The Hidden Value Organizing and Attending a Conference for Fellow Founders with Tyler Tringas
Brian Casel: [00:00:00] Hey, it's Open Threads. It's my podcast. I'm Brian Casel. Welcome to it. Back on the show today is Tyler Tringas. We continue our conversation and we talked about Founder Summit. That is the conference that Tyler and his team over at Calm Company Fund have put on for a couple of years now. And I attended Founder Summit for the first time just a few weeks ago. The one held in Asheville, North Carolina. It's a really unique event. A fantastic conference for founders. And it was a great opportunity for me to connect with some friends and form new relationships with folks in and around the startup community.
And that's actually what makes this conference sort of unique in that it's literally built around relationships. The centerpiece, the reason why you would attend an event like this, is not necessarily for big celebrity headliner speakers - it's [00:01:00] more about the people that you're going to meet, the fun activities and the setting where it takes place. I mean, we had campfires, hikes amazing food amazing activities. And I know that every single event, they dream up something a little bit different. So really excited to re-attend in future events in 2023 and beyond.
So I talked to Tyler about what went into the concept behind Founder Summit. A couple of things that they've learned and how they've really optimized this conference
Today's episode is brought to you by ZipMessage. That's my product. It's for asynchronous communication with your team, with your clients, with your coworkers. I'll tell you a thing or two about that later in the show. For now, let's talk to Tyler about putting on a conference.
All right, well, we're back here with Tyler Tringas. We just had a, previous conversation talking all about Calm Company fund, some of the history, some of the learnings. That was a great episode. But now, you know, let's talk a little bit about Founder Summit. I know [00:02:00] it's sort of like put on by Calm Company Fund, but like, is it like a separate business, separate entity? It, does have its own website and everything. So I just attended Founder Summit in Asheville, North Carolina. I know you guys have put it on in in Mexico City in the past. Tell us about it. What, what is Founder Summit?
Tyler Tringas: Yeah. So Founder Summit is a live event series at this point. It started as basically me just trying to pull together a remote community into some sort of physical location. So our fund is completely remote. The team is remote. The mentor group is remote. The portfolio is remote. And like many remote companies, you've sort of figured out that there is really a ton of value in FaceTime.
So a lot of remote first companies have this idea of a team retreat. Pull people from all over the world, you put 'em together, you know, face to face for a little while, and there's a ton of value in that. And I wanted to create the same effect for our community. And so I was living in Mexico City at [00:03:00] the time and I said, Okay, Mexico City's great. I'm gonna just, you know, open invite, bring a bunch of people from our portfolio, our investors, and the team all in one place.
And as we were starting to do that, we realized, Hmm, this is already kind of like the kernel of a really cool event. It was gonna be like, I think 40 or 50 people from inside the community. And I thought, you know, there are a lot of people who I think just like the vibe of Calm Company Fund, right? They like the idea of building a Calm Company, but they don't fit into one of those two very narrow funnels, which is, you know, can you invest in our fund or can we invest in your company? Right?
There's a lot of people that, for various reasons, might be building a Calm Company that just doesn't fit into either of those. And we never really had a way to bring those folks into the community, right? People would reach out to me and just say, I love what you're doing. You know, I'm running this like profitable business, blah, blah, blah. How can I get involved? And I was like, I. I don't know, like if you can't fit into one of these buckets, then we [00:04:00] don't have anything for you. Sign up for the newsletter, I guess. And so this kind of filled that role. It said, okay, we're already bringing together a bunch of great entrepreneurs. Let's open it up and let this other category of folks who are not affiliated with us also join, hang out, meet other founders, and just generally kind of build and strengthen the community. And then there's some principles behind that. But I mean, I can talk about that.
Brian Casel: Yeah, I mean, you know, we can talk about just how awesome and how fun it is to, to attend Founder Summit. But before we get into that, just strategically, I love this idea of investing time and resources in marketing projects that are just awesome and fun to do anyway. Like, it's, it's gotta be worth doing on its own and it has the added benefit of bringing the core community together. Bringing people who might not necessarily be the right fit, as you said, for, for both of your funnels. But they are very much the type of people who can go and talk about Calm Company Fund to folks who it might make sense for, or it might make sense to them sometime down the road.
It [00:05:00] just helps with, with the brand and sort of goodwill and, and all that kind of stuff. So I mean like, just like the idea of, of a top of funnel asset, if you will, as a conference that happens to be a, a fun thing that, that should happen anyway. You know, I, I love that idea.
Tyler Tringas: Yeah. Same. it's definitely a long game in terms of, you know, the value it will ultimately drive for the company. But I think.. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are not actually like economic maximizers, in the sense that they don't like survey the landscape of all possible opportunities of ways to spend their time and try to pick the like thing that's gonna generate the most dollars. A lot of times it's just like you're just freaking frustrated with something and you just have to go and fix it. And that's probably like a big driver of, of Founder Summit. It was just like, , I went to a lot of conferences in my life. Actually we were talking on the last show about my previous job working in kind of clean tech advisory.
I went to a ton of conferences for that job and then later went to some conferences as a, as an entrepreneur, but fewer. And I [00:06:00] always found them just incredibly frustrating cuz it's like we all fly from all over the world to this location to sit and stare at someone doing a PowerPoint presentation, that 100% would be better delivered as a podcast episode that I could listen to, you know, while I'm running on the treadmill. Like, what are we doing here? It just was like so frustrating. And then you'd, you know, you'd meet all these great people. in the five minute coffee break before you get like hushed and pushed back into the, you know, to the thing.
So like at some point a couple years ago I started going to conferences and I just completely ignored the talks. I would just exclusively like, set up coffee meetings and just only go and try to hang out with the people who were there. And so that's what like kind of got that thing in the back of my mind that was like, What if we built an entire event around this? Around facilitating the people who flew all the way here to meet each other and like form connections and, and build relationships. And so that's, that's kind of the thing is I just [00:07:00] can't not do it
Brian Casel: Yep. Yeah, totally. I mean, that, that's exactly the reason why I, there's just a small handful of conferences, you know, entrepreneurial conferences that I go to every year, and the only reason I go is to hang out with friends and we get together at and then I get to meet up and, you know, form new relationships.
That was one of my, my goals in attending Founder Summit this year as, as a first time attendee for me. And again, like I'm only about one year into, uh, being a, a funded startup through Calm Company Fund. And so I, I saw this as an opportunity to, you know, make more connections and, and get a little more connected within the, the Calm community. Which, you know, I've been more connected in like other communities. This one made a lot of sense and it, it really is the perfect format for that. And I love the idea of not only like the activity based and, you know, this one was like a camp edition, so there were like campfires, there was hiking. It, it was a lot of fun. But like, I just love the idea of like a small conference.
I've, I've been co-running this thing that we call Big Snow Tiny Conf for going on 10 years now. Where, [00:08:00] you know, me and only like 12 other founders, we get together in a house and go skiing and snowboarding in Vermont and Colorado. Which has been awesome cuz it's like a fun activity and we talk business and, and it's like small group. I've been to a couple others where like 40 or 50 and This was really put on really well.
You know, one thing that I kept commenting to everyone while I was there, I think you guys did a really great job of not only planning like a really unique event with activities and everything, but the curation of the attendees, right? So every single person that I met and spoke to at Founder Summit, I was like, wow, they're, they're working on something really interesting. You know, they, they, and, they're, they're not new at this. they're experienced. You know, I relate to so many people here. There 's like a, a wide range of backgrounds and, you know, diversity and, and everything.
It, you know, I've seen that kind of fall short at other conferences where it's like, you know, there's, there's like the core group that, [00:09:00] that are really great, and then you have a bunch of like, I don't know whether it's like new people or maybe people just trying to sell their services there while they're here, you know. Can you talk a bit about that? How did you like work out, like the application process and all that?
Tyler Tringas: Yeah, I mean I think it's basically boils down to a combination of how can I put this? Like magnets and filters, right? So the one hand you need to have these magnets. You need to have stuff that is going to attract interesting people, right? And then you need to have ways to filter out the other people that you don't want there. So the, the magnets would always be like the, you know, the setting. For example, the first one was in Mexico City. It's a beautiful city. It was on a lot of people's kind of to-do list to go and visit there. And then we just, I mean, we blew it out. Like we threw a heck of a party in Mexico City and, and kind of went fully all out.
So a lot of folks knew, Okay, like this is gonna be a really fun experience with kind of good food, good vibes. Even if I hate [00:10:00] everyone there, it's probably still gonna be like a fun time, right? That's the kind of bar you wanna set. And then you want to have filters where either, you know, you kind of implicitly filter out folks. So one of those is just kind of holding them in kind of off the beaten path places. Right? So that's a filter. The fact that we did it in Asheville, North Carolina and Mexico City and not, you know, whatever, New York or Dallas or something like that, where it's convenient for people. It's actually inconvenient, right? So that sets up a filter for people who are feeling a little more adventurous right now.
And then the other thing is just we did have a, we call it, it's, it's open application invite only. So the process is anybody could apply to come to the conference. You know, there, you didn't need some sort of secret handshake or anything like that. And then we, you know, kind of just selectively as a team went through and tried to kind of curate the folks from that. And, you know, I honestly like. . Okay. Yes, we've put a lot of thought into it, but also we've just been very, very lucky that whatever we've put out there in terms of just, you know, [00:11:00] the, the frequency that we're sort of putting out there is just resonating with the right folks.
I think a lot about man, I'm gonna screw up this quote, but it's a really good one. It's like the best thing to do on the internet is you're tapping a tuning fork and seeing who resonates. , right? Like that's, you know, and so I think we've done a pretty good job of tapping the tuning fork and then we've just gotten lucky that it's resonating with a lot of really interesting people.
Brian Casel: for sure, for sure. You know
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Okay, back to the show.
yeah. I mean, you know, I, I really just find it hard to like buy into like the value prop of most conferences, right? Like, I gotta get a flight, I gotta get a hotel and go out there, and then I gotta spend like three days at this place. I don't know if I'm gonna enjoy myself.
But you, read and you see all the photos [00:13:00] and everything from like, Founder Summit and from both years, it's like, how can I not go to.. Like, it's like this is gonna be awesome. No, no matter. You know, and you guys did put on like a pretty well structured event where, you know, there were like multiple activities and there were talks. It wasn't like, you know, this is like only just conversations. Of course there was a ton of that and, and parties and activities and hiking and everything. But there were talks, there were some were sort of organized as like fireside chats. Some were a little bit more like larger group, you know, speaker. But you can sort of pick and choose.
I mean, and, and they were all like a really interesting set of topics and speakers. The one, and, and I was speaking to you at the event about this. The one that really stood out to me I was sort of surprised at it, but it was my favorite one, was the husband and wife, restaurant owner duo. And, you know, they, they have a really, really successful uh, string of Indian restaurants.
Tyler Tringas: Mm-hmm.
Brian Casel: I mean, and they just like kind of told their story. The, the, the startup story, the growth and how they, they have this like..[00:14:00] It, it was quite a story. And for a, a room full of like software entrepreneurs to hear from restaurant owners. It, it was just like, it was just sort of eyeopening and inspiring and I, not that I necessarily like, related to a lot of like the, the steps that they took in their journey. But it's just like such a breath of fresh air, to go from the typical like startup podcasts and our Twitter circles and, and all that stuff to now I'm sitting, you know, by a fire in Asheville, North Carolina hearing from two really successful restaurant owners. It was just awesome.
Tyler Tringas: Yeah. They were fantastic as the founders of the Chai Pani Restaurant Group. And uh, they were super cool. I mean, I think we're still building the, principles here. But the ones that we have now in terms of how we think about talks Is the first one is that it's not about like star power. So one of the problems you have is you need to attract like thousands of people to come to a, crappy conference center in, you know, a boring city that they've been to a million times. You gotta have these like big flashy keynote speakers that they're gonna resonate with. So we kind of leave that out.
[00:15:00] The second thing is that the talks are there not to dominate the conversation, but to inspire the conversation. That's how we think of what talk should happen, is we think about after the talk, what kind of conversations is that gonna spark among the attendees. You know, and then the last one is basically I say like, talk about the stuff we're not talking about.
So it's really interesting to dig in with Molly and Meherwan about, you know, they are 12 years in to running a, now a very successful business as a husband and wife, you know, co-founders basically. And so it was really cool to sort of unpack that with them because that's kind of something that we have a lot of, especially in this community. Like a lot of husband and wife or just, you know, spouse co-founders and I think we don't talk a lot about like the challenges and opportunities that that presents. So, so that's why I was really excited to talk to them about that.
Brian Casel: Yeah, for sure.
Tyler Tringas: Yeah.
Brian Casel: So, I mean, before we, we wrap up here, I mean, I'm, I'm sure Founder Summit is gonna be happening again. Are there plans in the works for 2023? How are you thinking about that?
Tyler Tringas: Y[00:16:00] Yeah, well, we'll just talk about it. Um, So we're gonna do more. Yeah, basically, you know, the first two went really well.
Brian Casel: Oh, you're gonna do multiple events?
Tyler Tringas: Yeah, we're gonna do quite a few next year. So we'll do some in different locations. Some will be a little smaller, some might be bigger. We're gonna do some experimentation there.
But basically, you know, after the second one of these, We had just a huge percentage of the people at, at the events say this was like the best event they'd ever been to. Twice in a row. One time could be a fluke but, you know, two for two, I feel like that's, that's product market fit. That's, you know, the universe telling us we need to, to keep running with this.
So yeah, we're planning to really double down on it next year. So, stay tuned.
Brian Casel: I really, like the idea of multiple smaller events, you know, because like there a number of things, whether it's like travel, location, timing of the year, you know, who knows what might come up. But if there're like multiple opportunities to even attend multiple times throughout the year.. And you know, that's the other thing is like with these small conferences, I've been to.. [00:17:00] I mean, I've been doing the skiing snowboarding one for where I go every single year. And I've been to a couple of other small ones where I've been back like three years. And it's that repeat experience with people where you start to really develop these, these relationships. And you just kind of, kind of show up. you land, you come to this really cool location and you dive right in. You know, like how, how are things going since the last time we hung out, you know? It's like the first time you meet people, it's, it's still sort of that like surface level, you know, what do you do? Tell me about your business. Tell like, what are you all about? And then once you, you sort of see the same people multiple years in a row..
And this is, you know, for folks listening who are not well connected in, in this industry, I think it's a really important practice to get out there. Like slack groups and Twitter are not enough, you know. And I, I mean cuz I've been self-employed for more than 13 years now. But I didn't start attending conferences in person until at least five years into that, you know. And that's when [00:18:00] things started getting interesting in my career. You know, businesses friendships and advisors and you know, like just going in person and developing these, these relationships, it, it takes it to a whole other level. You know, cuz I, I think that with these events, they really form a community. They, they form these like return attendees, right?
Tyler Tringas: I totally agree. Yeah, there, there's something magic about, you know, actual in-person face-to-face conversations with folks. Something very there's a real leveling, right? Like you can have a conversation with someone that it would be incredibly hard to like cold DM them on Twitter and get on their calendar to have a Zoom. But, you're at this conference together and so you, you know, you have a chat and you know, like what we do and what quite a few other conferences do is, you know, which I like is , not putting the speakers, you know, tucked away in a secret green room, which you do have at some like really big conferences, which is very frustrating to me.
But you know, that approach of just like the speakers and the people who you think of as maybe like your, your entrepreneur heroes are also just chilling out at the happy hour and happy to chat [00:19:00] with you . So yeah, I totally agree it's great.
Brian Casel: For sure. Well, I'm looking forward to more of it next year. Tyler, we, we covered a lot of ground in these two episodes, so uh, yeah. Thanks. Thanks for doing it. We will get everything linked up in the show notes as always.
Tyler Tringas: Awesome. This was great, man. Thanks so much.
Brian Casel: Alright. Thanks Tyler.
Well, that wraps up today's Open Thread. Hey, tell me what you think. I'm on Twitter @casjam, and right after that, head over to iTunes and give this show a five star review. Really helps it reach more folks like us. I appreciate it. Talk to you next week.