An interview with Startup Riot founder Sanjay Parekh about Startup Riot events, the challenges faced by technology startups outside of Atlanta, and the up-and-coming sectors in tech.
Based in Atlanta, Startup Riot produces what it describes as ‘affordable, curated events’ for startups. The day-long events invite 30 startups to give brief presentations followed by Q&A from a panel of judges. Services providers are also not allowed unless they are sponsors, presumably to maintain a focus on networking between startups, investors, and other startups.
SUB: Tell me why and how you founded Startup Riot.
Parekh: After starting my startup, Digital Envoy, in 1999 and selling it in 2007, I decided I wanted to help other entrepreneurs as a way of giving back for my good luck at my startup. My goal was to help as many startups every year continue down their path of success.
SUB: What does Startup Riot bring to the table that other startup conferences don’t?
Parekh: There are two major differences between our event and others. First, it’s affordable to everyone with ticket prices ranging from $40 to $80. Second, we screen out service providers, such as lawyers, accountants, etc., unless they are sponsors of the event. The result is a high quality conference where even an aspiring entrepreneur can meet the people that will help them succeed.
SUB: One of the differentiators for Startup Riot is that you try to promote startups in areas outside of Silicon Valley, New York, New England, and other non-traditional technology centers. Do you think startups in these markets that get less attention or even ignored to the point where it is significantly harder to succeed?
Parekh: There are always challenges for entrepreneurs and if being noticed isn’t the challenge, there would be some other hurdle. That said, Startup Riot isn’t focused on one geographic location but on the community of entrepreneurs. In fact, we have had numerous startups from Silicon Valley and New York come to attend or present at Startup Riot. If an entrepreneur is unwilling to network and embrace new opportunities, it doesn’t matter where they are because no one will ever notice them.
SUB: In your view, what are the hot sectors in technology startups, especially outside the hype hurricane of Silicon Valley?
Parekh: There continue to be a lot of opportunities in the enterprise space, infrastructure, and mobile. Mobile in particular cuts across consumer, business, and enterprise and shows a lot of promise as we continue to push into more of an on-the-go workforce.
SUB: What are the most likely emerging sectors in tech startups in the next couple of years, in your opinion?
Parekh: Impossible to say, but I expect a continuing migration of information and data access on mobile devices and more availability of ever larger data sets that can be analyzed quickly and lead to greater insight into the what and why of daily interactions.
SUB: What is the end game with Startup Riot? What are your big, overarching goals for this series of events?
Parekh: The goal is just to help as many entrepreneurs that we can every year. We continually look at new opportunities that we can chase to help make starting a startup easier. Some of those we pursue and others we let die based on the feedback we get. But every year we tweak our flagship event to make it just a little bit better and unique every time.
Previously, Sanjay was the founding CEO of Digital Envoy and the inventor of the company’s patented NetAcuity IP intelligence technology. Digital Envoy was acquired by Landmark Communications in June 2007.
Prior to Digital Envoy, Sanjay was a founding employee of Arris Interactive, where he helped secure over $1 billion in client contracts in the U.S., Asia, and Europe.
Sanjay is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and holds an electrical engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.