Aug
09

Open-Mike Night for Entrepreneurs

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Written by Laura Fitzpatrick, August 3, 09 for Time Magazine

Open-mike-night performers always have to worry about audience members stealing their shtick. But a joke is one thing; what about a business plan? That’s a risk for budding entrepreneurs who pay $15 at the door or $20 a month to hone their 90-second pitches onstage. Attendees at the biweekly open-mike events in Philadelphia and Los Angeles offer feedback over booze and pizza, while simulcast viewers weigh in via Twitter. The wide reach makes some participants nervous. “You have no control over who’s listening,” says Michael Riordan, 26, who unveiled his plan for a New Age yearbook company at the inaugural Philly event in January. “I didn’t give a lot of details.”

The name of these entrepreneurial gatherings — Bloblive — aims to reflect the malleability of ideas. (To drive the point home, participants receive blue Silly Putty in silver tins labeled SHAPE YOUR THOUGHTS.) Founder Ami Kassar, a dotcom start-up veteran, launched the events on a regular basis in April as an off-line extension of his idea-sharing website, ideablob.com Plus, he notes, “being an entrepreneur can be lonely.”

Though the crowds are still fairly small — about 50 people a night — Kassar is weighing expansion into more cities. Meanwhile, participants, whose ideas have ranged from an open-source moviemaking website to a wedding registry for grooms, say they’ve gained p.r. contacts, business partners and moral support.

As for those fears that the shady guy hogging the Beer Nuts will walk off with your idea? Riordan, on his lawyers’ advice, makes people sign a nondisclosure agreement before divulging more details. Others take their chances with an honor code not to steal one another’s ideas. Says Kassar: “We’ve never heard a complaint.” At least not yet.

Click here to learn more about Bloblive.

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