This past Monday, I had already put in a full day on my newly-launched startup and was anticipating at least three more hours of work ahead of me. But at 5:30, I dropped everything and drove from Chapel Hill to Raleigh.

It wasn’t because I needed a break, or to see clients, or any kind of meeting. I went because I had been to the ExitEvent Startup Social several times and it had always been worth it. The Social on Monday was no exception.

The ExitEvent Startup Social is usually held the second or third Monday of every month in downtown Durham at the Neu Concepts office sace. On this particular Monday though, it was held for the second time at HUB Raleigh on Hillsborough Street in downtown Raleigh.

The Social usually draws 100 to 200 verified entrepreneurs and investors. And by verified I mean you have to sign up and be approved.

More on the value of verification later.

There were over 100 entrepreneurs in attendance at HUB Raleigh, drinking free beer and talking startup. Most of them had probably had days similar to mine, and appreciated the no agenda/no selling/no featured speaker theme.

Why would I abandon my work for this? Consider conversations I had at the event:

  • “Have you met such-and-such? He founded a company in your space.”
  • “How do you think recent developments at local startups X and Y will impact investment in our area?”
  • “Who designed your new website? We’re looking for a designer.”
  • “What’s going on with LAUNCH Chapel Hill?”
  • “How are things going at your company?”

You hear that last one a lot at various events, but at ExitEvent on Monday night that question was usually followed by a 15-minute discussion of progress, challenges, strategy, and feedback.

I asked other entrepreneurs why they were there. The most popular response was along the lines of “to stay connected to the startup community.”

As an entrepreneur, connection to a community of entrepreneurs is irreplaceable. These connections help us grow a stronger startup community, which can bring more attention, more investment, and more new talent to the area. That’s good for everyone.

As a working startup founder, there’s also a more immediate value in being connected to an entrepreneurial community. Like most founders, I have a small team and am responsible for a variety of areas – from product development, to team building, to designing systems for scalability. I need feedback, constantly, about what works and what doesn’t, and I’m always looking for better ways of doing things. Input from other entrepreneurs can spur new ideas and reduce costly trial and error.

Entrepreneurs also need resources – team members, technology, and funding – and they needed it yesterday. Who knows where to get these things? Other entrepreneurs.

ExitEvent offers one of the best opportunities in the Triangle to make entrepreneurial connections. This is mostly due to the “verified” caveat I mentioned earlier. The Startup Social is limited to verified entrepreneurs and investors.

Most of the conversations I had were with current startup founders. And there was no agenda, so I got what I wanted out of it, and contributed what I could to it.

If you’re not convinced, just go to the next ExitEvent and talk to at least three people there. I think you’ll appreciate it as much as I do.

Editor’s note: Ann Johnston is founder of Local-Ventures, an online company that helps small businesses discover and purchase from quality local vendors. She can be reached at