Conferences Are Not Petri Dishes for Startups

Sammy Ortiz
4 min readJul 11, 2019


One would think that the energy generated at conferences would be enough for participants to return to their areas and “poof” their ideas materialize into a viable startup. It’s not realistic!

Startups happen best in the context of community as individuals collaborate with others in an environment where feedback is readily available to be shared once trust is established amongst the group.

They Are Fun

Conferences are hecka fun. The excitement in the air can be cut with a knife. Attendees have come with the mindset to learn new things, meet new people, and hopefully find the silver bullet that is going to help their startup be the next big thing.

The next two to three days are packed with main sessions and breakouts that consist of hearing the current “Startup Superstars” and what they’ve done to achieve success.

There’s only one problem…

Success Can’t Be Defined at Conferences

I go to a church planting conference every year. It’s electric! When I attended my first conference I went with the hopes that I’d hear something that would revolutionize my life. What I noticed was that I’d dip into a slight depression when I got back home.

The reason I would get slightly depressed is that what was defined as success at the conference did not translate for what I was doing in my specific area.

We have to be really careful not to self sabotage as we compare ourselves to someone else’s business and copy and paste it to our startup idea.

While you may hear some great stories and ideas of how others are doing things in their cities or communities, avoid trying to implement what they’ve done in your area. All areas are not the same.

I can’t do what someone else is doing in their city. I’m not them. They’re not me. Our cities are not the same. Specifics matter to your locale. Principals might not.

The same goes for startups. What works for one startup may not work for another. This is not one size fits all.

Networking On An ADHD Level

If you’re like me, distractions come fairly easy. Add to that hundreds if not thousands of people walking around, talking, and booths, and you’ve overstimulated the heck out of a person.

Compound this with the fact that we listen to respond instead of learning and this lends itself to nonproductive networking.

As I “network” at conferences, I notice that those that I speak to get fidgety. Almost as if they’re looking through me to see who else they can tell their story or idea to.

My take on this is that we go to conferences hoping to find someone or individuals who may financially underwrite our startup. This minimizes the relational aspect of connecting with others solely for relationships.

Conferences Serve Their Purpose

Getting creative people into a room who hear the same message yet process it totally different is golden.

Everyone in the room, whether they’re at the concept phase or have actually launched their startup are in need of encouragement. Entrepreneurship is lonely and daunting.

Next Steps After the Conference

The most viable way to take what was gained at a conference is to join a startup cohort.

Some will take a concept and never do customer discovery to see if their idea will be something that others will pay for.

In my opinion, CO.STARTERS is the best way for potential startups to be vetted and tested to see if they’ll become a reality. Participants learn in a collaborative environment ways to take their concept to startup or better yet, if they shouldn’t start a business at all.

Learning that you should not start a business is as valuable if not more than starting one. Running a business is not for the faint of heart. The pressure added to your marriage, child bearing/raising, relationships, or health could be your demise.

Take the time to learn about yourself and your potential startup to see what next steps to take or not.

Join a Startup Community

Most Economic Development Councils have seminars and events that can keep you up to date on best practices for your business. But most EDC’s are suited for large corporations and not startups.

The best way to connect with other is to join a startup community.

A medium that I’ve recently discovered is Startup Space. It’s an app that serves as a Startup Community. It’s brilliant! The app makes it convenient to get information, make connections, and best of all, it’s on your phone. Doesn’t get easier than that.



Sammy Ortiz

U.S. Army Veteran | Social Entrepreneur | Ecosystem Builder | Founder of Community Collective