We have all been to “tech events” before. There are many to choose from. If you haven’t, I’ll say this, the “why” is rarely apparent. There are typically guest speakers, a panel of sorts, maybe some sessions of interest. You might attend to network, build business, find employment…Or just for the free drinks and food.
In my experience, it has been uncommon to walk away from such an event feeling like I truly connected with folks on a level beyond the casual handshake; with a quick “this is what I do and how I do it”. All of which can be helpful and valuable, but often I miss the chance to plant the seeds of real, meaningful relationships (both personal and professional).
"I love how the Seattle startup community comes together to help one another, and this speed dating event was yet another example of this communal spirit that sets our region apart from others. These types of mentorship events are not only fun, but they help fuel a successful startup ecosystem.”
John Cook, Co-Founder of GeekWire
When I started to think about “why” I attend these events, I was a bit stumped. Some things were obvious - I surely prefer events to cold calling. The networking can be a great source of leads. I meet some interesting people. And I get a chance to discover cutting edge technologies and new startups. But those aren’t really “why’s” to me. They sound more like the product of attendance, the “what.” When I went deeper, it became clear that the “why” was based solidly in my search for mentors. The people who could help guide me as I learned my way, folks who had been there and done that, made mistakes and learned from them, and could teach me best practices.
This realization set off a series of meetings and chance encounters that ultimately propelled the urge to craft my own event. One, that like my “why,” was firmly rooted in value of mentorship. It had to be carefully crafted. It had to be out of the box, intensely appealing and stimulating on many levels. It had to be lively, interesting, and casual. Music, good food, drinks, and a beautiful venue were essential. It had to be diverse; it’s hard to find that in the tech space. And… More than anything else, it had to be fun! If not, the possibility of having a shared experience worthy of a true bond would be tough to achieve. Speed dating was my solution! It would be the icebreaker and catalyst for why we gathered, to celebrate our mentors and find new.
I pitched the concept to my team. As this was a first for my partners and I, our initial expectations could have been summed up as hopes or dreams. Maybe we’d get 40 people to show up. Would they even enjoy it? Had we drunk the kool-aid? It was just an idea, one that had never even been tested. However, shortly after diving in, it quickly became clear that folks identified intrinsically with our theme. Everybody has a mentor that has been paramount to their growth and success. This was a chance to give thanks, ask for help, or give back to others: pay it forward.
By the time Experts & Entrepreneurs: Speed Dating for Mentorship rolled around, our wildest dreams were realized in spectacular fashion. We had nearly 200 RSVPs, and of that group, a whopping 140 attended. Our 11 hand picked early stage startup entrepreneurs and 11 tech industry experts showed up eager to “speed date.” There were no wallflowers. Everybody in attendance met somebody new. We danced, ate and drank together, shared stories of our mentors, laughed, and made great connections. Most importantly (as I alluded to)… WE HAD FUN!!!
As we followed up with those who attended, my “why” was only further reinforced.
“As a CEO you are invited to many networking events, and rarely do they actually provide value to your business and your life. This was one of those rare exceptions”
Gilad Berenstein, CEO of UTrip
Not only did all our speed daters walk away with great advice and connections, so did everyone. No one went “home alone.” The seeds of mentorship that drove this event from the beginning were firmly planted that night. To be honest, I was hoping that maybe one or two of our speed daters would leave feeling like the event was valuable. To hear the response and feedback from everybody has been a truly humbling experience. The gratification that comes with pulling off something that truly inspires you is second to none.
This feels like the beginning of something special. We are excited! Thanks to all my family, friends, colleagues, and mentors who inspired this…even a guy I don’t know named, Simon. Stay tuned!
Avail Partners empowers clients to take on big challenges in the world. The firm has offices in Seattle and Denver and operates as a technology consulting agency transforming the way business leaders take advantage of cloud economics. The agency provides market intelligence, solutions design, and vendor evaluation. Avail helps large enterprise transform traditional IT operations to take advantage of cloud services, and helps early stage firms accelerate growth, investment and revenue. www.availpartners.net