The more often you create and share ideas, the better you get at it.
My friend Alex and I have decided to gather a few women every other week to brainstorm business plans, passion projects, and entrepreneurial ventures together. Our 20s are a critical period for growth and at a time when commitment to ideas is especially hard to find, we believe a group like this is necessary.
The goal is to compile ideas and follow through with ones that resonate. Some will be interesting, most will be lousy, one or two may even work. The point is to simply hold ourselves accountable to doing work that really matters. Ultimately, we want to find an idea that sticks and matches our unique strengths with the needs of the world.
What this group is not: a think tank or discussion group. Ideas are a dime in a dozen; money lies in execution. We’ll craft plans to make ideas happen. Some will fail but hey, failing isn’t as bad when there’s a group of other smart, motivated girls experiencing it with you.
If your current routine isn’t cutting it, join us as we experiment with projects that lead to greater fulfillment, if for any reason because doing stuff on your own is hard. We’re looking for a group of 4-6 New York women in their 20s, curious with a desire to learn and do something more. Any industry, talent, or niche is welcome. Leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. We’ll likely be meeting on Sunday afternoon, so be willing to sacrifice Sunday brunch for this. In exchange, a supply of lady refreshments ie. wine & cheese, will be on hand.
If you’re not in New York, sorry- we’re keeping things local for now. But stay tuned!
If ever there was a heaven on earth, I imagine it involving unlimited food & drink on a beach. The world’s most talented and intelligent folks would be present, including David Muir and Anderson Cooper (my big news crushes). Cue the right music and they’ll change the world.
What’s described is basically one big cocktail party, only high-achieving and probably out of my reach. Since cocktail parties typically don’t accomplish much more than tipsy small talk (at least in this physical world), I can only hold hope that creating a productive (non-celebrity) one in the digital sphere is possible.
My friend Steve Spalding is working on a network that gets clever people together to discuss difficult (but solvable) questions, form thesis’ about how to solve them, and create actual solutions (papers, products, organizations, events etc…) to help chip away at them. Here are 3 examples of questions that this proposed network would attempt to solve (keep in mind there are a wide range, these are just the top 3 that piqued my interest):
Improving your diet is often as much about where and when you eat as it is about what you are eating, how can we develop way(s) to get people to include more vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fruit in their diets without making the plan seem like a “diet”?
Crowdfunding technologies have been highly beneficial for small producers, artists, and engineers who need capital injections without the onerous terms often associated with them, however, they don’t allow communities to come together and share both their skills and their capital to create larger more complex projects. How can we develop a system of Crowddoing that brings people, their skills and their capital together to complete big projects?
The reasons for high unemployment are complex and varied, but one solution that has been posed is to increase the ease, diversity and scope of entrepreneurial ventures, allowing more people to build stable companies that help kickstart new industries that can support new employment How can we create better support systems to allow small entrepreneurs to develop more varied businesses faster, cheaper and more easily?
Eating healthier, enabling large-scale collaboration, and solving unemployment – who wouldn’t want this? Yet we need people to seriously think about how. Also, there are more problems that need solving. What would make each of us advance closer to our best selves? How can technology help rather than limit us? Steve proposes that we think about what we’d like to solve and pose it in a question. Perhaps presenting it to a group of other like-minded folks in the arena would yield tremendous progress.
I have a few questions which I will be sharing in the next post. If you have a question you’d like to pose or just want to learn more about this network – leave a comment, or drop Steve a tweet @sbspalding.
If you’re reading this from a cubicle, you probably won’t be in 2 years. If you’re reading from a laptop, you likely won’t be doing that either. Space and the tools we use in the space will be drastically transformed in the coming years. I’m not a psychic; this is strictly based on data, trends, and yes, a little bit of New York bias.
Living in New York is a bit like living in a time lapse. At the risk of sounding like an elitist urbanite, the rest of the country (San Francisco and Boston notwithstanding) trails in comparison. This is not meant to be condescending; it is simply a basic truth about metropolitan cities in general. With the sheer number of people (a large proportion being investors, technophiles, and creatives) progress is bound to unfold at a much more rapid pace.
One of the best places to witness the future is at co-working spaces. A co-working space is a shared work space for anyone who needs a place to plop down, get connected, and work outside of the basic constructs of a “normal” office space. Initially, co-working space was used by mostly freelancers as a way to escape the humdrum of working from home. Now, people from a variety of backgrounds flock to co-working spaces (developers, artists, independent consultants, even accountants and lawyers).
Last year when I was completely new to the tech scene, I visited New Work City, largely known as one of the first co-working spaces in New York. I personally believe it should be every New York newbie’s crash course into the tech world. I was immediately enlivened by the quiet energy buzzing inside. It was much better than a coffee shop, mostly because a.) no one was hogging the outlet, b.) no one near you was in an intense gossip sesh as you attempt to do work, and c.) coffee was FREE. Outlets, productivity, and free caffeine yield generally good vibes. Who wouldn’t want that? As a freelancer, I would often go to coffee shops, not because I needed another 3 cups of coffee, but simply because I wanted a positive workflow that was conducive to getting things done. Most of all, I wanted an environment that reminded me I was not the only one. Connection. Something not unlike the college library buzzing with activity at 3 am during final exam week because you’re all in the same over-caffeinated, underprepared, cramming (aka screwed) state. Imagine that everyday, just with more chic chairs and desks, and more “sophisticated” problems to stress about. That’s a co-working space.
The number of co-working spaces in New York has doubled each year since 2006. In that same period of time, New York City has exploded as a tech hub. Vivek Wadhwa recently said, “In 2006, I wouldn’t have put New York anywhere on the map of leading tech hubs. Now it is literally number 2.” According to Tony Bacigalupo, founder of New Work City, there is a direct correlation between the growth of co-working and the explosion of New York City’s startup ecosystem. The reason? Co-working spaces facilitate transitions between jobs. In today’s ever-changing economy, a co-working space becomes quite necessary when you’re transitioning from a full-time gig to work at a startup or as an independent. This trend will only grow as industries continue to be disrupted. This is generation flux after all, and that’s not just a catchy phrase. The flux is real. Chaotic disruption is rampant, not just with the Facebook, Twitter, and Googles, but across industries. You see the writing on the wall in New York, as more and more people quit their corporate jobs and become their own boss by creating pockets within pockets among niche industries.
The future is about self-reliance, and this is another reason why New York paves the way. New Yorkers are famous (or infamous?) for being self-reliant. Tonight at a joint Mashable -BMW iVentures event, Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures likened the age we’re living in now to the period of time when we shifted from an agrarian economy to the industrial age. The possibilities of where we could be post-digital are..who knows. Figuring out how to properly monetize workspace is one issue. Will it take on a sharing model similar to our homes (AirBNB) and cars (Zipcar)? What about the jobs crisis? The jobs of those whose industries are dismantled?
Looks like the future is already here.
*Many of the insights from this post originate from a talk given by Tony Bacigalupo, co-working evangelist, from a Brooklyn Venture Community meetup on November 14. You can download his presentation at nwc.co/bkv-preso. I also highly recommend his blog, Happy Monsters.
*Also, if you’re interested in finding a co-working space in New York, here is a super handy guide compiled by Charles Bonello, a member of the NY Tech community, that includes details on every co-working space in the city. He also shares some interesting stats: “There is currently about 600,000 square feet of co-working space available, which is equivalent to 400 Starbucks, the entire 11 story building that houses Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in NYC and the Port Authority/NYC’s lease at the World Trade Center.” Wow!
My father recently won second place in an essay contest about the American Dream. The contest was sponsored by the Asian supermarket Hmart, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. It just so happens that my parents are also celebrating their 30 year anniversary of living in the United States. In 1982, they emigrated from Taiwan so my Dad could pursue graduate study. He eventually obtained his Ph.D. in engineering, gained employment, and rooted our family of 5 in Americana (suburban house, fence, lawn, and all). The rest is still a story waiting to be written.
The American Dream is an oft-used phrase by politicians these days. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have praised entrepreneurship, innovation, and immigrants’ crucial roles in those fields; yet life usually manifests differently from the shiny tint we often associate with the Dream.
My father said in his essay:
The American Dream is a phrase most immigrants are chasing all of their lives knowingly or unwittingly. It means different things to different people…I believe that a successful and memorable American Dream requires not just determination, perseverance, strong work ethic, continuous improvement and understanding of one’s role; it also includes special joy of savoring the food and cultural heritages of one’s mother country.
The American Dream in real living form can be hard. Sacrifice, struggle, and constant work are the stuff real first-generation dreams are made of. What about for the second-generation? Having adjusted to a country’s customs, do those dreams shift and reappear in the form of comfort, stability, and status?
Two years ago, as a junior in college, I wrote a blog post, titled “A Spectacular Failure”. 5 paragraphs in, read:
I look at myself and know that I’ve been able to lead a comfortable life precisely because my parents struggled for me. This is both a blessing and a curse. I’m tempted to settle for a safe success, and know this is easily attainable because my parents have already set all the stones in place for me. As long as I attend school, get good grades, go to college, graduate, secure a job, make money, marry, and raise a family, I’ll be happy. Ot so I think. But is that it? They’ve made the path easy for me to be comfortably numb. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to choose a path of stability & security…but, I can’t help but feel the itch of my parent’s youthful gamble resurrecting itself in me.
At the time, I used this as justification for the amount of time I was spending on CampusTweet.TV – a multimedia passion project of mine that was not yielding any tangible reward. I filmed restaurant reviews and offbeat stories around campus on my own time. At one point, I was working on it more than my actual school work, receiving no money or external validation. All logic was telling me to close shop, get some sleep, and invest more time in something with a more reliable yield (ie. school and graduating). But stubborn idealism gave me the resolve to build it into something bigger and I continued with the sleepless nights. If I failed, at least it would be a spectacular failure.
Well, I failed. The site is now dead, literally. We killed CampusTweet.TV halfway into my senior year when I started working for ABC. Idealism – 0, Reality – 1. But, this version of the Dream is still alive, and I think it’s even more relevant for all of us now, given the rapidly changing world we live in.
Almost 2.5 billion people use the Internet. We talk about immigrants moving to new countries. But we all live in a new space. We don’t just live in a physical world; heck, some of us spend more time wrapped in the digital and mobile worlds. That’s the new landscape. In the next 2-3 years, cheap Internet-connected tablets will enable hundreds of millions more to move into this arena. Same with the increased accessibility of mobile. Billions more will be able to share knowledge and speedily exchange communication as we, the privileged already do today. The new 3 billion on the Internet will build their own apps, solve their own problems. Vivek Wadwha says, “Over time, Internet access will be cheap or practically free–just like electricity is today.”
In this digital age, we are all immigrants. As new American citizens, my parents knew they had to work harder- not just to get ahead- but to simply be rooted in American society. The wacky world wide web, similarly, is a landscape bursting with new tools and networks. Get to know them. Success won’t be written by established traditions or inherited ties we can take for granted. They don’t exist. Instead, having an immigrant mentality – that of continuous improvement and understanding of one’s niche in the new technological space- will be crucial. Claim your stake. Our roots remain the same, but we’re branching into new territory. Dreams do evolve.