“I wonder what the conversations will be like a year from now.” This is a paraphrase of a statement Doug Pollei made at the recent MinneBar hosted by Best Buy, which he said to me at the end of a startup session led by Luke Francl.
I heard some folks say how they look forward to a year from now to look back and see what has been accomplished within our startup community. I did not take the comment that way.
Most days and in most ways I am an optimist — my glass is half full and usually running over. Want proof? I have been attending Gopher football games for 28 years. (Or, hmm…maybe that makes me something other than an optimist?)
During this particular session at MinneBar there were many thoughts on what could be done to support, make better, and grow our startup community.
I hate to be one the one to rain on the parade, but almost all of those things were suggested in May of 2008 at the last MinneBar, and very few if any have been acted upon, nor have any noticeable results been achieved.
Hence the title of this post: we need to stop talking and start walking.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We welcome guest blogger Paul DeBettignies for this post. Please tweet your questions to @Minnov8 now so we can answer them on our Minnov8 Gang podcast tomorrow, on which Paul will be our guest. Please add the hashtag #MNwalkthetalk.)
Here’s my reply: “You (we) cannot afford NOT to.”
Our community is fragmented and siloed. How do I know? Luke asked those in the session who were leading a startup to introduce themselves. After the session, all I heard was, “Who was that guy? I don’t know him.” And that was if you were fortunate enough to even *hear* these entrepreneurs introducing themselves. I was in the fourth row and could not hear 80% of the people introducing themselves. For the love of Goldy Gopher, these folks were in a room of their peers — this was not a time to be shy!
Luke asked what is the difference between Silicon Valley and Minnesota startups. I tweeted something like, “In Silicon Valley, they stand up on their chairs and scream. In Minnesota, they whisper.”
What really made me almost spontaneously combust was the number of startups saying they could not find people to work with them. My response to one entrepreneur was that I needed a racquetball. He asked why and I said that, because when I throw it, someone will get hit in the head, another in the shoulder, it will land in someone’s pizza, and then tip over a Mountain Dew onto somebody’s lap.
Those were the first folks this guy should talk too.
How can you be hiring, be in a room of tech professionals, and not mention you are hiring?! That is crazy (among other things).
Minnesota meet passive aggressive.
There are good things going on in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. Here are a few:
Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis St Paul (SMBMSP)
Rick Mahn had heard about how a group of social media, PR, and marketing folks were getting together in Boston. He contacted Bryan Person and asked if an event could be done here. It was suggested to Rick that he start a group, which he has, and it’s now the longest running and largest Social Media Breakfast group in the country.
This summer. I heard something about coworking but I had no idea what it was. Then, in November, I heard that a group led by Amy Bryant and Zack Steven had space one day a week at Crema Cafe. In the weeks since, Don Ball has opened CoCo, and Zack has started 3rd Place.
I am not including the guys and this site because they are posting this rant of mine. This is a group of guys who saw a need to showcase Minnesota innovation, including our startup community, and they did it — all the way back in February 2008.
MN Lean Startup Group
I was referred to this LinkedIn group and, from what I have seen, it’s a group of local tech people who are networking and sharing experiences of bootstrapping early-stage companies.
MinneDemo & MinneBar
Back to how this rant started. What was once a few guys doing demos has turned into must-attend tech events, where hundreds show up.
I point out these people and groups because we do not need to have a mass inflow of cash, advisory groups, etc. We need people to take action. We need people to better communicate with each other. We need more meetings and events. We need more sharing.
We need to be an actual living and breathing community.
Here’s what I want to leave you with: If we do not take advantage of the organic activity going on in our community, if we do not help it better grow, and if we do not start working to achieve the “wish list” from the last MinneBar, we are going to lose a fantastic opportunity.
Two years from now — or whenever it is the economy will be clipping along again — we’ll all be really busy trying to maintain what we have going on. At some point (maybe the next recession), a group of people will get together, have the same conversations we are having now, and say we really messed up by not doing this back in 2010.
So, let me start by saying here’s what I can do to help:
- Facilitate sessions on how to recruit, hire, and retain employees
- Facilitate sessions on networking, career, and job search
- If someone were to build a job board, I can moderate, promote, and grow it
- Until a job board is created, I will post tech jobs for free on my blog
My challenge to you is this: what can you do to help support and grow the Minnesota Startup Community? Have at it — let’s hear your comments and questions!
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Please leave a comment below, OR tweet your questions or comments to @Minnov8 now, Friday 1/22, or tomorrow morning up until about 9:30 am — so we can address them on our weekly Minnov8 Gang Podcast, on which Paul will be our guest. We start recording at 9:00 am. Please add the hashtag #MNwalkthetalk.)
Paul DeBettignies is Managing Partner of Nerd Search, LLC, a Minneapolis IT search firm, author of the “Minnesota Headhunter” blog, cofounder and coordinator of Minnesota Recruiters, listed as a Top 20 Minnesota Social Media Innovator, and a frequent speaker and article contributor on recruiting, career, networking, and social media topics with his related site, “Be Your Own Headhunter.” He may be reached at paul (at) mnheadhunter (dot) com.