A new LISTnet effort nurses baby startups

Bettr founders Asish Pandhi and James Knaus.


LISTnet has kicked off a networking and mentorship organization for the founders of local startups, and there’s no technical background required, despite its connection to the Island’s leading software dot-org.

Called the Rising Founders Club, the invitation-only group brings together entrepreneurs across all sectors who are somewhere beyond the concept phase.

“These are people who are active in the startup community and have shown they have something going already,” said LISTnet veep Paul Trapani, who is heading the effort. “They have established that they have more than an idea.”

Trapani and LISTnet chief Peter Goldsmith assembled the group’s founding members by scouring regional pitch nights and other startup-based competitions, with an inaugural meeting held Monday night at LaunchPad Mineola.

Among the fledgling founders: Marina Montes, CEO of the Uber-like pool-focused platform urSwim; Hofstra University students James Knaus and Ashish Pandhi, founders of social media-management platform Bettr.io; Turkish brothers Berkay and Gurkay Sebat, who are trying to build a better tablet computer; and Elijah Salome-Diaz, founder of College Party Stories, a product-placement marketing site that shows college students using advertisers’ wares.

Also granted a golden ticket were Chris Lonardo and Mitchell Fourman, cofounders of medical research data-cruncher Coalytics; serial entrepreneur Anastasia Cifuentes, the inventor of Thumbly, a sort of “Snapchat for email,” according to Trapani; and Ben Joselson, president of the Farmingdale State College 3D Printing Club, who envisions a chain of 3D-printing retail shops for consumers.

While none of these businesses has yet cracked the Fortune 500, neither are their founders complete rookies.

“These are people who have been out and about,” said Trapani, himself a two-time entrepreneur who understands the importance of comparing notes with other first-timers navigating the region’s commercial seas, which can be especially choppy for newcomers.

“They can only benefit from knowing each other,” he said.

They’ll also benefit from the wisdom of more experienced businesspeople. While Monday’s first gathering was more of a group introduction for club members, future meetings will include input from more seasoned Long Island business owners.

“We’re definitely planning to introduce speakers to do some mentoring,” Trapani said. “We’ll bring in someone to share knowledge of sales. We’ll bring in an attorney to discuss legal issues. We’ll bring in accountants to discuss tax planning.”

The plan is to grow club membership organically – “We’ll ask the members who else we should be inviting and we’ll keep recruiting at various events around Long Island,” Trapani noted – and to meet monthly at LaunchPad Mineola, which is convenient to members who might travel to and from the city or might still be attending a Long Island school.

Wherever they meet and whomever they invite to join, the most important thing, according to Trapani, is that entrepreneurs bold enough to launch a business in Nassau or Suffolk know they’re not alone.

“It’s important that they realize there’s an entrepreneurial ecosystem here on Long Island,” he said. “Through Rising Founders, they’ll be able to rely on each other’s experiences.”