You probably haven’t heard of the Entrepreneurs Organization, even if you might be familiar with some of its members. The group has substantial barriers to entry and typically meets under terms of strict confidentiality. Members talk about the things they can’t talk about with anyone else, then break bread privately over lunch or dinner. Even if you’re one of the select few who’s eligible to join, it’ll cost you.
Indeed, it almost seems like the first rule of EO is not to talk about EO.
But Jake Finkelstein, the CEO of Durham-based marketing consultancy Method Savvy and the membership chair of EO’s Raleigh-Durham chapter, is here to say that’s not the case.
“It has a bit of a secret-society vibe going on,” he concedes. “I promise, that’s not what it is. We’re interested in engaging more in the community.”
They’re especially interested in attracting new potential members. EO is holding a new member event—what it calls a “Test Drive”—on Thursday, Oct. 10, from 4-6 p.m. at the Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary. In addition to meeting some of the RDU chapter’s 50+ members, newcomers will be able to get a taste for the not-really-a-secret rituals that make EO what it is.
To be clear, EO isn’t open to all comers. To qualify as a member, an entrepreneur must be a founder/owner of a business that has $1M+ in annual revenue and/or has raised $2M+ in funding. A few boldface names who are current members include:
- Jud Bowman, currently the Founder and CEO of Durham’s Sift Media and previously the Founder or Co-Founder of Motricity and Appia, both of which were sold.
- Matthew Kane, the CEO of Durham’s Precision BioSciences, which went public earlier this year after previously raising more than $150M in funding.
- Maria Kingery, the Co-Founder of Raleigh-based Southern Energy Management, a B corp that’s a leader in renewable energy.
- Scott Uknes, the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of AgBiome, the Raleigh-based agricultural biotech company that has raised more than $136M in funding.
EO is a global organization with 13,000+ members who can take advantage of local, regional, national and international offerings such as executive education, conferences, partnerships with universities and even VIP healthcare access.
But perhaps the greatest benefit of EO is decidedly local. A small group of 6-8 members are arranged into what EO calls a “forum,” meeting regularly (typically once a month) and privately to share what they call their “5 percent updates.”
That means the 5 percent on either extreme of the good/bad spectrum that can often be difficult to talk about. For instance, the 5 percent best might sound like bragging if you go around telling everyone, while the 5 percent worst might be things you’re not eager to share with your Co-Founder, Board, employees or even your spouse.
This often goes on for 3-4 hours, with strict rules of confidentiality and non-solicitation helping create a supportive, free-wheeling environment to foster growth of the “whole entrepreneur”—whether related to business, family, or personal challenges.
“What’s really interesting about being a member is that you can make mental connections much more than if you just heard a speaker,” says Finkelstein. “You share your experiences, and then you can connect that to things that others say, and what they say to you. We learn from each other all the time.”
EO is a non-profit supported by annual dues of $2,470 for the national group and $1,700 to the RDU chapter, plus a one-time membership fee of $2,500. That’s significantly cheaper than similar organizations such as Vistage, and Finkelstein for one considers it a bargain. He joined seven years ago, is a former chapter president, and has “firmly drank the Kool-Aid.”
If EO sounds like it could also be your beverage of choice, too, please reach out to Finkelstein directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.