Following is the unedited version of my December 19, 2012 Blog Post in the Washington Business Journal.
News flash: Contrary to some reports questioning its relevance in the DC Tech community, MindShare is alive and well! This “exclusive forum” for CEOs of young and emerging tech companies is, in fact, thriving and very active!
In early December, I graduated along with 51 other Classmates. Over 200 people including MindShare alums, Organizing Board members, VIPs and sponsors packed the upstairs dining room for the ceremony at Clyde’s in Tysons Corner. We now have 665 alums, with notables including Charlie Thomas (Net2000 and now Razorsight), Phillip Merrick (webMethods), Amir Hudda (Entevo and now startup naaya), Rick Rudman (Vocus), Reggie Aggarwal (Cvent), Joe Payne (Eloqua), and Tim O’Shaughnessy (LivingSocial), and Henry Sienkiewicz (DISA and Open Travel Software). Nominations for the Class of 2013 closed in mid-December, and demand was super high.
MindShare History – In 1995, Harry Glazer and Anne Crossman, with the support of Kathy Penny, were chairing the Northerm Virginia Technology Council’s Emerging Business Committee, which sponsored informal “coffee and bagels” meetings for regional entrepreneurs. They attracted great speakers, and the format was very similar to the format used by MindShare today. At the beginning of each meeting, attendees would introduce themselves and give an “elevator pitch” on themselves and their companies. These intros would be followed by speakers, and then end with further networking.
By 1997, Harry and Anne formalized these meetings into MindShare. The mission, from the start, was to provide a forum for CEOs of emerging technology companies to get to know the leaders of other early-stage companies, to learn from each other, and to interact with experts on subjects that were relevant to their growing businesses. At the end of the first year, the Organizing Board of senior leaders in the community decided that the members of the group would “graduate” and become alumni, and a new “class” of members would be selected for the following year. The organization quickly began to develop serious awareness and cachet as Washington Technology referred to a MindShare invite as “the hottest ticket in town,” and the group had no problem recruiting 40-50 CEOs from the region’s most promising early-stage growth companies. Even as the tech bubble deflated, MindShare continued to grow more prestigious and continued to attract the most promising entrepreneurs in the region.
Fast forward to today – the MindShare alumni network is a thriving “Who’s Who” of tech entrepreneurs and CEOs in the region. Events and reunions are incredibly well attended, and alums stay connected and help each other through the ListServ, which is one of the most valuable and effective databases of its kind in the region. At December’s CIT GAP 50 Entrepreneur Awards, 45 of the 93 finalists (and 11 eventual winners) were MindShare alums including several from recent Classes.
So I guess I am saying that MindShare is one of the anchors of our community. It’s played and will continue to play a critical role in binding together the region’s top tech CEOs, and helping the “next generation” of tech companies succeed. With 665 alums, the vast majority of whom are still active as CEOs, angels, mentors, and Advisors, MindShare is a force for good, and as one of the cogs in the wheel that is the DC regional tech community. I am very grateful to benefit from all the great things that have come out of MindShare.