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Repost from my November 26th, USA Today ArticleWayne Sutton: Three questions about diversity in tech

Google kickstarted a movement among Silicon Valley and Bay Area tech companies when they released their diversity workforce numbers in mid-2014. USA Today has chronicled the many reports that followed from multiple tech companies this year, and hosted a series of interviews and events. The conversation about diversity in tech – from data to assumptions to unconscious bias – continues to grow as 2014 comes to a close.

My company, BUILDUP, is a new accelerator launching in 2015 focused on inclusion for seed stage entrepreneurs. This year we’ve held a number of events, and three consistent questions come up over and over. One: will these companies start any diversity initiatives? Two: with all the diversity numbers so bleak, will anything really change in Silicon Valley? Three: what comes next?

With data comes accountably. With education comes awareness. But only true leadership brings change. What people are wondering is: who will lead the real change?

What diversity initiatives are tech companies going to implement?

Almost every company that released their diversity reports says they could do better, and links to their job page that includes a list of HR tactics they’re currently working on to make a more diverse workforce. If this isn’t just lip service to the issue, it’s a great first start. But much more is needed.

It’s clear from the data that there’s a pipeline problem. Companies should take a look at the growing list of organizations they could partner with in the pipeline lifecycle. Supporting these organizations gives companies access to more and better talent and creates opportunities to bring together diverse minds – which could lead to better innovation and culture improvements.

Kids today are a hackathon away from learning how to build an app or getting involved with robotics through various youth targeted programming such as Black Girls Code, YesWeCode and Level Playing Field Institute or the, Hack the Hood and the Hidden Genius Project.

For college students, CODE2040 leads the way to provide Black and Latino software engineering students internships with top tech companies.

And for adults, there is almost an initiative for every demographic that could use some improvement in the tech workforce. For the Hispanic community, for example, there’s Latino Startup Alliance and Manos Accelerator. Both organizations focus on educating Latinos in Tech and entrepreneurship. For women, Women Who Code, Girls in Tech, www.girldevelopit.com, Women Startup Labs and the Pipeline Fellowship all focus on supporting women entrepreneurship from learning coding skills to how to invest in women founders. For African Americans, there are organizations such as Black Founders that foster entrepreneurship and support tech founders.

There are also conferences and crowdfunding groups that focus on diversity, such as Platform, and sites such as FundDreamer (funddreamer.org) that focus on women and diversity groups. BUILDUP focuses on inclusion, education and access for all individuals looking to launch the next great startup – supporting founders who may not have access or understand how the startup ecosystem works.

With the above organizations and more, there’s no excuse for any tech company not to empower the younger generation via STEM initiatives. I would challenge each organization that has released their diversity report to take a good look at the pipeline and find a strategic way to get involved. Start with the youth and work your way up.

But what about internal culture and leadership? This brings us to question two…

 

Will Anything Actually Change in Silicon Valley?
Without a fundamental change in culture and a shift in priorities among leadership, it’s highly likely that things will pretty much stay the same. Retention numbers for women and minorities are terrible.(link to USA Today article)  And we’re talking about for hispanics an average workforce of less than 1%, African-Americans an average workforce of 2% and women and an average workforce of 10%.

For people looking for a quick and simple solution, there is none. It could take 5-10 years or more to see diversity workplace numbers increase from 1-2% to get to at least 5%. And that kind of movement will take a lot of work.

But there is hope. There is hope in the few organizations that work hard to hire the best candidate for the job but work or educating individuals on hidden and non-hidden bias. Google is beginning to tackle unconscious bias. (https://www.gv.com/lib/unconscious-bias-at-work). Pandora whose gender diversity is leaps and bounds above most tech companies with 49% female workforce spent time listening to their employees and partnered with women organizations such at Women2.0. A few consultants are popping up that focus on leadership behavior change and organizational culture change, mostly from the executive coaching and organizational change management industries.

There is also hope in the global economy, as we’re seeing more startups from Africa being backed by Silicon Valley organizations. Mountain View based technology accelerator 500 Startups just accepted it’s second startup from Africa. (ref https://twitter.com/yourstoryco/status/530300463619391489 ).  And while change may or may not happen in Silicon Valley, the mindset of the American culture is changing. Diverse founders are rising across the country in areas of New Jersey such as Anthony Frasier, founder of the phat startup and Chicago, with founders of Starter League, Neal Sales-Griffin and Mike McGee who will be in a position to create their own workforce that will be more inclusive compared to today’s top tech companies.

 

So What’s Next?
Now everyone has a data point to measure against as they begin to create changes in the years ahead. The next step is to do the hard work. Tech companies can release numbers, and we can share stories all day, but what’s really needed is to increase the pipeline and create a more diverse workforce in Silicon Valley – one that truly reflects the American growing diverse population.

Two words: Collaboration and Capital.
Collaboration. No one is going to solve all of the diversity problems alone. Everyone needs to have a seat at the table, as the saying goes. Diversity-focused programs, HR managers, investors, entrepreneurs, and CEOs all need to have more conversations about how to collaborate because this is a systemic problem.

Capital. Yes, it’s going to take money to tackle the diversity in tech problem too. It’s going to take money to support the diversity in tech organizations, money to train HR staff, and money to fund startup founders outside of the traditional Silicon Valley pattern matching bubble. For this we turn to angel investors and Venture Capitalists. Because for every Kevin Systrom, Travis Kalanick, and Mark Zuckerberg, there’s a Black or Latino or Female founder somewhere waiting for an opportunity to pitch to investors for the same fair opportunity to launch the next big thing. We need more capital investment in our future from all demographics.

We must keep in mind Silicon Valley didn’t become Silicon Valley overnight, and we can’t expect it to change overnight. This will take time and consistent effort. So start wherever you are, and make something happen to raise the bar.

Back in November 2014 I wrote a post called I Just Completed 10 days of Meditation with Headspace App. In the post I mentioned how I stared meditating in 2012. Since then I’ve been between using two meditation apps, Calm.com, and Insight Timer. Both were ok but I didn’t like the various teachers I would have to search for in Insight Timer or the random background sounds in Calm.com. Therefore around mid December I started back using HeadSpace App . I just started Level 3 and up to 11 straight days of meditating sticking with my 2015 be consistent goal.

My pros of using HeadSpace is that I feel that I’m learning better meditation practices, you have a consistent teacher, I can manage the session lengths from 10 to 20 minutes and can set meditation reminders. Another feature I like about Headspace is that you feel that you’re not along with the ability to add friends and see how many people are meditating at the same time. Andy Puddicombe, a meditation and mindfulness expert is one of the founders of Headsapce. Andy is a great teacher along with a calming voice to listen to as he teaches throughout the app. Ultimately, I feel that I’m learning how to meditate better, which is important being that I feel that I’m still new to meditating.

If you’re wondering why should you meditate there’s tons of scientific research on the benefits such as after eight weeks of meditation you may increase the grey-matter density in your brain (hat/tip @changecatalysts). The grey matter helps you with learning and memory. There’s also research on how meditation helps with anxiety, creativity and cognitive Awareness.

“…increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.”

Ref: Harvard MRI Study Shows That Meditation Rebuilds Brain’s Gray Matter In Just 8 Weeks

While there’s a mindfulness movement that started years ago in Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay area, I personally meditate for several reasons. Meditation helps me calm my thoughts throughout the date, helps me focus, helps with anxiety and as of right now since I’m mediating at night mediation helps me fall of sleep faster.

headspace

Overall I fell that meditation is helping me become a better person especially with the self reflection aspects along with being able to learn how to manage my thoughts.

For more on the benefits of meditating and more on mindfulness I suggest reading the article links below.
Harvard MRI Study Shows That Meditation Rebuilds Brain’s Gray Matter In Just 8 Weeks

Your Brain on Meditation

Benefits of Meditation

8 Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Life

The Secret Behind The Silicon Valley Elite’s Success: Meditation

Meditation and mindfulness are the new rage in Silicon Valley. And it’s not just about inner peace—it’s about getting ahead.

10 Entrepreneurs Who Are Making It Big In Silicon Valley – infographic

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Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem
Or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams
I use it as my gas, so they say that I’m gassed
But without it I’d be last, so I ought to laugh
-Kanye West, Last Call

Have a front row seat for #startupschool ready for Zuck.

Post Accelerator Motivation
Its Monday, October 22nd, 2012 and I am feeling motivated and encouraged. I’m pursuing my entrepreneurship goals fresh out of YCombinator Startup School this past weekend. I had this same feeling earlier this year after attending my first TED conference in Long Beach. Now starting to hit my stride in San Francisco after spending a few months heads down focusing on what I am going to do next after leaving the startup accelerator, NewME Accelerator, that I co-founded. Yes, if you did not know, I left in May a little over a year it launched. We went through two cycles of startup founders who dropped everything to move to Silicon Valley to turn their startup dreams into a reality. They worked to developed their product, gained valuable insight from first class mentors who live and breath the valley and then demoed their products to VC firms and press. It was a great experience and hard to believe that I launched a startup accelerator. One of my friends mentioned the other day that I may be one of 50 or so people who can say they have launched an accelerator in Silicon Valley. More on why I left in a future blog post — there is more to what people saw on the CNN documentary that followed us last year.

Before launching the accelerator in 2011 until now, I’ve learned a lot about the culture of Silicon Valley. Now that I live in San Francisco, I have an entirely different perspective on what investors look for, the tech community and better ways to help entrepreneurs outside Silicon Valley.

Helping Entrepreneurs
When I first left NewME, I was on the verge of launching an online “readiness” program; a pre-accelerator for tech entrepreneurs. Notice I did not say it was for “minority” entrepreneurs but for all entrepreneurs regardless of race and gender. I had talked with leading Silicon Valley venture capital firms and national programs such as America21 and Startup America. We all agreed that as more first time entrepreneurs are considering applying for accelerators and seeking venture capital, there is a need for an online mentorship and feedback platform. I was putting together a small team in San Francisco and was going to start the program under the Simplistic Labs brand. But despite already advising and co-founding two previous startups, I wanted to launch a successful company / product in Silicon Valley. That lead to creating PitchTo.

Problem Solving With A Purpose
PitchTo solves multiple problems not only for the entrepreneurship community but for investors as well. PitchTo is a mobile development lab which builds tools for investors to make smarter decisions and help entrepreneurs deliver exceptional pitches. The vision of PitchTo came to me from four problems that I experienced first hand.

1. Entrepreneurs/Founders need a better way to collect and manage feedback on their product and pitch before meeting with investors.

2. Associates, analysts and angel investors spend countless hours on the phone, in-person meetings, attending demo days, hackathons and pitch events listening to pitches without a streamlined process to collect, rate and manage pitches real-time on mobile devices.

3. The feedback loop among entrepreneurs and investors could be vastly improved.

4. Various pitch events, conferences are using outdated methods and loosing data that could be valuable for both the entrepreneur, journalist, judges or investors.

After brainstorming on the problem, I knew I would need a team to start building a product. I sent a few emails and tweets to developers I knew and reached out to some talented people I’d met via AngelList. Then I organized a one day hackathon to start working on the first PitchTo MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

Team Building Lessons Learned
After the PitchTo hackathon, if you would have asked me where we would be at by October, I would have almost guaranteed that our first product would be ready for beta testing. But it’s not. One common question many entrepreneurs ask is how to find a technical co-founder. If you are looking for a technical co-founder or any co-founder, finding one is just half the battle. Here are a few question and suggestion you should consider:

Best platform – Once you know the platform, you can determine the best language.

Have an understanding of what is the best programming language to build your product — Example: ruby, python, javascript… etc.

Before agreeing to become a team, make sure everyone is on board to see the product launch through the good times and not so good times.

Vet technical co-founders via their github profile, contributions to open source projects, stack overflow engagement, previous projects and personal referrals via word-of-mouth.

Regardless of skills needed, make sure you can work well together and the potential co-founder is a culture fit.

After a few months of project managing and going through “startup life” hurdles with the team, I decided to part ways. Luckily while attending the Google Ventures BBQ I was able to recruit another developer and keep PitchTo’s development going. While the initial focus was on a web app, I have the developer focusing on the mobile platform. I continue to build out the app design, web platform and UI/UX along with doing customer development with potential customers several times a week. Basically everything it will take to launch the company’s first product.

During the early stages of PitchTo I knew that keeping things legit was important. This is where having a good law firm comes in. Getting incorporated can be the easy part but having to deal with equity, vesting shares or co-founder changes can be a challenge.

Customer Development with Investors
I have talked with over 50 angel investors, venture capital firms and incubators about the process of evaluating pitches, what they look for in a startup and current processes in place to communicate with founders. It has been a great learning lesson and I can tell you that if there is an industry ready for disruption, it’s in the venture capital and investment space.

From the beginning of PitchTo, I knew I would need to do tons of customer development to gain insider knowledge of how investors in Silicon Valley and San Francisco operate. I already relationships with a number of investors across the country before coming out here to launch my accelerator but moving to the Bay Area made it easier to expand that even further by attending local events, conferences and pitch events aimed at the tech startup community. No matter what product you are building, make customer development part of your development process.

Finding Mentors and Advisors
I cannot say enough good things about my official and unofficial mentors during this experience. Being able to meet with amazing people such as Bill Campbell, Mitch Kapor, Stephen Adams and others has been priceless and a great resource of information, encouragement and honest advice. As an entrepreneur, you need a few types of people around you:

  • The encouragement type
  • The keep it real type
  • The kick in the butt type
  • The increase your network type
  • The open doors for you type.
  • That is what mentors are for.

    Finding mentors can be as difficult as finding a co-founder. My advice is after you set your goal to launch a company, start reaching out to potential mentors for coffee. Once the coffee meeting happens, ask for feedback and if it sounds constructive, ask it’s ok to keep them informed on your progress. Do not just ask, “hey can you be my mentor” on or after the first meeting — that’s lame and will send the person running the other way because everyone is busy. It’s about building a relationship first.

    Seeking Entrepreneur in Residence Opportunities With Venture Capital Firms
    During the customer development process, I realized that one way to improve the launch traction of PitchTo would be to partner with a venture capital firm so I decided to reach out to a San Francisco based VC firm that I had a relationship with. I talked with one of the partners about joining the team as an EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence). I met with the partner and made my “pitch” to join the firm. He then asked his partners to meet with me. I was excited! After a phone meeting, about 15 emails and a face-to-face meeting, they decided to not to offer me a position. That process lasted about a month.

    Not being the one to give up I reached out to another VC firm on Sand Hill Road. Now these were two firms I felt strongly about because of their history in the valley, their portfolio companies and because of my connection with the partners. This time would be different; I had a good referral and just knew it was going to work out. I scheduled the meeting and made my ask with the partner; I had already met with other partners and team members to learn as much as I could about the firm and this partner. I practiced my talking points on how I would value, my insights to date on specific startups and so on. The partner meeting was short and I was passed on to another partner. Looking good! It took about a month of waiting for the next phone meeting which I hoped the call would be about negotiating the terms of my employment for the position but instead it was a “we do not have the budget call”. Talk about a disappointment! I’ve heard that venture capitalists don’t want to tell entrepreneurs their product or idea is bad because you don’t want to discourage them. Hearing this about the budget being a factor felt the same way. As I walked back to my Zipcar in the parking lot, I looked for a little pebble to kick but found none. What now?

    I kept turning over what had happened and tried to see it from another perspective. What went wrong here? During my customer development interviews with investors, I constantly heard they were looking for new deal flow from within the Silicon Valley community and outside the Bay Area too. Since the CNN documentary aired, I am constantly receiving pitches from entrepreneurs looking for capital or advisors. This exposure has led to some pretty amazing opportunities as well like the African mobile app initiative to connect the growing Africa entrepreneurship community with mentors and advisors internationally.

    I’ve been in the startup scene since 2002 with a well connected social network, having co-founded two companies and an accelerator, plus with my seriously strong UI/UX design skills, I would be great asset to any startup or venture firm.

    As I continue to get PitchTo ready for launch, I am going to continue my customer development with VC firms and incubators to partner with for this product. Whether or not I am brought in as an EIR or analyst at a venture capital firm in the Bay Area is still an unknown variable but certainly not null.

    2012 Experiences and Opportunities
    #ted was amazing
    As this year comes to a close, I look back and see it’s been a year of personal and professional growth beyond anything I could have imagined coming from Raleigh, North Carolina.

    Here’s a mini review of my 2012.

    January – Keynote: National Black Student Leadership Conference for the Williams Leadership Education Foundation
    February – Moved to San Francisco, CA and Attended TED (not TEDx)
    March – Spoke at SXSW, received award for Top Ten Blacks In Technology, NCAA Final Four
    May – Spoke at Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference & Expo, Left the NewME Accelerator and founded PitchTo, held the PitchTo Hackathon
    June – Spoke at Startup Day on the Hill in Washington, DC
    October – Attended Pipeline Fellowship Conference on Angel Investment, attended YC Startup School

    I was able to attend various startup conferences and events such as:
    TechCrunch Disrupt, Twilio Con, Google Ventures BBQ, Box Works, Mashery API Conference, the TechCrunch August Capital Party. Speaking of TechCrunch I have published two articles on TechCrunch as well.

    Upcoming
    October – Astia Panel during Global Entrepreneur week
    December – Mentor, Lean Startup Conference

    Value And Opportunities… Let’s Talk
    Launching a business is not an easy task. Just ask any successful founder. It is a struggle and the lessons from those struggles are what can make you a great founder. I am constantly learning and yet I know what value I bring to the table regardless of not graduating from, or for the cool kids, dropping out of an Ivy league school. I don’t have any additional letters after my name like PhD or a certificate on my wall. I’m from a small town with a population of less than 300 in North Carolina but have grown my network through hard work, honesty and a willingness to help others. What I have learned is that to be successful in San Francisco, It’s a question of of not “if” I can raise venture capital or work for certain firm but “when”.

    Finally met & talked with @RonConway at #startupschool @startupschool

    “Don’t Lose Faith”

    Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle

    . — via Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address

    Open For Business
    Even though I’m working on PitchTo and with the recent outcomes of not landing an EIR position I have time for some consulting projects. My experiences ranges from but not limited to UI/UX design, HTML, CSS, project management, social media marketing and business development. You can view my LinkedIn profile here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/waynesutton and be reached at wayne@socialwayne.com.

    Somewhere in a coffee shop
    Yeah… let’s celebrate! An entrepreneur just crowdfunded $500,000.00 to build the next big thing. Oh wait… No he’s building a Twitter clone. What? Do we really need another Twitter? But it’s going to be open, have an API and no Ads like Twitter was before they decided to start making tons of money. Um.. One more thing, it’s going to be real-time and for developers! Ok, so it’s Twitter meets Githup without the ads?

    Let’s get a few things straight before I continue and don’t want to sound too much like a hater or sceptic about Dalton Caldwell’s App.net and the croundfunded model, but over the last few years I’ve had tons of entrepreneurs reach out to me either for advice, mentorship or trying to get into the accelerator I help launch saying they’re working on the next big thing, or they have the next facebook or twitter. My first reaction would be really and almost from that point the conversation would go downhill from there as they have done very little customer development or have yet to state the one reason why or how they’re going to get 955 million users. As an entrepreneur just saying you’re going to build the next twitter or facebook is almost a red flag to potential investors. With very little traction, an incomplete product or an awesome team good luck on the funding. Better yet, saying you’re going to build the next big thing without clearly stating what problem you’re solving that’s different than what the current big thing is another red flag. But Dalton Caldwell is NOT a first time entrepreneur!

    Let me say that I have never met Dalton before or at least I don’t think I have, but I’m sure we have been in the same room before(I think). Regardless here’s a brief history lesson on Dalton. In 2004 by Dalton Caldwell and some former engineers from Napster launched imeem which was sold to myspace and then shutdown. In February 2010 Dalton launched Mixed Media Labs which created picplz, a photo broadcasting application for iPhone and Android mobile devices which eventually separated from the company then raised $5M From Andreessen Horowitz . In September 2012 Picplz shutdown (instagram won). Before Picplz shutdown Dalton launched App.net a platform for the distribution and monetization of iOS and Android mobile apps in March of 2012. Around July 2012 Dalton and team pivots App.net with a plan to build a “dependable, ad-free version of Twitter”. Whew! I may be off here or there but I’m close on the dates.

    Sources: CrunchBase: Dalton CaldwellApp.netPicplz – TechCrunch

    When I first heard of App.net first piviot I was like, wait don’t we have an open source, ad-free version of twitter already? It’s called http://identi.ca . Anyway, I was very impressed with the the tool App.net created to crowdfund to raise funds. It very much reminded me of kick starter. I was thinking why not white label the site as a tool, allowing anyone to host and manage their own kickstarter campaign. Just an idea. Still I kept my RSS loaded and kept an eye on App.net. Currently App.net has 8,269 backers, with $555,700 and 34 hours left. When it’s all said and done Dalton may reach $600 to $650k. Then all eyes will be on App.net. Everything the company does good or bad will be covered in the beloved tech press and Dalton is now the new face of crowdfunding startups.

    Doesn’t this all sound too familiar? Remember Diaspora? What happen to those guys who were building an open Facebook? Diaspora raised $200k using kickstarter. Visit the https://www.joindiaspora.com lading page for updates. Just like Diaspora, timing was everything for Dalton and team. Diaspora launched their fundraising efforts when the media was crushing facebook on security, data export and privacy. For Dalton’s App.net things were not as agressive against Twitter but Dalton used hackernews, an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on his blog about an Facebook Acqui-Hire attempt and today a without any term sheets a nice crowdfunded $500k and growing. Heck, maybe I need to stop writing and get to kickstarting….

    There are a lot of lessons to be learned from all of this. Here are a few:

    • Build and ship fast when funding raising
    • Have a great development team
    • Attack a pain point to attract people to join you. For App.net the pain was ads
    • Be persistent
    • Learn from your failures
    • When you raise capital spend it wisely
    • Make noise so the rest of the world will listen ( the facebook post was epic)
    • Be passionate
    • Have a great landing page and hype up your product in the tech press
    • Don’t be afraid to take on giants
    • Ignore the criticism and stay focus
    • Never give up.

    I’m no first time entrepreneur but I’ve been there. If you’re somewhere like in Detroit, North Carolina or Atlanta and thinking you’ll just bootstrap your startup or crowdfund $500k like App.net I would think twice about that especially if you don’t have a strong team or a product. Many first time entrepreneur would just love to raise $100k. Still at Ben Parr tweets:

    Now the hard work begins and six months a year or two from now let’s see where Dalton and the App.net will be. My bet is Dalton will join some VC firm or another startup will swoop in and acquire the team and product and all of this will be washed up in more fairy tales of Silicon Valley.

    Hats off Dalton Caldwell, we’re proud and watching you.

    Kapor Capital Fellows Presentation Day


    Uriri Onovakpuri welcoming the crowd at Kapor Capital Fellows Presentation Day

    Lately I’ve been heads down doing customer development, coding and product management over the past few months but over the last six days I came up for air to attend three great events. The first one was TechCrunch Crunchup and August Capital Party. The second was Kapor Capital Fellows Presentation Day and the third was the Google Ventures Summer BBQ. The Google Ventures Summer BBQ and the Kapor Capital Fellows Presentation Day were by invitation but the TechCrunch Crunchup and August Capital Party was just a small investment but worth it to connect with some of well known angel investors and Venture Capitalist firms in Silicon Valley.

    It was my second year in a row attending both the TechCrunch Crunchup / August Capital Party and the Google Ventures Summer BBQ. Both events have a sort of it’s August let’s have some fun/celebrate along with let’s see who’s in the room type vibe to it. By the way, I learned last year that not all but “some” Venture Capitalist take the entire month of August off. I’ve heard for various reasons such as the weather, it’s the end of summer or just because they can. Regardless if you’re a startup looking to setup meetings I would skip August. You may be saying but that’s only for Silicon Valley or San Francisco but I was talking the a venture partner who lives in the midwest this week and she was going on vacation starting today.

    _SJP3514

    flickr photo by TechCrunch

    As for what makes TechCrunch Crunchup / August Capital Party and the Google Ventures Summer BBQ a must attend event for startup founders, it’s the investors. Not only do leading VC firms attend both but associates, analysts and scouts (more on VC firms titles in a later post). Both events are an opportunity to connect over open bars, food and great weather. Note I didn’t say pitch but as I mentioned in my “Angel Investors and Venture Capitalist Are People Too” post event when you’re not pitching you’re always pitching. But at these events the environment is a lot more causal and often you see ycombinator founders or other season entrepreneurs attending. The vibe at the Google Ventures BBQ is a little more close, friends and family atmosphere with a lot of google ventures backed companies or sponsored organizations in a attendance.

    Attending theses type events are no guarantee to funding or rewards with any badges or Silicon Valley street creed but when your out networking and key investors keep seeing you at certain events and if you engage with them correctly you never know where it could lead too. It’s all about the relationships.

    _SJP3800
    flickr photo by TechCrunch

    As for me attending both I learned more about VC community and what tools they use internally. I connected with five new VC firms I didn’t have contact person at, I made a lead with an angel investor, more customer development with seasoned high level entrepreneurs and investors. Along with being about to setup a few meetings. It was a good past six days between events and I was still able to work on some UI and jump in some code but all was not a walk in the park. During the August Capital party I accidentally knocked a cup out of the hand of investor while in front of a few techcrunch writers. I don’t drink so it was me being clumsy. During the google ventures bbq I couldn’t decide if I wanted to approach a founder of a very influential investor platform or not. When I almost made my mind to walk over he got on the phone and then left the event. Luckily I know how to reach him when the time is right. Also during the August Capital event I waited for a break in a conversation to talk with a partner at a very well known VC firm. When I walked over and introduced myself and then stated I was doing customer development and had a question for him. He simply started to laugh and then said let him finish the conversation he was in before someone else had already disrupted the conversation. I was kinda surprised by his “laugh first’ response to beginning of our dialogue. I made a mental note and going to use it as motivation when the time is right. Ironically I saw the same venture capitalist at the google ventures bbq but decided not to try to approach him there.

    Google ventures BBQ

    Overall good times but still tons of work to do. When you’re at events like these it’s easy to get caught up in the Silicon Valley hype. Espcially when you’re at like you can smell the “billions” in the room and you look around and standing next to Twitter, Path and Facebook employees, investors such as Dave McClure, Kevin Rose and partners form greylock partners, andreessen horowitz and the CrunchFund. The way I look at it, until I’m a VC or doing more to invest into future entrepreneurs there’s tons of work to get done.

    What are your must attend events to connect with entrepreneurs and venture capitalist?

    PS. I did happen in the make it in the instagram photo that Kevin Rose took at the Google Ventures BBQ. Look to the left in stripes.

    PS #2. I also had a chance to talk with some of the Google Glasses team.
    Google glasses at google ventures