Creating an effective online space to ideate and meet fellow builders from GSV Ventures.

Interested in joining our next founder salon? Let us know here!

The worldwide web is no replacement for in-person networking. Run-ins at the snack table and coincidental seating arrangements make shmoozing simple. Expressing subtleties is easier without pixelated faces or bright yellow emojis. 😅

Experts agree that video conferences aren’t a perfect alternative for physical interaction (yet). We miss a majority of body cues on our screens when we can only view others from the shoulders up. Plus, fighting the urge to open another tab and gazing at blue light for hours makes for a harder workday.

Yet, being online lends itself to wonders never possible IRL.

Bringing 10+ founders together at 9:00 am mid-work week during a boom in our sector usually requires a miracle. With remote being the new norm, that miracle is a whole lot easier to come by.

Ditching Patagonias for pajamas is a welcome work-from-home change. Presentations and ideas are exchanged with all voices being heard (Zoom’s raise hand feature ensures it). Also, those voices aren’t limited to the US either. The spirit of entrepreneurship is international, not confined to a 10-mile commuting radius of SF’s Financial District.

With intentionality in planning, Zoom fatigue is avoidable and relationships ‘round the world forge. At GSV’s online get-together, innovators and our investing team bonded over morning coffee. Read on for an insider’s view to our very first founder salon and how you can put one on too.

Step 1: Identify the purpose(s) of your salon.

Following the tradition of Enlightenment Era salons, these events need a leading educational component to inspire ensuing conversations. What perspective, research finding, or investment thesis do you have expertise in? Is that best distributed in a PowerPoint, fireside chat, pre-event email, or freeform discussion? Not all ideas require a thirty-minute keynote.

Consider the audiences you serve as an investor and platform. Vet if your content is worth spreading when founders are fighting the clock. Are entrepreneurs: at a stage that would profit from hearing your insight? Creating in a relevant field? Seeking help with XYZ? If not, you’re detracting time that would have been dedicated to building.

In the case of GSV’s salon, we hoped to:

  1. Share our insight on the impact of Covid-19 on the digital learning and workforce skills sector. We know this industry top-to-bottom and it’s clearly an exciting time to jump in. Existing ***problem areas are being exacerbated by the pandemic (see: the Homework Gap, need for alternatives to expensive higher education). Meanwhile, there’s a rapid acceleration of trends that have been building for years.
  2. Connect talented, early ideators. Being an entrepreneur can be a stressful club of one. A network to root for you, create with, and lean on is essential. We dreamed that our attendee list could even intro future co-founders.
  3. Have some fun! Our team is known for running the ASU GSV Summit, breakfast clubs, and panels from SF to Chicago to NYC. We sadly had to delay the summit and miss the creators that inspire us to get out of bed every day. What better, safer way to bring people together?

Step 2: Recruit people who want to meet people.

Don’t take the easy way out by inviting the first twenty contacts from your Linkedin or Twitter. Think of who: asked to pick your brain over the past year, attended a relevant fireside chat, and/or can’t stop writing, researching, building, and sharing.

Look also at those overlooked in the glitzy tech world — underrepresented identities, humanities-lovers, low-income students, or those who didn’t pursue a brand name college. Be critical about whether you are strictly empowering those already in your immediate network.

Welcoming diverse viewpoints is a no brainer if you want to stimulate nuanced conversations.