A Sole Entrepreneur or a Lonely Entrepreneur?

Julia Skupchenko
5 min readAug 22, 2019

Even in one of the startup capitals of the World, the most common question among sole entrepreneurs is Where do I meet people like me?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Did you know that at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) there are 900 startups registered every year? According to Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet, one of the key secrets is the atmosphere that encourages starting a company, collaborating with fellow students and learning from the successes of the ones who made it.

If you were not as lucky as to be fully merged into a place where running your own startup is a great thing, you might face a reaction similar to “I believe in you as an entrepreneur but why don’t you get a real job?” So for free professionals who are pursuing their dreams of independence and self-realization, it is vital to have peers to share experiences with, test ideas, discuss common challenges and support one another.

I live in one of the startup capitals of the World, Amsterdam. The city itself has a website with a beautifully organized intro to its startup ecosystem. Yet the question I hear the most from sole entrepreneurs — after How to get customers? — is How to meet like-minded people?

Here are just the top five free and low-cost places to find startupers and freelancers to share your entrepreneurial journey with. I ranked them based on the level of commitment from low to high.

1. Iamsterdam

Iamsterdam is a city-run platform that helps you to settle in. Besides providing helpful tips and tricks about Amsterdam in general, it has lots of great information for freelancers and entrepreneurs.

2. Facebook

Being the biggest social media platform with 2.3 bln users Facebook is surprisingly unpopular among up and coming entrepreneurs. They don’t use it for chatting or sharing personal news anymore. So they also miss out on using it as an online gathering of like-minded people. I’m talking about groups and communities run mainly by enthusiasts. Amsterdam Startups, Amsterdam Entrepreneurs and Startups Forum are just a couple of the many. There, group members share upcoming events and host discussions about common challenges.

3. Meetups

Meetup.com is well-known among travelers and people who are new in town. Having started from a social gathering platform, it now moved to interests-based gatherings. Every week there are at least ten meetups that bring together entrepreneurs. Some are free, some have a small fee; some are tech-related, some are more generic; some are run by bigger companies, some by enthusiastic entrepreneurs. You can easily find a match for your interests. The most important thing is to actually attend them, not just sign up!

I invite you to join my meetup group to stay up to date with upcoming business events.

4. Incubators and Accelerators events

Companies like Rockstart, Startupbootcamp and Impact Hub often organize free or low-cost events where you can meet founders and serial entrepreneurs. These are a bit more official and offer less of the free flow but if you don’t have a business idea yet they can be useful. Startupbootcamp, for example, runs a weekend program where you are matched with other participants to work on a joint idea.

There is a good startup event list that covers events of all sizes and makes it easy to find it in one spot.

5. Coworking spaces

Photo by James Baldwin on Unsplash

One of the unique features of Amsterdam is the number of coworking spaces. The Iamsterdam lists more than 50! These places rent out desks and offices to small businesses. By signing up, you instantly become part of the local startup community. Though it can be pricey, around 200 euro per month on average.

The one I visited recently is Merkspace on Herengracht. The experience was great: I walked in, the community manager welcomed me, offered a tour, shared the story of the place and what they do to sparkle networking and bring business to the startups they host.

Another coworking space I like is The Thinking Hut. It’s a cozy place with the true community feel. It goes for quality, not quantity. New joiners are welcomed both in person and in a newsletter that reaches all community members. You will not be unnoticed when you come in, someone will always greet you with a smile.

If you want to feel the vibe of working elbow to elbow with startupers and freelancers but cannot afford the rent, you can always test it out by using their lobby-cafes. For example, another location of Merkspace in Amstelveen is much larger and it has a walk-in cafe lounge downstairs.

Keep in mind that not all coworking spaces allow walk-ins. I tried to visit Mindspace and get a tour. When I rang its door, they asked me lots of questions through the intercom, suggested to book a tour online and never opened. I don’t think I’ll be coming back there.

A good option for a lobby-cafe is any of the three B buildings. They are located not far from Amsterdam Zuid and brand themselves as the largest startup ecosystem in Europe. I worked at B3 for almost a year and I agree with the “biggest” but not so much with an “ecosystem”, I never got a chance to meet even my floor neighbors there.

This is not an exhaustive list — feel free to add your ideas in the comments — but it is definitely a good start. If you look for other entrepreneurs and freelancers, get out there! Find events, meet people, ask them about their business and challenges, find things in common and help each other.

The life of an entrepreneur is not a life of loneliness — it’s a life of freedom!

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

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Julia Skupchenko

Writer and TED Speaker on Innovative and Sustainable Entrepreneurship | Co-founder of Think Tank AlterContacts & Lockdown Economy | julia.altercontacts.org