HOW TO: Get plugged into the start-up scene in any city (Part One)


Every so often, someone approaches me via twitter, e-mail, or other methods to introduce them to the New Orleans start-up scene or give them tips on how to get involved. I enjoy meeting people new to the city or locals expanding their horizons, so if my schedule permits I meet them for coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate) and share information on popular meet-ups, groups, work spaces, influencers, and more.

Recently, I took on a new consulting position that involves frequent travel to West Michigan (Grand Rapids and Holland, MI, specifically). I knew I would be missing out on a lot of the local events #backhome, but it also seemed like a good opportunity to check out a whole new start-up scene.

This is part one of  a two part post. Part one covers how to find the scene. Part two will cover how to successfully become part of the scene without stepping on toes.

Locating the Scene

I used a lot of the same techniques to get plugged in that I previously used in New Orleans, and I think the same tricks could be used in any city that has an active start-up scene. is a site frequently used for meet-ups in hundreds of categories, but technology is one of the bigger ones. Meetups are searchable by keyword or topic, and all searches are location-specific.

A quick search for “startup” near Grand Rapids, Michigan returned three relevant meet-ups. One of which I joined as a member to get updates on events:

Other good meet-up keyword searches include:

  • NetSquared (a national network of web technology meetups)
  • Web Technology
  • Web Startups
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Technology
  • Social Media


Even if you aren’t an active tweeter, Twitter is a useful tool to locate influencers and groups active in your area. Follow these quick steps for location-based searches on Twitter:

1.    Enter a search term at the top of the screen and hit return/enter.
2.   National search results will display. Select the little gear on the far right next to the search box and click, “Advanced search.”

3.    Scroll down to “Places” on Advanced search and enter the location and the search radius.

The search results will default to showing the “Top” tweets. Select “All” to get a broader variety.

I find it useful to scroll through and see who the people are, and if you stumble across someone interesting, it’s good to click on their profile and see who they are following and if they have any relevant lists created.

Another good strategy is to find the accounts for local meet-ups and co-working spaces. Some of the good accounts I found using searches in Michigan were @MomentumMI, @POMstudios, @coFactory, and @5x5Night. It isn’t usually too hard to figure out who is running those twitter accounts, or who is behind the organization and follow his or her personal feed as well.

Other good search terms on Twitter include:

  • Entrepreneur
  • Founder
  • Start-up
  • #coworking
  • #startuplife
  • …. get creative!

Go old school: Google

It may be 2012 already but that doesn’t mean an old fashioned Google search is any less relevant than it was in 2002. Searches that proved to be productive for me that could be slightly modified included:

  • Startup Grand Rapids
  • Barcamp [Insert your location or nearby city here]
  • Coworking  [Insert your location or nearby city here]
  • Tech News  [Insert your location or nearby city here]

 Then What?

If you follow these steps you should be able to come up with a list of major players, events, workspaces, and so on. Hang on tight to that list and wait for Part Two of this post to learn what to do next!