Whenever I cross the water, I step off that ferry into the stew of startups that is Seattle. Half of the people I've met over the past few months are part of a startup, want to work for a startup, are thinking of starting up a startup (though I haven't met as many people who are aching to give money to startups - those are elusive).
Both together and separately, Edgar and I have attended events like Startup Grind, Founders Live, F-Bomb Breakfast Club, Startup Week - the list goes on. Before, during, and after, we weigh the merits of accelerators vs. incubators, talk about how to woo advisors and board members, discuss shares and equity, dive deep into visions and goals and next steps. I have been added to countless facebook groups, and trying to have meaningful discussion in the midst of all of this has begun to feel frantic. I have trouble remembering who I met where, and why I need to remember what we talked about. This is not a good feeling, as I am a person who truly values communication and personal relationships over most other things.
Many of the events and meetups happen concurrently, and in the evenings or early mornings, so the opportunity costs can be high, especially when I'm missing out on family time and coming home when everyone's already asleep. When we're stretched so thin, how do we continue to authentically engage in and support the communities and organizations that are aligned with ourselves and our vision for Shop the Change? Like the Intentionalist, Business Among Moms, The Riveter - all working through different lenses to promote equality and kindness and caring communities. How do we bring real relationships into the search for funding, and stay ourselves in this whole process.
How do we avoid the fear of missing out on something important happening elsewhere, either in the startup ecosystem or in our personal lives? Here are a few things we're trying:
1. Have an accountability buddy: We hold each other accountable for being present where we need to be. During a very busy week, it can be easy to say 'oh just forget it', but if you know your partner is waiting for you somewhere, you make it your business to be there.
2. Block out the noise: I'm in the process of culling my groups and trying to be more intentional about how I spend my time - I am learning to tune out that voice in my head that says 'you should you should you should' about every single event I see or article I read that suggests that I join a new thing.
3. Have a goal before you go: And make it manageable. Even if it's just talking to one person - if you hate networking, that's a great goal.
4. Set your schedule: Keep your calendar up to date and don't double-book yourself. Put in time slots for eating, and self-care, and even napping if you need to!
5. Divide and conquer: You can't be everywhere at once. As you get to know people in the startup circles, you start to see repeats - gather together your kindred spirits and look at everything going on, and figure out who wants to go to which thing. Look out for opportunities for yourself and others, in the spirit of collaboration.
6. Be in the flow (or out of the flow): If your body says you need a break, take a break. If you feel like you want to reach out to someone but you're not sure why, do it anyway and just say hi. You never know what'll transpire!
Finally, and as always, kindness and humor go a long way. Ask questions and truly listen to the answers instead of diving into value propositions and elevator pitches. In the center of it all, we're just humans looking to make a difference in the world, right?