Getting involved in any new pursuit is scary. There's the lingo to learn and the unwritten social rules to master. If it's the startup scene you're looking to wade into, there are additional hurdles. Besides the off-putting trendiness of entrepreneurship, the folks building America's most innovative companies have a reputation for being super smart and driven. That's enough to intimidate even the most self-confident young person.
Thankfully, the people behind many of the hottest startups are also wise enough to know that attracting enthusiastic young talent is essential for success and that being generous with advice can only bring benefits. Googling "getting involved" in just about any city's startup scene will bring you suggestions of where to go and what events to attend (here's tips for NYC, for example), but are there any general principles to keep in mind?
On FutureRising recently startup enthusiast Attia Husseini offered a few, including these tricks and techniques that can work for you no matter where you happen to be located.
No matter your niche or speciality, there's probably a local gathering out there dedicated to discussing it. Don't be shy about signing up and coming along, advises Husseini. "Into data science? There's a meetup for it. Want to get inspiration from founders? Attend a dinner especially for them. General event happenings are also regular, often showcasing new startups," she writes. How do you know when these events are happening? Try "checking the calendar of accelerators and incubators, who house dozens of startups in their programs. Meetup is your best bet," writes Husseini.
2. Caffeinate yourself
Coffee isn't just about getting a morning caffeine kick or enjoying the aroma of a great espresso. It's also a powerful tool for meeting people in your local scene. "One thing you'll notice moving from a traditionally corporate atmosphere to the tech world is how generous people are with their time. Going for a coffee meeting is a great way to exchange ideas and connect with someone you haven't crossed paths with. Don't be shy. Use LinkedIn or Twitter to reach out," Husseini suggests.
Just don't confuse the casual coffee chat with an interview--this isn't the time to pitch yourself or your ideas. Focus on genuine learning and relationship building.
3. Attend a startup weekend
What's a startup weekend? "The structure of a startup weekend is simple," explains Husseini. "Come on the Friday, pitch an idea, and get into teams. Over the weekend, work on the idea with the help of mentors and resources. On Sunday--you'll pitch the polished idea to a panel of investors and judges. It's a concentrated taste of being a founder, and will teach you teamwork 101."
There are events like this across the globe, and as Marketing Before Funding founder Misha Abasov can attest, "the experience is intense but also incredibly rewarding. In 54 hours you learn what it's like to ideate, build, strategize, and pitch a startup company." Looking for a more in-depth peek into how to get involved and what the experience is like when you do? Joshua Steimle in Hong Kong has got you covered.
What other ways would you recommend newbies get involved?