At DevHouse Waterloo on Monday, Jesse Rodgers and Joseph Fung broke from the usual software demo format and opened up a round-table discussion about how to build an online identity, a community, visibility, engagement and excitement around Waterloo.
The longer I live here, the more I can sense the potential of this place. Particularly when you hang around with high tech folks all the time. But right now it’s mostly just potential. True, there are lots of exciting things going on that few people know anything about, but it feels like a lot of the energy here is being dissipated on the wires.
Jesse and Joseph are mostly talking about the local startup community, and there are particular needs there. Finding mentors and peers, getting funding, and promoting your idea are all fundamental to getting a startup off the ground, and nobody outside of Silicon Valley seems to know how to do those things well.
But more than that, we need to build spaces and groups for people to meet and co-mingle, online and offline.
Offline, there’s plenty of cool stuff going on. Meetups and Tweetups, camps and clubs. It was pointed out, though, that they all seem to exist in silos. It seems to be hard for people to find out about them and there’s very little cross-over between groups. There’s also a lack of decent meeting space. Waterloo casts an envious eye at Guelph’s eBar: a pub with decent atmosphere, free wifi, and a predisposition towards hosting meetups.
Online, as James pointed out there’s a lot of building to do to bring together a cohesive community. I signed on to the Waterloo Wellington Bloggers Association because I think it’s a step in the right direction. (If you haven’t already, get your blog in the aggregator there). People are piling on Twitter these days, and you can find out a lot of great stuff that’s going on locally there too. But there’s still a long way to go. We don’t have nearly the online resources of places like Toronto or San Francisco. There’s lots of stuff going on in town that I only find out about after the Record posts a review. For a town that’s supposedly tech savvy, we really ought to be able to do more.
So I’m going to redouble my efforts and do more. This is a great place to live and an exciting place to be, and people ought to know about that.