Derek Andersen is a man without childhood roots, but a man with more depth than people can imagine. He grew up moving ten times over the course of ten years, six of which were throughout Europe. Through these experiences he developed a humble nature, relentlessness, compassion, and an empathetic heart – core values that have allowed him to make an impact in both his personal and professional life.
Today, Derek Andersen is the founder of Startup Grind, a global business which serves 10 million people a month, has produced 5,000 events, and is represented across 98 countries. In the early days though, Startup Grind was just like any other startup in Silicon Valley – working out of a garage, just a blimp on the radar, too small for anyone to pay attention to.
But today, Startup Grind is at the forefront of the conversation around entrepreneurship, connecting founders to resources they need to grow their visions and build successful companies.
What is is about Derek that enabled him to grow Startup Grind to what it is today?
Experiences that shaped Derek’s early days.
Derek studied marketing and communications at BYU. One of the most profound experiences during his college years was attending a mission trip to the Cook Islands/New Zealand.
“People probably laugh or roll their eyes when they see a Mormon missionary, but that experience taught me that the most fulfilling time I ever was in my life was when I was serving and helping other people.”
When I asked Derek about attending BYU and founding a startup while everyone else was getting married, he said “it never gets easier to start, the earlier the better.”
At a young age, sometimes we think we have all the time in the world, but before we know it, life happens and we have a family and our dreams go untapped.
Post grad life and the formation of Startup Grind.
After college, Derek started at Electronic Arts (EA) as an intern and then became a Product Manager. EA shaped his life vision as he began to see the light for his potential in the real world. He said, “I gained confidence performing on a global scale and realized I could be as good as anyone if I worked hard.” This was proven true through his work with the game Burnout Paradise, where he took on a leadership role in the game’s development and helped connect online racing communities around the world.
Before long, Derek set his eyes on a new horizon: entrepreneurship. One variable that helped push him over the edge was living in the “Startup Mecca” of Silicon Valley, which provided him with the essential brainfood he needed to begin stepping away from EA and formulate ideas of his own. Additionally, with small successes and the fundamental skills he gained in the corporate world, it was an ideal time for him to jump on the entrepreneurial wave … but little did he know, this wave would throw him into the entrepreneurial deep end fighting for his life.
Experience Is what we get when we don’t get what we want.
There seems to be a common denominator between successful founders. The first company they start is not an instant success. It takes time to understand all the pieces necessary to build a successful company.
This truth holds the same for Derek.
The first company he started failed. It was a good enough idea for him to quit his job at EA, but he couldn’t figure out a sustainable revenue model to keep it going. It took him 3 failed startups before he scratched the surface of a company that would one day scale to 98 countries.
What his failures taught him was pivotal: he recognized the needs of entrepreneurs when it comes to launching a company and felt this was an under-served market. As an entrepreneur, what if Derek had more resources and more of a “what to do / what not do” manual before starting his other four startups? Or better yet, just a support group of people who understand the founders “world”?
These ideas became the seeds that provided the foundation for Startup Grind and just like that, the early days of Startup Grind saw Derek starting out of a garage serving the needs of founders in Silicon Valley.
Once a repeatable and scalable process was built in the Bay Area, the question for Startup Grind now became… was there a need for Startup Grind outside the Bay Area? Much to his surprise, the needs seemed to be even bigger outside because other areas of the country and world didn’t have as much of an emphasis on the startup culture and grind.
Startup Grind’s glimmer of hope.
After 2 years of developing Startup Grind and working out of garage and paying the bills, Derek and his team started to see the light. He was betting on all the positive feedback he kept getting from attendees and organizers.
The first two to three years of a startup is not guaranteed, but what kept the Startup Grind team going was their relentless vision, passion, excitement, and ability to see a world they could create that didn’t yet exist.
The Startup Grind snowball effect began after they hit 20 cities with events. The next big challenge was getting to events in 50 cities, and then 75, and so on … Derek recalls, “In the beginning I couldn’t see beyond 50 cities”.
When I asked Derek to dive deeper into what he saw when others didn’t, he mentioned, “I was with a friend and then we met up with his friend. Before long, we had exchanged professional info and the guy said, “I know of Startup Grind … I read your blog … I love what you’re doing.”
Derek asked, did my friend tell you beforehand? The man replied “no”.
It was at this moment Derek knew he had something on his hands…
Fulfillment on the journey.
Many founders and entrepreneurs start their business as a result of identifying a personal problem. When I asked Derek about his personal “why” for Startup Grind, he said, “I love the relationships between cities and directors. We are genuine friends who look out for each other. Our culture has a family feel and we are making leaders. Simply, we are one big startup family and all invested in each other. That’s what makes me coming back everyday.”
(Derek interviewing Sam Altman from YC)
Startup Grind epitomizes the dream for many startup founders – doing good and profiting from it. Making a difference and impacting lives.
The future of Startup Grind.
When I asked Derek about the future of Startup Grind, he remarked, “there is a bigger pie and we have only cut into the first sliver. So the question is how many people can we impact? … how can we scale and and impact 400 Million entrepreneurs?
To conclude, Derek said, “I remember when we first started, we were knocking on everyone’s doors to speak at our events, and now we have top tier CEO’s applying through our site who want to speak with us. This still kind of blows my minds considering how it started.”
Things have changed for Startup Grind, and before they know it, maybe Zuck and Musk will be speaking at their events.
Authors Note: Special thank you to the Kairos Society. This article would not have been possible without them. Kairos focuses the next generation of entrepreneurs on today’s biggest challenges.
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