startups and code

Connecting with your community

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As promised, this post is about connecting with your community. I have lived in (which means longer than 3 months) 5 different states from Tampa, FL to Seattle, WA. Networking is NOT the same everywhere. Getting involved however IS. Start-ups, volunteer work, meetups, etc... I'll address each one of these individually and give specific suggestions on how to get involved with them.

1) Volunteering is the easiest way to find out about your community

The easiest is volunteer work. Yes, that means you are volunteering, you aren't selling, you aren't getting paid, you are bettering some organization by giving your time and skill. This is probably the most valuable of all of the ways to get involved. Why? Because you will leave knowing you helped someone else succeed. That is what volunteering is all about. You may make friends through it and perhaps get deeper involved, but the intent is getting YOU out of your comfort zone. Help at the humane society, habitat for humanity, goodwill, red cross, etc... There are ALWAYS volunteer opportunities to get involved with.

2) Meetups are an easy way to get connected

The next is meetups. has grown significantly over the past few years (check out the numbers here). I recently became a co-organizer and even did a presentation at the Atlanta Node.js meetup. I have attended WordPress, JavaScript, .Net Meetups. I have reached out to a gaming one for street fighter. All with open arms and excited about having someone else be part of their meetup. I have learned about startup activities, computer conferences, and even helped a few startups just for fun, ties into the volunteer thing (see #1). I have met some pretty amazing people through meetups and even met some people who I have ALWAYS WANTED TO MEET, just by showing up. If a meetup doesn't exist that meets your requirements, then create one. However, I recommend attending one that is close to what you are looking for, convenience is not always important. I drove over an hour to get a meetup because I knew the content was going to be great and I really wanted to meet the speaker. Definitely worth it. Another meetup that I attend regularly is at a place called Hypepotamus, a place in Atlanta for startups. What a great place to see new ideas, watch startups do what they do, and meet enthusiastic people about ideas... which leads to my next one...

3) Startups are always looking for help, advice, and support

Startups are an amazing concept... Microsoft was a startup, Apple was a startup, Google was a startup... but so were thousands others that have since died off... but persistence, passion, and patience have those startup people continue to try to create the next big thing. The ideas are not always great, but the enthusiasm is often entertaining. Talk to them, see where they are struggling, what technical problems do they have, are they missing some marketing guidance, do they even know why they are creating this project? Who are they trying to help, what problem are they trying to fix? Passion without skill will lead to frustration. Skill without passion will lead to nothing. I have met some amazingly focused people who had no drive inside to finish a project, and it often finished with no feeling of success. I have also met passionate people who had no idea what direction they were going but they were going a million miles a minute. I MUCH prefer passion over skill. Skill can be taught, but passion is only created from within. Find a startup you believe in, get involved, don't ask for anything, truly just help. Everyone wants to be part of the next google at the ground level. But that isn't what startups should be about, they should be passionate about the product they are creating and how they are going to help the world be a better place. Bill Gates wants to cure diseases across the world, how noble is that?

All of that being said, you CAN get involved easily. But it is about getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things, driving to a place you have never been, stress about parking, wondering if you are in the right building, walking into a meetup and not knowing anyone, and then saying, "Hi, I'm John I'm new here and I'm interested in learning more about node.js, c#, .net, design patterns, seo, etc...

I have learned that I feel best when I help someone ELSE succeed. I like watching the light bulb go off when I teach someone something, I love hearing about how a friend of mine just made the top game in the app store, and how a startup I worked with a while ago, just hit a million users and are considering an IPO. It makes me smile knowing I contributed even in a little way to that success. I know it sounds cheesy, but I have learned that NOTHING feels as good as when you are helping someone else overcome a hurdle, move in a positive direction, or help them follow their dreams.

Thanks for stopping by... and go out there and help each other SUCCEED!