I love being an entrepreneur. It's a little surprising to hear myself say that because it's not something I ever really thought I would be. (I've never been very good at seeing the future, though.) It's a lot of hard work as you would expect, but it's so gratifying in so many ways. I think what I most appreciate are the opportunities I've had to become more engaged in my community. This engagement has allowed me to meet so many smart, talented, creative people I never would have met had I stayed in the safe confines of my cubicle, working for "the man."
Now, I'm a bit of an introvert and, consequently, networking and talking to people I don't know are not the most comfortable of activities for me. I have found, however, that building my network and learning about other entrepreneurs and what they're doing and struggling with is incredibly inspiring to me. It motivates me and makes me feel like I can make a difference, even if I'm not sure yet exactly how it will happen.
As I seek out opportunities to establish and build these relationships with other entrepreneurs, I've learned that quality is a lot more important that quantity when it comes to networking events. Things like Power Networking can be an effective way to get the company's name out in the community, but I've found it's not an especially effective way to really learn about what other entrepreneurs are experiencing, which is where I see the real, long-term value.
After having attended a few interesting events and reading about many others taking place elsewhere in the state, I began talking to my friends in the entrepreneurial community about bringing some of these ideas to the Cedar Valley. Some of these opportunities are still in the organizational stages, but thanks to the Technology Association of Iowa (TAI), Wade Arnold of T8 Webware, Dan Beenken of the UNI Innovation Incubator, and Steve Dust and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance, we held the inaugural TechBrew Cedar Valley last week at the Voodoo Lounge in Cedar Falls.
TechBrew is the brainchild of a very talented and successful entrepreneur by the name of Christian Renaud who spent several years working in the Silicon Valley of Northern California before returning to his home in Des Moines where he is now CEO of Palisade Systems. Christian thought the booming technology community in Des Moines could benefit from a phenomenon he witnessed often in Silicon Valley in which technologists and entrepreneurs would talk about what they're doing and thinking over a beer or two (or more) in a local bar. He witnessed idea after idea and startup after startup coming out of these informal gatherings.
Enter TAI, a wonderful organization that does great things for technology companies throughout Iowa. Last November, TAI began sponsoring TechBrew Iowa in Des Moines at the same location and time each month and, over the last 10 months, entrepreneurs, technologists, business people, and funders have gathered at these monthly events to share their ideas and innovations and build relationships, partnerships, and more than a few startups.
After a few months of planning, the Cedar Valley now has its own TechBrew. Scheduled for the first Thursday of each month, the first event last week drew over 50 people and was a rousing success! With Christian there to set the tone and kick things off, geeks of all stripes had an opportunity to share their stories and learn about others in a relaxed, supportive, and engaging environment. We're already looking forward to next month's event and I understand that TechBrew will be launching in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor in October as well.
As much as I love the opportunity to travel and meet people from around the state, I'm happy to have new opportunities right here at home and I believe TechBrew is just the start. Look for other new events designed to help us cultivate the burgeoning entrepreneurial movement here in the Cedar Valley over the coming months.
If you have ideas or suggestions for other types of networking events, I'd love to hear about them.
For more information about TechBrew or to RSVP for an upcoming event (membership not required), please contact the Technology Association of Iowa.
(Image courtesy of Flickr. AndyRob / CC BY 2.0)