If you had the opportunity to attend the recent GeekWire Gala you will probably agree with me when I say it was awesome.
Was there some crazy entertainer or cool band? No.
Were there fireworks or a kick ass pyro-technics? Nope.
Was it for a special occasion like a reunion or anniversary? Not really.
Yet more than 500 people showed up in attendance from various pockets of the tech community. Investors to startup founders to lawyers and aspiring entrepreneurs gathered for a night of talking tech and socializing. I know it sounds like a normal Seattle Startup event, so you might be wondering why it was so awesome?
As I looked out over the crowded event I started to realize all these people, in just this one room, can help me become successful if they get to know me well enough. And this is true for all of us in that room.
I give a very big thanks to the entire GeekWire staff and all others who helped put on the event. Although most people arrived, had a drink or two and then left without realizing how important this gathering was for the health of our tight-knit community; it was not lost on me.
Every so often the “Seattle vs. Silicon Valley” argument boils up to the cognitive surface with various differing opinions shouting about who is better at the top of their lungs. Regardless of your stance it’s fair to say we – Seattle – have our own identity with our own startup and investment characteristics, for better or for worse.
Yet I cannot shake an off-the-cuff comment given to me at a startup event this fall from someone close to me at the time. They said “Nick, go down to the valley and you can find something like this going on pretty much every single night.” I was immediately taken back by the comment but once I thought about it a little more I started to grasp the deeper meaning of the statement.
It wasn’t about “the valley” at all. It was about community.
And it is with that statement I come to the conclusion: if Seattle is going to continue to grow as a serious technology, startup, and investment epicenter we need more events like the GeekWire Gala. We need more opportunities to come together and get to know each other – as individuals and as a larger community. And it desperately needs to happen more often.
From Wikipedia, The term community has two distinct meanings:
- a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household. The word can also refer to the national community or international community, and
- in biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.
Notice the bold word interacting. It is an important word – as a verb it indicates what we should be doing as a group of people. We gather. We interact. We get to know each other. We socialize. We share common values. Only when we are able to interact are we then able to possibly collaborate and do deals.
Interacting. Hmmm, that’s an Interesting word we find there, shall we dive a bit deeper… and find out what that word actually means?
- communication of any sort, for example two or more people talking to each other, or communication among groups, organizations, nations or states: trade, migration, foreign relations, transportation,
Ah… there it is! Communication – the one thing that will make or break any relationship. So it seems to build a robust community we must continue to sharpen the communication lines between the individuals within our larger group. As a relative newcomer to this scene, this makes a lot of sense to me.
What good is the “tech” or “startup” community here in Seattle if we just remain in our own silo’s, sitting behind our monitors in our own little offices. An easy habit to form these days is thinking you, as an individual company, are building one something isolated from the outer world. So we tend to want to stay within our own walls and this is a big mistake. If you are apart of a large company or even a startup here in Seattle, you are a very important piece to a large organism. Just as cells of the body must stay in constant communication with each other to remain in healthy stasis; so must we here in Seattle continue to communicate and interact so we can build a strong and healthy tech community.
What about using technology to virtually communicate? Yes, we may banter back and forth via email and on Twitter but those are only extensions of community. They don’t actually create a community.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we don’t have events and activities to cultivate the ecosystem. Currently there are a number of events happening on a monthly basis in which we can participate. To name a few:
- StartupWeekend events
- Poker 2.0
- WTIA Events
- Morning Coffee’s
- Pitch events
I am suggesting even more events need to be put together to create and foster the tech community here in Seattle. We all are responsible to do something for the health of the larger community – that is if we are going to voice our opinions on the subject. And the Gala illustrated larger events bringing together a lot of people can spawn interesting and advantageous opportunities, just as a being a part of a small group playing poker will do. This is why I organized the Startup Crawl, it was a great time to relax with a beer in your hand and just talk openly with people you might not otherwise interact with. Sometimes these events are the start of something special.
Do they all have to revolve around drinking alcohol? No, not at all. Whatever the event, it should enhance the strengthening of existing relationships at the same time encourage new comers to attend and make some initial and important connections to help them get further ingrained in the community.
We may not be able to have much impact on the investment macroeconomics here in Seattle but we sure as hell can do something about the over community interaction. And interestingly enough… I believe the later will pull the former along towards a better day.