Creativity, partnerships and hustle: The startup guide to events


Latif Baluch, co-founder of Calio, a personal calendar app, explains how tech startups can harness the power of events on a budget and with limited resources.

It’s tough to get traction as a startup. In the beginning it’s hard to grow a following, develop a strong product and make everything work on a limited budget.

You’re working on incremental improvements in a world with high expectations and short attention spans. There is one key solace, you can be very creative!

We recently launched our product and alongside it our first event, a pop-up street art exhibition highlighting our society’s over reliance on social media. We’re a small team with limited funding, but our event featured world famous street artists and utilised our tech.

Engaging your audience

Many startups use events to their advantage. The League, a US dating app, built its early adopter network by constantly running events that brought together it’s target market. When the app launched, it had 4,500 beta users in San Francisco.

Building a community and conversation through events is a great way to build an engaged user base and highlight your brand values. It also means you can initiate more than just a digital connection with your users.

Your early adopters are arguably your most important users. They are the ones that will use your product, not because it’s great, but because they believe it can be. They are the ones that can give you effective (aka honest) feedback. However, in order for them to help you grow, you need them to understand your message and love what you’re doing. Events are perfect for this.

Brainstorming ideas

As a new company, you want to stand out. So, first ask yourself, why are you different? What is your purpose?

Figuring out your brand values early is important. Your product, business model and team may change but your brand values should be anchored throughout. Once you can get these values down to a simple phrase or a few words you find creative ways to get the message across.

As a business owner, you’re probably thinking about your business 24/7, yet the best ideas rarely just appear. Get some fun and trustworthy people together to brainstorm and bounce ideas off.

We love the ‘diverge, converge’ methodology by Don Norman in ‘The Design of Everyday Things’. Even though it was intended for design purposes it’s useful for all your creative needs.

No idea is ‘stupid’. Make sure that is clear to everyone from the start. Go wild, throw stuff out there, laugh, then try and bring it back to your core concept.

Finding the right partners

Doing a big event with limited resources and experience is not easy. Find the right partners. Companies with the know-how and distribution you can leverage. Partnerships are integral to growth, yet often startups approach them in the wrong way.

You need to find mutual values for a partnership to flourish, and more importantly, you must prove you are adding value. You always have two key things you can sell – your time, and your effort.

As a small business you need to emphasis that your brand values match. Often this means you don’t chase the big well known names, but focus on the smaller local partners who feel that they can grow with you and understand the hustle.

Don’t forget that the event is not just about you! It’s about the concept, the theme and everyone involved.


Hustle hard. Whatever the obstacle or constraint, find a way. It’s easy to drop an idea too early because of budget issues or because you feel you might not have the right contacts. There’s always another way, a potential revenue source. If your concept is good, and you truly believe in it, there is someone out there who can help.