I am updating an older post from my personal blog – joshmaher.net. As the TechCafe events pickup in frequency and the number of new attendees start coming and enjoying the events, I wanted to share my thoughts on the experience of attending and hosting a TechCafe (previously Seattle Lunch 2.0). This is also my way of distilling my thoughts in preparation for planning some new types of events that I am working on. We have come a long way from the growing Seattle Startup Ecosystem of a couple years ago to a robust one with good things happening daily and new resources like StartupRiot, StartupCity, and the Hacker News Meetups popping up everywhere.
Over the last four years that I have been running TechCafe and have participated in numerous group discussions about how companies grew their startups, leveraged technology, succeeded, failed, and everything in between. When I say discussion, I mean an active audience participation in discussions about what is most interesting to the group at large. The CEO/Founder contributions to the conversations have ranged from “started in college”, to “spun out of Microsoft or other BigCo”, to “had a bright idea coding one day”, to… well, you tell me what situation a company might be spawned in and we’ve pretty much had those kind of developers and founders talking about it – if not let’s have one (I’m serious – contact me).
The great thing is that the intention of these events includes meeting technologists and participating in discussions (a little presentation, demo, or Q&A to get things going) and then discussion and a lot of time to mingle and meet other developers, designers, entrepreneurs, etc.
What do I mean by mingle you might ask… well at a recent one of these events the founder gave a demo and talked a little about the company (10min), followed by another 10-20min discussion/Q&A, then there was the hour of talking to the developers, marketers, founders, and everyone else on the team that is actually required to make a startup function. So I guess it’s a little more then mingling
Seriously, just last week we did this over at Glympse. If you didn’t attend – you should have. Brian Trussel talked about how they stayed focused on their location related product despite investor pressure to morph into a foursquare competitor and that focus (combined with an awesome team and vision) equated to now over 3m users and the first of many licensing deals with Mercedes Benz. Brian showed off some of the next release, some of the first slides they used to raise money (I can’t believe those slides were good enough).
These are not – here is a consultant or just the CEO reflecting on the tipping point for their company. These are – meet the team, founders, business model and ask any question you want of any member of the team.
Admittedly, the events are usually a little less formal. Presentation Zen is not required – Demos are fun, panel discussions are fun, heck just having the whole team around to hang out with for an hour or two is fun!! I will also admit that these are not held in nice conference halls or venues – they are usually in trendy facilities – like the offices where these companies spend their time (yes that means co-working spaces, shared offices, lofts in pioneer square – usually w/o AC).
In addition to CEOs/Founders we’ve had speakers that include authors, investors, lawyers, developers, architects, and well… we are open to just about anyone who has something relevant and is interesting to talk about. Keep in mind – the hoster of the event has their whole team there so you are never stuck talking to the CEO, when you really want to talk to the guy/gal that wrote the feature!!
These events also have the free food/beer model – if the speaker sucks (at least the food & drink were worth the time).
A good analogy is a written letter in comparison with… Twitter. The letter is great, has it’s place, it’s norms, it’s value. Twitter – well it’s great too, but in a different way, for different reasons, and it has a different value. Both can get your point across, both can be valuable, but sometimes you need to choose between writing a letter or tweeting and sometimes you need to choose between reading a letter or reading twitter. The value in your message when you write and the value in your information acquisition when you read will vary. Plus we all know which one is more fun…
Of course if you are interested in hosting, sponsoring, or just want to chat – don’t hesitate to reach out!!
See you at the next event…