I hope everyone had a great time at Startup Weekend these past few days. This post would have included a recap of that great event as well were it not for law school exams, *grumble* but that is neither here nor there. This past week was choked full of great startup events, not least of which was the  first ever Designer-Tech Startup Speed Dating Extravaganza, organized by Venturef0rth, Philly Tech Meetup, and the of course, the BDQ.

If you weren’t able to make it, here’s the recap. The Need: startups need designers on their team, designers need work where they’re valued and can grow professionally. The Product: An event that brings together 25 great Philly-based tech businesses in need of designers and 25 extremely talented designers for 2 hours of intense (but fruitful) speed-dating. The Result: The feedback from the attendees has so far has been very positive. From what we’ve been able to gather, the benefit to the businesses and the designers that attended was significant. We’ve certainly learned from our missteps (sorry to those who took a spill when we turned the lights off), so if you can believe it, the next one will be even better. Special thanks to @JesseMKramer and @elliotmenschik of @venturef0rth for the venue and fridge full of craft beer. Seriously, awesome.

 The event was a big step forward for the BDQ in terms of what community impact. The second collaboration between us, PTM, and Venturef0rth, but the first one that we put a lot of effort into. That being said, in addition to doing a quick recap, I wanted to use it as an opportunity for reflection. Since officially starting in the Fall, the BDQ has a FB Group, Twitter feed, and WP blog (you are reading this on WP right?). The following so far is small (about 40 FB and 30 on Twitter), but dedicated. Dom, Ann, Georgia, and I started the BDQ because we got together and realized that our respective communities (Biz and Design) could each benefit from co-mingling, information sharing, and collaboration. Dreaming big, saw a need for a catalyst for multi-disciplinary team formation and wanted to give it a shot.  What I’ve observed, after being involved with the BDQ for 8 or so months now, is that there are a couple challenges associated with our goal.

1. The 90-9-1 Rule: The BDQ  is dependant upon network effects. That is to say that the more people who are involved and the more diverse the community is, the more valuable the product becomes. Do to lack of consistent posting from us the founders, capture, etc., the community is still too small to really generate momentum. In order to get the information sharing component up to a point where it can grow organically, we need more members.

2. The Capture Issue: Our message resonates with those that already see the value in what we are trying to achieve and many of these individuals are proactive, collaborative, entrepreneurs who probably would be doing what they’re doing regardless of whether the BDQ existed. From an impact standpoint, that means we’re falling short on our mission of generating value to the larger business and design communities. Those that would benefit most from our message aren’t interested / aren’t listening / are  more difficult to get involved as they don’t yet see the value in what we’re providing (and yes, I know that Capture Theory refers to regulation and politics, but I think that the forces are the same). I believe the solution is something akin to implementing a new organizational policy. In order to get real buy-in, there needs to be reinforcement mechanisms. To effectively implement the change, you need visible, organization-wide endorsement. Without reinforcement mechanisms (allignment), you’re not going to get buy-in from anybody who doesn’t already see the value in the new claim. Did you get the memo on the TPS reports?  In fact, you might even fail to get those who see the value in the change, but don’t want to disadvantage themselves by spending time with something that won’t translate tangible value. For the BDQ to grow we need to get support from other sources to reinforce the idea that participation is valuable and worthwhile. Maybe this is talking to teachers at Temple MBA and the U of Arts. Maybe  this is doing a better job of demonstrating the success stories.

3. Facilitating Action is Hard: As any event organizer will tell you, facilitating co-mingling and incentivizing participants to translate the message of the event into action is a real challenge. We’ve punted on this issue at the BDQ in large part because its still a pet project for us. Comparatively, focusing on growing the online community is a much more manageable problem.

Despite the challenges that we face growing the BDQ, the speed dating event on Wednesday reminds me of why we do it. Maybe we don’t have 10,000 followers on Twitter yet, but even our small impact has been a positive one. If you know me personally, you probably know that I love art that doesn’t need popularity to be special. One street artist who does their work in abandoned spaces relayed their motivation for obscurity: it’s better to have an impact one person that have no impact on billions. The BDQ functions for its founders the same way. Of course I’m interested in growing the BDQ because the larger it is, the better it can achieve its goal. But, if we can inform just one person, help them learn something that they wouldn’t otherwise ever know, then our efforts have been worthwhile.

 

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