I began attending Startup and Tech events five years ago while working for an affiliate marketing company doing search engine optimization and social media. Being new to the industry, I tried to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time. I followed various expert blogs and websites on the many aspects of online marketing, but still felt that I needed a community to help me to understand the industry better and to provide me with more education in online marketing topics. Operation #FindNerds was about to commence.
I was on the hunt for tech and digital marketing talent and was hoping to find like-minded people that could come together to brainstorm, inspire one another and in many cases, create something bigger. Jobs.
My venture started by researching networking groups in Tampa, and by the grace of Google, I stumbled upon Meetup.com. I put in my criteria and found several groups that I immediately wanted to join! There were several on SEO, Social Media, Blogging and one that seemed to have all those rolled up into one! Enter BarCamp Tampa Bay! The name even sounded intriguing! I signed up, RSVP'd and within a week was at my first networking event.
Peter Radizeski, Joel Lopez and Brenda Young were the first people I was introduced to at this meeting. All three are founders of BarCamp Tampa Bay and took me under their wing to show me the ways of the Tech and Startup events.
"Joel and I started BarCamp Tampa Bay 5 years ago because we were tired of going to tech events that lacked techies." Says Radizeski "Personally, I wanted to hang out with really cool people -- the creatives, the doers, the startups, the speakers of IGNITE!"
Ignite Tampa Bay, yet another networking group created by Radizeski, along with various others, brings the community together to foster and inspire the creative community of Tampa. For one evening a year you have the opportunity to hear roughly 10 speakers discuss topics ranging from arts, tech, health and education and hear various business leaders and startups talk about current projects and marketing strategies.
"Startup events help maintain this culture of small business owners who need to network with other people who are on the same page as them or need to find techies who are the right fit for them, thus creating jobs!" states Ashley Ray, organizer of Ignite Tampa Bay 2012. "There's an entire startup culture of people who work from home or from co-working spaces (which equal more jobs) and need tech events to get them out of the house (thus creating even more jobs)."
"A lot of people dream of starting their own business, but many do not know how or they simply lack assistance," states Susie Steiner, co-founder of Startup Weekend Tampa, a branch of the global effort, Startupweekend.org. Startup Weekend is a community of extremely energetic and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs, who are on a mission to empower, motivate, inspire and educate individuals.
Steiner is not only a founder of Startup Weekend Tampa but (along with co-founder Kim Randall) is also the CEO of a soon-to-launch startup, Seekly.com. She states that "Seekly, an online video speed dating platform that provides, efficient, less stressful, closest to offline dating experiences possible via the web." Not only is Seekly going to launch publicly at DEMO in Santa Clara, CA on October 2nd, 2012, but in fact, was birthed from an idea that was tossed around at Startup Weekend in 2011.
"Startup Weekend provides a platform that empowers individuals to take a serious look at entrepreneurship," says Steiner. "In one weekend our attendees build a venture from the ground up, they start by validating and developing the idea to sometimes even building a fully functional prototype by Sunday afternoon."
Steiner wants everyone to know that entrepreneurship is possible. These tech and startup events (such as the ones mentioned above) are meant to encourage, support and foster ideas and in turn develop future job opportunities.
Once I started networking with these individuals, I came to find out that I was surrounded by tech-minded people like myself. I also didn't realize how many owned their own business, or were part of or running a startup! I was amazed at all the great opportunities that were around for people who have a desire to make something better, solve an existing problem or (as cheesy as it may sound) have a dream. Fast forward five years, and you will see I am a prime example. I presently work for GuideWell, an e-commerce Health Retail Center and Health Education company located in Jacksonville, Florida. I am the Marketing Manager there, doing social media marketing as well as content creation for the blog -- which I LOVE!
Do you have an idea or a problem you can solve? Don't just brush it aside and ignore it. There are people out there who need your idea to become a reality so they can get a job. Remember, your idea, problem or desire is bigger than you. It will help others too!