Guest Columnist

Columnist: Give back to the next class of entrepreneurs

Guest columnistDecember 9, 2013 

Last month, I gave the keynote address at the “Time is Now” Young Entrepreneurs Conference in Greensboro.

I didn’t give a motivational speech; I basically just crammed everything I know about starting and running a company into a 20-minute talk.

I then did a question-and-answer session with the audience, followed by a one-on-one at the bar across the street.

I didn’t get paid. I didn’t get free drinks. There was no press coverage. Speaking at the event in no way furthered my career.

I did it because the kid organizing the event has the same kinds of ideas about creating a startup culture in Greensboro that Durham had five years ago.

I even told a colleague that night how much the conference reminded me of where Durham was way back then.

It was about having a great idea and a ton of energy and not knowing what to do next. That’s the kind of thing I can help with.

While the event didn’t help my career in a direct way, there are benefits in helping others succeed that should be recognized by anyone who’s been lucky enough to find success.

And having already found success shouldn’t be a gating factor to giving back.

As entrepreneurs, we spend so much time focused on the survival of our company that we tend to forget about where we fit in the bigger picture.

A stronger startup environment lifts all boats.

In the Triangle, we can’t wait for celebrity entrepreneurs to be made locally, or for that matter, we can’t try to import them from outside the area.

Any entrepreneur here who has seen a small bit of success shouldn’t be waiting for that billion-dollar payday to start giving back. We need to reach out to the next class now.

And what about those who haven’t yet experienced even the first shred of success? They can help each other, or even help in other ways.

Last month, I was also involved in The Startup Giveback, an idea from Coursefork founder Elliott Hauser, who has been an entrepreneur for less than a year. Hauser came up with the concept of Startup Giveback to get other entrepreneurs involved in charitable causes.

The Startup Giveback held a simple cookout on Nov. 16. And thanks to sponsors, volunteers and a number of starving entrepreneurs, the event raised more than $1,300 for an endowment to support various charities in the Triangle.

But that’s just a start.

When I host my ExitEvent Startup Social next week, an entrepreneur-only monthly event, I’ll be asking for donations for Startup Giveback. These are small amounts that entrepreneurs can afford to give. Collectively, these entrepreneurs can do much more right now than we once thought possible.

That kind of giving back isn’t just good for karma, it’s good for the community and, just like helping the next class, it’s ultimately good for the givers.

Joe Procopio is a serial entrepreneur, writer and speaker. Follow him on Twitter @jproco and online at

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