Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Are Not Alone

I had the privilege of a great talk with the famous Tisch the other day, and he asked me what I was passionate about (wrt the next startup).

For me it's strengthening communities, both online and offline, through both online and offline interactions.

A lot of smart people have written about this. Some have built great businesses around it, like Meetup and Skillshare. I'm a user of those tools, along with Eventbrite, which is great for handling an event but not great at supporting the community that develops out of the event.

My thesis is somewhat obvious:
communities strengthen with the number and quality of connections between their members.
And that's what I've become very passionate about, both in my online and offline life. With the offline life, it's about my hometown--friends, family, colleagues in the startup world, and especially the broader school community of 74,000 people, 11,000 students, and 1600 employees.

Stronger communities make everyone's lives better.

I talk with a lot of founders--a ton, really. While I've thought about charging for services--and I have--the ones who really need the help can't afford to pay me, which makes it hard for me to spend the time.

So part of my mission these days is to connect founders with founders, and help them develop relationships so they don't have to go it alone. I want to help to create communities of founders (though that's not my core mission).

Building a startup can be a very isolating experience, especially as it scales. Sharing the challenges helps us think through them, but it also opens the opportunity for others to help, and to recognize their own challenges.

So we learn.

Startups have a ton of resources I never had in the 90's, and tons of great advice. James Altucher, Eric Ries, Brad Feld, Steve Blank, Fred Wilson, etc, etc.

But it's only advice. And it's generally not interactive advice. There's something about sitting down with other founders and talking about issues that addresses more of where we are emotionally--our frustations, misgivings, bewilderment, passion--that written advice simply doesn't address.

One of the best things that comes out of those sessions is positive feedback, support, connection, and affirmation.
That's a great idea. 
I feel for you--I went through that last year. 
It gets better, you just have to hang in there. 
I know a few people who might be able to help. 
It's simple, but it makes a difference. Just a little genuine encouragement can lift us up.

Sometimes we leave energized. Sometimes it's exhausting. And sometimes we leave with more questions than we came in with.

You can start your own thing where you are. Use Skillshare, or Meetup (fee), or whatever, and choose a night, then promote it to the local tech community (exclude non-founders).

Create a safe event where people can air their issues openly. What happens at Founders Night or Startup Night or Commiseration Night stays there. Like Fight Club.

In Pittsburgh?  Call it Startup Pittsburgh. Whatever. Just get it done. Buffalo? Easy one. Startup Buffalo. See? Shamokin? Startup Shamokin works just fine.

You might only find two other founders in your area. Or two hundred. Regardless, get together every month and talk about your challenges. Limit it to two or three challenges per person.

Don't expect to get answers--that's not what this is about. Ultimately you have to discover and choose your own answers.

If you want to attend one of mine, follow me on SkillShare.

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