How is it that something that started out a little morning get-together with ten people sitting around a table sharing their demos and experiences has turned into a Meetup phenomenon with thousands of members poised for global expansion? But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Technology and innovation are everywhere. Entrepreneurship resources are more accessible and geographically distributed than ever — accelerators, incubators, startup weekends, angel investors, meetups, open source and cloud-based tech resources are literally everywhere. So, why should it be surprising that there’s so much hunger and demand for events and opportunities to meet and connect in technology entrepreneurial communities that have not been as well served as others?
Part of the challenge is that many of the entrepreneurial, technology, and innovation communities — which aren’t the same thing, by the way — are isolated islands. For many reasons, these communities are isolated by geography, industry, stage, and focus. For example, in the DC / Maryland / Virginia region, you actually have a bunch of micro-regions in which the communities don’t interact. DC folks rarely make it up to Baltimore, and Columbia, MD folks rarely get down to Northern Virginia. Traffic and geographic complexities are part of the problem, but there are other factors that have nothing to do with the difficulty of getting from one point to another. Even within a city, Information Technology folks rarely interact with Biotech innovators, and Clean Energy technology companies don’t play with Robotics and Space Tech industries. In addition, startup companies like to hang out with each other and don’t spend time with larger firms or universities and research institutions.
This is a big part of the reason why the TechBreakfast has taken off — the philosophy of being region agnostic, technology agnostic, stage agnostic, and focus agnostic has helped us grow. By leveraging the entire ecosystem the whole environment will grow and thrive.
Sparks in Search of Tinder
Entrepreneurship and technology innovation are sparks. Ideas are sparks. But you need tinder to turn those sparks into flames. And the tinder comes from the community. It comes in many forms:
- Opportunities for interaction and opportunistic meeting of potential employees, partners, collaborators, and sharing of ideas
- Investors and financial resources (ideally, customers) to help keep things afloat and growing
- Service providers who have actual experience, contacts, and connections that foster technology and innovation growth
- Experienced, successful technologists and entrepreneurs to share lessons learned, best practices, expertise, resources, and contacts to help “float all boats”
The sparks exist everywhere. And all indications are that it’ll be a spark fest of epic proportions well in the future. So, what we need to do is more than just create opportunities for innovation, more sparks. We need to evolve the way we ignite the sparks into flames and fan the flames to create bonfires of opportunity.
It’s from this insight that we’ve taken the idea of our once-a-month TechBreakfast meetup and expanded it to a global opportunity for spontaneous interaction. But of course this is just a few pine needles of tinder. What’s needed is more. Lots more. We aim to provide lots of other great, gap-filling opportunities that provide more fuel to the fire, add to what’s already awesome and happening in the communities. On this last note, we want to say clearly that what we’re doing is not going to replace or displace or otherwise deface or misplace or everything else that rhymes with that the things that are already happening in the various entrepreneurial ecosystems in which we run our programs and initiatives. More is better. More opportunities to interact. More opportunities to grow. More possibilities to turn sparks into flames.