Arlington, Virginia, USA is home to a small software company called Lemur Retail. Its founder, Will Fuentes, was planning a business trip to Seattle and needed help with a common priority: identifying potential clients and arranging to meet them. He decided to work though his local chapter of a national networking group called Startup America. Within hours, he had won some introductions, secured a temporary work space and even received restaurant recommendations. “Before I flew out there,” he told The New York Times, “I already had five or six meetings set up with potential clients and other key contacts, as well as one potential acquirer.” *
Startup America is one of several nonprofit groups in the US that seek to connect startup and early stage companies around the nation. Each of its regions is led by champions who communicate via Google Groups, share an online Idea Center, and assemble at an annual national conference. The brainchild of AOL co-founder Steve Case and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Startup America has 12,000 members in 30 of the 50 states. “Supporting startups throughout the country is the only way to make sure the American economy is firing on all cylinders,” says Mr. Case. What he did not say was that, thanks to Startup America’s online connections, those cylinders could be firing just as powerfully in a rural city or small town as in a metro technology hub like Alexandria, across the Potomac River from Washington DC. Mr. Fuentes reported that he found two potential clients through his connections in Seattle, and is helping his contacts in the Northwest make inroads in the Washington area. **
* “Helping Start-Ups with Local Support and National Networks” by Sarah Max, The New York Times, February 8, 2013.
** “Helping Start-Ups with Local Support and National Networks.”
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