The entrepreneur

Trevor Barlow was ahead of his time. Nearly a decade ago, while he was running events for a telecom company, he was working with a client to increase audience size with a live broadcast of the event. He realized there wasn’t a good solution to seamlessly manage virtual and in-person events, but he knew there would be a market for these services. “At the time it was too leading edge — the technology and logistics weren’t quite there yet,” Barlow said.

Gradually, the technology started to catch up. By 2007, Barlow figured he could offer clients more by building his own company. He started ConferenceEdge in Denver, and three months ago, moved the company to Washington to establish a foothold where many of his company’s clients and prospects are based.

The pitch

Trevor Barlow, president and chief executive, ConferenceEdge

“ConferenceEdge builds and delivers technologies and services for events. Our cloud-based Edge Events Suite allows companies and associations to manage their meetings, conferences, Webinars, audio seminars, broadcasts, on-demand and e-learning programs in one unified platform. Edge Events enables meeting planners, marketing managers and trainers to save time and money while increasing revenue for all of their strategic events.

“We launched in 2007 and have built a strong client base of companies and associations. We are currently in a high-growth mode as we look to grow 100 percent annually over the next few years.

“We are a bootstrapped company and have managed growth based on profitability. We are looking at fundraising models as we push to become a nationally recognized brand. As we do that, we are also looking to build a good group of advisers. When you are a bootstrapping start-up, how do you find and engage good mentors when you can’t compensate them in a significant financial manner? We’re running a pretty tight ship and we don’t have a lot of funds to distribute. How do you establish a strong relationship with someone you can rely on when you’re already working 120 hours a week as a start-up?”

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“It really depends on the type of commitment you are looking for in an adviser or mentor. I see a mentor as someone who occasionally provides guidance based on his or her sector expertise, but is not necessarily part of your team. An adviser has more of a long-standing relationship, and may ask for some equity compensation (really a personal decision).

“Like anything else with your start-up, you need to prioritize finding advisers against everything else vying for your time. Advisers can balance out areas of expertise where management might be lacking or validate your credentials by leveraging their connections and reputation to help your start-up.

“As far as finding the right advisors, you are certainly in the right place given your sweet spot at the intersection of technology and events. The D.C. area has a lot of expertise in this space with its high concentration of trade associations, foundations, and successful companies such as Cvent and even recent start-ups such as Social Tables. Spend time networking and developing relationships to really understand the successes and failures of potential advisors. Learning from others’ mistakes can save you a lot of time. Advisers can’t fill the void of a full-time employee, but they can bridge a gap while you transition from product development to business development. That being said, shy away from advisers who are only willing to commit their name and no time. We often see companies listing 20 advisers and immediately know that these are likely advisers in name only. A small group of high quality advisers, even if they aren’t well known, will bring more credibility that an alphabet soup of big names.”

Reaction

Barlow

“That is great feedback. I definitely appreciate the quality over quantity argument as we have tried to build our business on that same theory. I will start working to identify advisors who may eventually be interested in becoming members of our board.”