When Kristin Maverick (Twitter) joined Carrot Creative, she helped put the boys from Dumbo on the minds of the local PR and marketng community in a big way. Not only was she an active participant in the community—attending NY Tech Meetups and social media/PR events, but she helped to create community as well, running a nextNY event on PR for startups, and then starting up the very popular Digital Dumbo. No doubt that her network and social capital were key assets that Attention! saw when they hired her.
Similarly, Fraser Kelton’s involvement in community brings much value to Adaptive Blue. Not only does he show up to local community events, but he’s a two sport star, having participated on both Soccer 2.0 and Dodgeball 2.0—two recreational sports teams formed by local entrepreneurs, tech, and VC professionals. He organizes the NYC Lean Startup Meetup and is always meeting up with other folks in the community.
What amazes me, though, is how many people around the periphery of the innovation community never get out from behind their desks, rarely come out to events, and even when they do, listen to panels and just leave afterwards. Any startup who has ever raised money will tell you that they day they annouce, their inbox is filled with a pleathora of service providers of all types—recruiters, PR folks, CDNs, bandwidth providers, etc. What I want to know is—why aren’t I meeting all those folks out in the community? Apparently, they’re content just being a random name I’ve never heard if in my inbox trying to pitch me on something—or even worse an unfamiliar voice on my voicemail.
I think the city government has that same issue. No matter how many times I’ve invited folks from the NYC Council who sit on tech committees or members of the various city offices to events to mingle with the people on the ground actually innovating, I can never seem to get anyone to show up. Seems they’re too busy running big programs—i.e. flying over the ground war.
People want to work with people they know and trust—it’s that simple
I don’t expect the partner of a PR firm with three kids to be out every night mixing with the innovation community. However, the list of people and companies who have told me over the years that they’ve wanted to “get involved” with the NYC tech scene and meet people, yet never ever seem to come out from behind their desks or stay out late is as long as my arm. Do you know how many junior folks working for these service providers I know who are afraid to take a lunch—and when they do they have to rush right back? Seriously, when Fred Wilson or the Tumblr team shows up to the Shake Shack, you want your people knowing that not only should they find a way to be there, but they should hangout as long as everyone else does. Or when a Twitter buddy of yours invites you out to Citifield in a big group, you might think about changing your flight to be there. If you don’t think either of those things are worth it, from a business perspective ask Bryce Roberts, the VC who just got into one of the hottest startups around.
In the startup and tech scene, maybe even more so than any other industry, you are your network. Your next opportunity, news on the latest trends, a potential hire—it all comes from the people around you, both online and offline. As an organization, you depend on the networks of the individuals who work for you to gather mindshare and knowledge—and they get it out at a bar or on the dodgeball court just as often as they get it in a business meeting or sitting behind their desks staring at a screen.
Not sure how to get involved? Start following this girl—Elicia Banks-Gabriel, Social Media Strategist at Anomaly. I haven’t even met her yet, but she’s quickly getting to know just about everyone you’d want to know around here—with such a velocity that I can “hear” her in my network. Everytime I turn around, she’s tweeting to someone I know or people are asking me about her. She’s got social momentum. Look around your office. Do the people who work with you or for you have social momentum? If not, you’re probably missing out on something “out there”.