Local Schwag Bearers

Stick around long enough in a big tech community and you'll see your share of big company evangelists come and go.  They're always hired with the best of intentions--someone meant to be the eyes and ears on the ground for a company trying to turn today's future stars into tomorrow's big customers.  They support entreprenership because they see the ROI: Be helpful to a startup now, be there when they're high on promise and low on cash, and you could be the platform that the next Facebook runs on for a long time to come.  

They want someone who can be a friend to startups--someone with a great network, knows everyone, knows product, technical evangelist... someone who can win over the VCs, the CTOs, create content, etc. all at once.

In other words, a unicorn.

The best evangelist I've ever seen is John Britton when he worked at Twilio.  All he had to do was hangout at hackathons and do demos where he wrote code live.  It was simple and brilliant all at the same time.  I feel like NYC knew Twillio because NYC knew John.

That's great, except that when John left, Twilio seemed not to be top of mind anymore.  It wasn't clear that he had put lasting structures in place that would survive past his own association with the company.  

I mean, what do you want him to do, everything?  

Someone like that would make a great role player on a team of extraordinary part-timers, organized by someone who is just that--an organizer.  Someone who could define roles, identify players, and put protocols and manuals in place--so that when your hacker-in-residence leaves, you know exactly what their day to day responsibilities where and you can easily slot someone else in, give them goals and deliverables, and not miss a beat.  

I think big companies (and sometimes VC firms) invest too much in personalities when a big personality or someone with a big network should be used more like a tool than a centerpiece.  Plus, you can't really get one of these folks as a centerpiece forever--because they're unlikely to want to say at a big company for long.

Here's what I think a local evangelist should do for you:

1) Work part-time...so you know they have other reasons to meet with people besides pitching your product.  That makes their role in the community more authentic.

2) Write a bunch of manuals on how a team of on the ground people is supposed to work, what their jobs are and *especially* what their deliverables are.

3) Go find best-of-breed specialists and hire them, also in part-time roles... a content producer, a technical person who knows your product and loves it, an events manager, etc.

4) Introduce your organization to people here, so that they're not the front person and they don't leave with all your contacts.  

5) Set me up with free event space whenever I need.*

* Just kidding**

** Not really.