Tech in Motion’s DC chapter put on their first ever fireside chat this fall, hosting Adam Zuckerman, founder of Fosterly and Dan Berger, CEO and founder of Social Tables to speak about startups. Joe Colangelo, co-founder and CEO of Bear Analytics, moderated the conversation for the night with a heavy emphasis on content but a far more laid-back and intimate approach than the typical panel discussion.
The event took place at the Artisphere, a local arts center located in Arlington, Virginia, which was once the site of the Newseum. The evening kicked off with networking in the Lower Town Hall, an open concept space equipped with a bar and art installations. The discussion then moved to the Dome Theater, which provided the perfect setting for the audience to interact with our speakers.
With Joe at the helm of the conversation, his easy-going personality and knowledge of the startup world was on display as he expertly moderated what proved to be a very insightful and engaging dialogue. His two speakers for the night, however, were no strangers to speaking up in front of the local technology community.
Adam Zuckerman of Fosterly was a recognizable figure to many in the audience as an important player in the DC tech space. He is well known for his work at Fosterly as well as various advising roles to the community at large. Adam calls upon his unique background in business, law, and technology to help galvanize the entrepreneurial community in the greater Washington, DC area.
Dan Berger is the CEO and founder of Social Tables, a hospitality software company with a thriving culture based in Washington, DC. Dan has been described as a “relentless and focused entrepreneur” and recognized 40 Under 40 in the meetings industry by Collaborate Magazine and Connect Meetings and named to Successful Meetings Magazine’s “Most Influential” list.
When the networking portion of the night wrapped up, attendees eagerly took their seats in the Dome Theater to listen to these two experienced entrepreneurs. After going over their individual backgrounds, the discussion kicked off with Joe prompting Adam and Dan about the dedication they feel towards their companies.
Gone is the 40 hour work week – Adam stated the necessity of his 6 day work week schedule in order to make sure that Fosterly happens. Adam recommended that audience members find a job they would normally do as a hobby, because in the entrepreneurial realm, Work/Life balance is nonexistent.
“I’m very bought in, I don’t unplug. It’s a luxury which I don’t allow myself,” Dan remarked.
Dan was on the same page with Adam’s line of reasoning, stating that Social Tables was a side project on which he originally dedicated nights and weekends to. However, he quit his day job when a future investor didn’t believe him committed enough.
If anyone doubted the commitment of these two individuals and countless others in the tech community in D.C., that was put to rest as chuckles and murmurs of agreements followed Adam saying that “Entrepreneurs are the only people on Friday or the weekend who say, ‘Whoa, wish it was Monday.’”
After giving a brief history about Social Tables and how it came to fruition, Dan spoke on the topic of co-founders and how the relationship with his own came to an end. Dan said he realized two major factors eventually highlighted how he and his co-founder could no longer see eye to eye on the best course of action for their company.
“Don’t look for friendship or a different risk profile,” Dan said candidly.
Adam elaborated on the delicate nature of the co-founder relationship, adding that “you might spend more time talking to your co-founder than your family”. In the end, Joe, Adam, and Dan all agreed the most important thing to do was what most benefited the company, no matter how ‘messy’ things became.
Adam brought up a common misconception that a lot of individuals have towards those who have their own businesses; they believe that when you found your own company, you don’t have to answer to anyone. The reality, according to Adam, is that “you don’t stop answering to people. You answer to employees, investors, and the clients you want, have, and lost.”
On another note, it’s easy to take on too much when starting your own business. Dan shared insight on perhaps one of the most difficult lessons of establishing a startup: the power of ‘No’. Both Adam and Dan agree that it’s better to focus on doing a few things well than taking on more tasks or clients; they both firmly stated that it is okay to say ‘no’ and leave things on the table rather than over-commit.
The night ended with an extremely engaging Q & A session, where local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts were able to pose questions to the speakers about their experiences as well as ask for advice. Tech in Motion DC looks forward to the next tech talk – Join your local chapter to attend one of our free events in 2015.