Fast Company

Greenhorn Connect Helps Startups Get On Their Feet, If They're Good Enough

How one young Bostonian became a networking king.

Photo by David Yellen
Photo by David Yellen

A pair of twentysomethings in Boston had a startup idea, so they did what just about everyone in their shoes does: They asked Jason Evanish for introductions to angel investors and VCs. But after a few tough questions, Evanish declined. "They're not even remotely ready to raise money," he says later, shaking his head.

Evanish is not wealthy, he hasn't started a big company, and until recently, he wasn't especially well connected. He's just a green-eyed, crew-cutted 26-year-old. But he's also a vital stop on any young entrepreneur's startup tour. That's because, in the town that fostered the likes of Facebook and Scvngr, he figured out something nobody thought of before: He who controls networking also controls the network.

The revelation grew out of frustration. After completing a tech-entrepreneurship grad program in 2009, Evanish and a college buddy found Boston's multiplicity of techie meet-and-greets too confusing. So they started GreenhornConnect.com, a clearinghouse for networking events and startup resources. Soon, entrepreneurs and VCs were contacting him directly, looking for info and introductions no one else was giving. And the site's $35-a-listing fees were making it worth his while.

"That's where it's, like, Sweet!" he remembers thinking. "This is doing what it's supposed to." But he noticed a cast of wannabe entrepreneurs--"stale muffins," he calls them--always hogging the Q&A mic at events but never starting their own companies. He felt obliged not to waste anyone's time, so he turned himself into a gatekeeper, arranging strategic meetings to filter out the groupies. "Everyone thinks entrepreneurs are short on money," Evanish says, "when in fact their most scarce resource is time."

Evanish insists this gives him no power. He prefers the word value--he just knows who to connect and who not to. But his super-node status helps young techies find the best jobs and helps companies launch faster--like when he brought a reluctant Vermont angel investor, Ty Danco, down to Boston, leading to deals for a couple of startups. He also connected a new social-metrics company, SocMetrics, with one of its first clients.

Boston has never been able to replicate the efficient network of Silicon Valley, so these kinds of successes got noticed fast.

"If you're a twentysomething starting a company, he's the guy to know," says Mark Bao, who recently sold his hit site, threewords.me, to dotcom mogul Kevin Ham. "You almost can't not know him." What do you do with all that, ahem, value? Use the connections, of course. Evanish plans to join the ranks of those he helps, launching his own B2B software company. He's feeling prepared.

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6 Comments

  • Rick Falls

    Great job Jason. 

    Having spoken to and continuing to speak regularly to, (and through) some older established business assistance agencies about rapidly changing customer acquisition strategies, it's very clear that there is a HUGE disconnect between which business needs what, when and where, in the business building process, and in clarifying the opportunity to deliver it to them, as they need it.

    It's like the index sign in the mall that tells you where the store that you're looking for is, you still need the "You Are Here" dot to make it successfully to your destination. You've found a really "sweet spot" in the most fun, exciting and promising area of the business world, "startups" ROCK ! You're expansion opportunities are exciting as well as you look to "connect the dots" between actual needs (not mistakenly perceived) needs, and actionable solutions. Just a quick point, the action isn't limited to 20 somethings with startups. Some of us 50 somethings have some pretty awesome market solutions and ideas, and remember that we have some "real life" and "business experience" to bring to this party too.  Good job !

  • Jason Evanish

    Rick,

    You're absolutely right. Those with experience add *a TON* of value. With what I do to help the Boston ecosystem, I find we're helpful to people of all ages and many stages of business, but the most help is for those guys/gals that lack "real life" and "business experience". One of my favorite things to do is actually work to bring the young and old together to share perspectives and learn from one another.

    Thanks!-Jason

  • Ryan Durkin

    Jason has been doing really great work in Boston. It was the first site that introduced our entire company at CampusLIVE to Boston and the local tech community in the summer of 2010. For a bunch of young people interested in startups, coming out of UMass, he was THE guy with THE site that got us interested in meeting people within the Boston tech-community. Many thanks to him and the Greenhorn team. We're excited to see the future of the business, and also learn from Jason's lean startup thoughts.

  • Becca Angio

    I've met him -- by all means, this article is an accurate representation of both the person and the hypocrisy of these so called "startup evangelists" 

  • Jason Evanish

    As the subject of this article, I'm disappointed in how this came out. Myself and the site I run for the Boston startup community, Greenhorn Connect, by no means plays judge, jury or kingpin on any startups. I do not have any VCs that rely on my recommendations. My team and I at Greenhorn Connect work hard to help to inform and organize the Boston ecosystem, thereby helping all entrepreneurs become more likely to succeed and hopefully making it easier for new members of the community to connect, launch a business or join a startup.Sometimes, like in the case of the "two twenty-somethings" that reached out to me, I can't help them in the way they hoped. It would be a disservice to the entrepreneurs to introduce them to investors when they're not really ready (you can't make a second first impression). So instead, I connected them to a number of resources and people that could help them better gel their business model and get their startup off the ground.I'm very optimistic about the emerging, open culture in Boston's startup community and hope that I and Greenhorn Connect can be a small part of the community's ongoing success and growth.