Chris McCann – Startup Digest 1 of 2

“Try creating products by solving real problems.” StartupDigest is a weekly, members-only, curated guide, showcasing the best events in the startup world.

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Matthew Wise: Hi this is Matthew Wise with FounderLY.com. We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies.

So it’s with great pleasure that I’m here today with Chris McCann, who is the founder StartupDigest which provides a weekly curated e-mail of the best start-up events, job opportunities and education content in geographical areas to more than 120,000 registered members.

So with that said Chris, can you give us brief 60 second bio of yourself so our audience can you know you are.

Chris McCann: Yeah. So I’m Chris McCann, I graduated from a college called Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It’s on the central coast of California, a very small little beach town on the central coast. Moved up here to Silicon Valley in June of 2009. Originally took a job with Plug and Play Tech Center and then in the middle of that started StartupDigest.

Outside of that, I organized the Geeks on a Plane trip to Tokyo and that was in December 2010, 2009? One of those years. Then also I helped start TEDx Silicon Valley here at Stanford and [inaudible 01:16].

Matthew: So, what is StartupDigest? Who is it for and why are you so passionate about it?

Chris: Yeah, you said a pretty good description but StartupDigest is a curated weekly e-mail of the best events, jobs and what to read the educational content for you area. So it’s all for tech start-up entrepreneurs and this includes hackers, founder, developers, university members, VCs, angels, the typical tech start-up ecosystem. These are the general people that are subscribed to our newsletters

Matthew: And so, in terms of organizing this type of e-mail network for professional tech events what are some of the trends you’re seeing with that?

Chris: Yeah, trends in terms of the events, or . . . ?

Matthew: In terms of, maybe the events and also just with organizing events in a tech space.

Chris: Yeah, I guess one thing a lot of people think that tech start-up entrepreneurship is just a Silicon Valley thing and even though I’m located here, some of our biggest issues are in places outside of Silicon Valley like New York City and Boston and even small international cities like Cape Town, South Africa or Paris or Tokyo.

There’s literally a tech start-up scene in almost every single city you can think of. Even if it’s very tiny there is still people there working on some sort of tech entrepreneurship project. So what we’re seeing is kind of the proliferation of the entrepreneurial ideals that we believe here into other cities. So just like you see co-founder events and meet-ups and demos and user groups here, you’re also seeing them in all these other places and all these other cities.

StartupDigest alone covers 62 different cities all around the world and we don’t even have the full breadth of it, there’s a lot more cities [inaudible 03:18].

Matthew: And so how does StartupDigest empower its members, empower individuals and enterprises and why are you so passionate about it?

Chris: Yeah, yeah, very good question. So StartupDigest is all about the actual happenings, the actual things taking place in your city. So it really gets you . . . the whole point of the digest is to look at something, to take action and to go meet someone else either to hire them, to find a co-founder, to go get investors, partners or to give back if you’re in that stage of your career in tech entrepreneurship. So it’s really all about doing something.

Outside of that if you’re looking for a job opportunity, we have things like that. If you’re looking for education, we produce our own education classes. We’ve done topics on fundraising and hiring and social media marketing, so we’re really picking the best that our industry has to offer, really archiving [inaudible 04:16] and people are supposed to take action with this. So that’s kind of all about empowerment.

Matthew: So we covered you background and high level overview of StartupDigest, so what inspired you to start StartupDigest? Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment, is this something that you had planned? What’s the story behind that?

Chris: Yeah, yeah. Not so much planned or ‘Aha!’ moment but like I said I moved here in June of 2009 and when I first moved here I didn’t know really anybody in this area, I didn’t have any family here, so I was really going to events to meet people socially, to get myself connected and I didn’t have any friends so I didn’t really have anything else to do [laughs].

So I was going to these events and the problem with Silicon Valley and a lot of other major tech hubs is there’s a lot of activity going on, but it’s very hard to know what’s quality and what’s not. So I started compiling just a very simple listing of the best events in Silicon Valley for myself and some of my friends thought that was cool too, so that’s how it started. In November 2009 I sent the first digest to 22 people. That was kind of the original first version of it.

It was really solving my own personal problem, other people asked for it and I published it publicly in November 2009.

Matthew: Who is your co-founder? How did you find him? What qualities were you looking for?

Chris: Yeah, yeah. Kind of a long story, I’ll try and summarize. So my co-founder is a guy named Brendan McManus. We’ve known each other for probably three maybe four years. We originally met because he was working on a previous start-up called the UpDown.com in the Boston area and I was one of their first users.

So he was kind of their customer service, front-end guy so we just talked all the time on the platform. It was this kind of virtual stock trading platform so we were talking about stock stuff and the product and how to fix it and all that good stuff. It did super, super, super well and then the stock crash happened and kind of terrible things happened to that company [laughs].

So me and him . . . so he independently moved into the Bay Area after graduating from Notre Dame and I moved around the same time that I graduated from San Luis Obispo. He ended up taking a job with Wildfire Interactive and then I was still working at Plug and Play and he just randomly Facebook messaged me and he was like, ‘Hey, I just moved to the area. If you know any places to live or people looking for roommates let me know.’

Straight chance, I was being kicked out of my sublet that I was in and so we met up with the original intent of maybe looking for a place, just together, not necessarily to live in. We found one and ended up moving in three days after we met each other in person [laughs]. And that was really it. We just kind of started working on stuff as we moved in together.

But we’d known each other for a long time through his previous start-up so we kind of had some of that history, we kind of knew each other before that and then we were living together and then we just started working on things. Originally not StartupDigest. Other stuff before that that never really went anywhere. But it was kind of through that relationship that we met.

Matthew: Are there any unique metrics, social proof or stats about StartupDigest that you’d like to share with our audience?

Chris: Very good question. So, like you said we have 120,000 members, more now after the TechCrunch article, probably close to 130, 130,000 members across all the issues that we publish. So we’ve grown that. We started in November 2009 with only 22 subscribers so the growth curve is pretty far and up and to the right.

We’re an already a profitable media company after one year. So the media sector’s not doing so well, so to say you’re a profitable media company is pretty cool [laughs]. And also we just announced we closed funding from the Kauffman Foundation. So the Kauffman Foundation is the largest foundation in the entire world for entrepreneurship.

They’re a $3 billion foundation and they fund a lot of amazing programs like Startup Weekend, Angel List and Global Entrepreneurship Week and a whole bunch of others. For us to be part of the family, it’s a really, really kind of honor for us and it really goes to show what we built in this year.

 
 

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