Rubbing elbows with a select group of start-up execs with a lot of energy

March 4, 2012

I need to get in shape.

I just spent an evening with the latest class of MindShare, an invitation-only networking group limited to chief executives of area technology start-ups.

This is one high energy crowd.

I had barely arrived at the Verizon Center for the group’s get-to-know-you when people were thrusting their hand out introducing themselves, and racing through their elevator pitch.

Whoa! Can I hang up my coat?

You won’t find a Web site for MindShare. The idea is to create a gathering where CEOs can talk and learn from one another informally. A board of folks from area law firms, investment houses, accounting firms and elsewhere recruit a new class of promising business leaders each year.

This year’s class is the 16th, and more than 600 executives have participated so far.

Each year’s class often is a reflection of the times, said April Young, one of the founders. Young, now a managing partner at Hercules Technology Growth Capital, recalls the 2001 class, whose members arrived with great bravado until the dotcom bubble burst and the sessions turned into an “AA” meeting.

Like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, the sessions are for the most part private (except for the occasional exception, when they let people like me in).

“What happens in MindShare stays in MindShare,” Young told the group, reassuring participants that they could talk candidly about their challenges.

Wednesday’s session started with a talk by Scott Chase, chief executive of the Startup America Partnership, followed by local business mogul and sports team owner Ted Leonsis, who was our host for the night’s Wizards game.

Leonsis recounted his own successes and urged the young hard chargers not to get too caught up in the pursuit of success. Far better to chase happiness, and success would follow, he counseled.

We then adjourned for the game, which few appeared to watch but all seemed to know the score.

“Do you see that?” blurted one, in the middle of telling me about his business model. He pointed down to the floor at Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard, who was lollygagging down the court. “I can’t believe he gets away with that.”

I started making mental plans to hit the gym.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community. Subscribe to our weekly newspaper and check out our daily reporting in The Washington Post and online at www.capbiz.biz. There, you can also sign up for our daily e-newsletter offering a roundup of news, tips and more.
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