Networks promise recession victims entrepreneurial edge

May 7, 2009

USA/“So you’ve been laid off. That sucks. But it doesn’t have to.” Those are the first words of encouragement offered up to visitors upon landing at the website for The Runway Project, a new venture that helps recently laid-off individuals start their own companies. Call it small-business networking, recession-style.

The project’s more than just a virtual affair, though. Since launching the group in March, founder Tony Bacigalupo and his affiliates have been busy hosting free get-togethers in New York City for would-be entrepreneurs on everything from the mechanics of starting a business to tips on building a personal brand. Another upcoming session promises a crash course on bookkeeping for startups.

The meetings are also a forum for brainstorming with other like-minded people and small-business experts. “Insanely helpful! Having a group of people to brainstorm with is priceless,” wrote one woman, who attended an April session, in a comment on the group’s website. And other comments suggest some are eager to get branches up and running in other U.S. cities, too.

LaidOffCamp is another organization that helps out-of-work types follow their entrepreneurial aspirations. The venture, which started out as a loose collection of community based groups, has expanded into a sharply focused multi-city network that’s hosted events in San Fransisco, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York, with upcoming summer meets planned for Miami and Chicago.

What can you expect to get out of a LaidOff Camp event? In the organization’s words, they are “ad-hoc gatherings” that “feature an open, participatory discussion forum designed to educate, empower, and connect community members.” If all that talk of community and empowerment has you cringing, seminars on topics such as the legal and accounting demands of launching a new business and finding alternative working spaces seem to promise more than just a bunch of hand holding.

The organization’s website is also useful, with a built-in job board and a resources section, where you’ll find crib notes from past events and advice on topics such as what factors to consider when picking a name for your business.

While both LaidOffCamp and The Runway Project are just gaining steam, the stream of job cuts that’s sure to continue for some time yet should provide both with room to grow. Being out of work may be just the nudge some people need to consider pursuing their startup ideas. That is, unless they start enjoying all the time off.

(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)


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I run a similar group for software entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley called Hacker and Founders. (Hackers as in, “I hack computer code together”, not as in “I hacked into Citibank’s computers”)

We get together every couple of weeks to talk about the software business, web 2.0 stuff, new technologies that interest us, and our business plans in particular.

So far, we’ve probably had 10 new companies launch out of our group, and founders and early employees from 30-40 startups that have already launched.

We’re about a year old, we have 300 people on our mailing list, and routinely 20-25 people show up for our events.

It’s a really great way to get to know people, and a great community to be around as you start a business.

Posted by Jonathan Nelson | Report as abusive

Thanks for the great writeup, Matt!

The link for our next upcoming session is broken, but you can find that event and our other events here:

Posted by Tony Bacigalupo | Report as abusive

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Posted by We’re Making Headlines | Runway Project | Report as abusive