.com for details.

(Reference to “the dark side” intentionally omitted.)

Still think your a good fit?

If you still think you’re in the right place, then fill out this form to apply to be added to the invitee list.  If we agree with you then you’re in.  Applications are subject to review so don’t be surprised if we have some follow-up questions or politely invite you to try again when your situation changes.  No matter, don’t fake it and don’t take it personally — we’re not judging you; my bet is that you are pretty awesome. But the policies behind Startup Haven membership are based on years of experience and observation about how to build the most valuable experience for founders.