The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

10 online/offline communities taking the globe by storm — July 17, 2015

10 online/offline communities taking the globe by storm

Digital communities can be just as powerful as real-life ones, bringing together like-minded people to share knowledge and create change. Today’s brightest communities make use of all channels to be exceptionally engaging:

  1. TED
    Renown for TED Talks, this nonprofit is dedicated to sharing ideas and sparking conversation. From science to global issues, community members can reap the benefits of powerful ideas in more than 100 languages.
  2. Creative Mornings
    People in 117 ‘creative cities’ participate in a monthly breakfast with a short lecture, covering topics like music, design, and new technology. The offline meetups offer members a chance to learn something new while meeting like-minded peers.
  3. Travel Massive
    Travel Massive counts travel industry insiders, leaders and innovators in more than 95 global cities, hoping to connect insiders and empower change in travel. Community members meet, learn and collaborate at events all over the world, helping move the mission forward.
  4. Responsive Org
    In-person meetups take place from Brussels to Brisbane, bringing together those interested in creating a fundamental shift in the way we work and organize in the 21st century. Examples of Responsive Organizations that fit the Community’s manifesto include Google and Tesla.
  5. Social Media Club
    Founded nearly ten years ago, Social Media Club remains one of the world’s most digitally connected communities with a mission to expand digital media literacy and promote standard technologies. Knowledge transfer happens at meetups, which take place at events that range from ‘Content and Coffee’ to ‘Happy Hour with Chipotle.’ Membership levels range from educational to professional, offering flexibility for anyone interested in joining the Club.
  6. Girl Geek Dinners
    Breaking down “old fashioned stereotypes” is no easy feat, but Geek Girl Dinners is intent to do so by empowering women (and men) to talk about their experience and knowledge in the technology industry — over a fun dinner! Founded in the UK, Geek Girl Dinners hopes to make technology accessible for anyone, ditching outdated myths about women and young people in the field along the way.
  7. Startup Grind
    More than 200,000 entrepreneurs take part in shaping this incredible global community, which counts local chapters in 175 countries. Designed to educate, inspire and connect founders and creators through events and discussions, Startup Grind continues to grow and thrive by attracting the best and brightest.
  8. Product Hunt
    Product enthusiasts around the world delight in reading about the latest and greatest gadgets and innovations, surfaced daily by Product Hunt. Hailed as a ‘must read’ for those in technology and startups, the site has amassed a cult-like following in a few short years.
  9. PassionPassport
    Writers and photographers make up this passionate traveling community, created for sharing tales of completed trips and sights seen. An impressive Instagram feed boasts more than a quarter million followers, with photos garnering tens of thousands of likes along with countless comments. Contests encourage friendly competition, but members remain consistently supportive and inspired by one another.
  10. SoulCycle
    Sweating it out is serious business for SoulCycle riders who attend class in more than 30 global cities. The philosophy in each location is the same, inspiring riders to be strong and give them confidence and courage for personal and professional endeavors. Community is at the heart of what SoulCycle does, and its rides are at the center of many friendships.

What, if any, other communities belong on the list? We’d love to learn about them in the comments.

The world on your terms: why you can start a successful business anywhere — July 5, 2014

The world on your terms: why you can start a successful business anywhere

globeIt is common thinking that you need to be in San Francisco to start a big software company, in Paris to create the world’s best restaurant and on Wall Street to build the a successful hedge fund.

…but that’s not always the case. Chris Hexton explains…

Should Atlassian have thrived in Sydney? How did Noma become the best restaurant in the world, in Denmark?

These people broke the rules, and so can you.

There are three things that can empower you to start a company with major growth potential, no matter where you are:

  1. A global focus. When you’re driving a car at speed if you focus directly on an object, it’s likely you’ll hit it. Similarly, if you’re focused on being the best in your home market, that’s what you’ll be. If, however, you dream of being the best in the world from day one, you’re much more likely to find a way to turn this dream into practical steps that lead to reality.
  2. Access to the tools you need. Technology has changed the way we work. “Work” is now an action, not a place. This means that with a fast net connection and some elbow grease, you can serve clients all over the world from your home town, wherever that may be. Invest in the other tools you need to be successful – top-of-the-line computers, video conferencing gear, high-end software and most importantly, people. The right team can raise your company to new levels time and time again.
  3. A passion for where you live. If you aren’t happy, it’s nearly impossible to succeed at building a business. In order to maintain the necessary motivation and drive, it’s key to spend your time in a place you love. Whether that’s San Francisco, Sydney, Stockholm or Shanghai, the right atmosphere will fuel you with energy.

Global focus

When James and I started Vero, we lived in San Francisco. After just six months we decided to move back home to Sydney, Australia.

A big part of this decision was that we had committed to bootstrapping Vero and needed as much support as we could get from friends, family and the home city we knew and loved.

Over a year later, we’re more than happy with how things have turned out and how bright the future looks. The biggest fear we had before we returned to Australia was that people wouldn’t take us seriously.

After all, ”Why would customers in Europe or the US care about someone from Australia?”

It turns out that if you deliver a product that people want and customer service that impresses, customers don’t get hung up on location.

Moreover, we don’t act like we’re solely interested in Australian customers. In fact, we think big.

Everything we do – from marketing and customer support to development and strategy – is designed to help grow Vero into one of the world’s key email service providers. We wonder how we can build a template editor as good as Mailchimp’s, an audience as inspired as KISSmetrics’ and revenue as quickly as Dropbox.

Keeping a global attitude can be hard when you’re not ‘in the thick of it’ but there are a few things that have helped us keep our eyes on the prize:

  • Competitors around the globe. From San Francisco to Paris, Vero has competitors that we respect. Keeping the fire alive and challenging us to grow as fast as (and even faster) than these great companies is a huge help in terms of ambition and global focus.
  • The hunt for customers on the cutting edge. At Vero, customers that spend time exploring how email can grow their business are a pleasure to work with. Finding customers that want to push the boundaries usually means looking to the global leaders, regardless of where they’re located. We have amazing customers in Berlin, New York, Mexico and Israel, and we’ve seen first hand just how smart people are. These customers are located in some of the world’s most exciting cities and they inspire us each and every day.
  • An open mind. Is it cool to have customers in Berlin that have more customers than the entire population of Australia? Damn right it’s cool. Is it cool to have built something that helps them connect with these customers? We live in a crazy, high-speed, global world and you need to embrace every minute of it.

The tools

You need to be in a place that has everything you need.

If you’re a 23-year-old bootstrapping the dream, this might be your parent’s basement for a while. If you need $2 million, then you’re going to need investors. If you need a tech team of four, then you’ll have to find them.

Where can you best get the resources you need? At home, abroad, somewhere cheaper? I remember reading an article in Monocle advocating the pros of starting a company in your home city. The statistics suggested success rates were generally higher, as founders can get what they need from trusted connections they have made throughout their lives.

There is no doubt that legal, tax, employment and other advice has been easy for me to find at Vero here in Sydney: never more than a single phone call away. This has helped us immensely to date.

A passion for where you live

When my co-founder, Damien, sent me this photo a few mornings ago – and this is just around the corner from where he lives – it was a reminder of the passion and joy he has for where he lives (sunny Manly, in Sydney).

Coffee at Manly

There is an important distinction between ‘comfortable’ and ‘complacent’. You constantly need to find ways to raise the bar but, when so much of this comes motivating forces like customers, competitors and even an entrepreneurs internal fire to prove they can win, it’s important to live in a place you love, not hate.

This could be San Francisco or New York City, it could be Sydney or London, or it could even be Chang Mai. There comes a time in any business where most people can’t work 16 hour days every day. Rest is important (science says so, as does common sense). Being somewhere you can do the things you love, such as surfing in the morning, makes for happier people.

About our contributor // Chris Hexton is the co-founder of Vero. Follow him on Twitter via @chexton.

Image credit: via Martin Klasch

Interview: San Francisco local, Paul Biggar, founder of CircleCI — May 4, 2014

Interview: San Francisco local, Paul Biggar, founder of CircleCI

Paul Biggar

“The best things we did to be successful were to spend a lot of time talking to customers before building the product, and to focus on making a truly excellent product. We spent way more time there than on sales and marketing, and that made a real impact.”

Kate Kendall talks programming, startup lessons, the Irish tech scene and San Francisco life with Paul Biggar, founder of CircleCI.

Having been based in San Francisco for some time now, have you found it has changed much over the past few years?

The main difference is how ubiquitous tech is. SoMa is bursting with startups, rents are through the roof, the market for developers is skyrocketing, and venture money is everywhere. When I started coming here in 2009, there was a lot of tech, but it wasn’t quite popping the way it is now. And the resentment (around Google buses, etc) certainly wasn’t there.

You have worked extensively on dynamic scripting languages. Why do you think their importance has grown in software development?

I attribute it largely to the rise of the web, and also because of a dissatisfaction with Java. When the web as a platform (“Web 2.0”) was really taking off in about 2005-ish, there was massive frustration with Java. Up until that point, there were limited alternatives, and if you weren’t using Java you were probably using Perl (which was frustrating in different ways). That’s when PHP and Python and Ruby really started taking off.

Python had been slowly growing in popularity for about a decade. PHP had become the defacto language for individuals to build websites, since it was incredibly easy to deploy them. The Ruby on Rails came along and really took the world by storm. By 2009, a vast majority of new startups were using Rails, something still true today, even though there are many more options now than back then.

Most of the frustration from static languages came from inflexibility – Java was a giant ecosystem of heavyweight components, and an ugly type system. By contrast, dynamic languages were freeing. It was an easy sell.

You are a co-founder of CircleCI, a hosted continuous deployment provider, how would you describe the benefits of CI to a less technical team/person?

Developers write code, and every time they do, CircleCI automatically tests their code to make sure it still works (that’s “Continuous Integration”). It’s a productivity tool for developer teams, that lets developers ship code much faster, meaning they get their products to market faster, and keep them more reliable.

What have been some of the hardest challenges you’ve faced to date and what insights do you now have from navigating them?

Every three months brings new challenges. The challenge you have as a two person startup trying to get some adoption is a different challenge from being a 14-person startup with thousands of customers and millions in revenue. I’ve spent a lot of time looking forward to figure out what the challenges are going to be three and six months from now, and asking other founders and CEOs what the future is going to look like.

I would say the hardest thing is getting to traction. Once we got to a million in annual revenue, the future became fairly straightforward and was well carved out. But that journey to make sure we had a product that was useful, find customers for it, try to get them to pay, etc, that was a hard journey.

The best things we did to be successful were to spend a lot of time talking to customers before building the product, and to focus on making a truly excellent product. We spent way more time there than on sales and marketing, and that made a real impact. Nothing helps a customer make a decision like a recommendation from their friend, and the higher the quality of the product, the more likely that is to happen.

Do you think your previous company NewsTilt was before its time?

Yes and no. NewsTilt was predicated on the idea that journalism was becoming more niche. Instead of a reader going to a newspaper for all their news, they’d read news from many smaller sites related to their interests, like TechCrunch, or The Fetch, or other small-ish communities built around niche topics. That prediction was totally correct, in my opinion.

The other side of this is that while we anticipated the problem, I’m not sure we got the solution right. We were trying to build a platform where we’d solve all of a journalist’s problems in trying to achieve that, like distribution, revenue, etc. Nobody else has done what we were trying to do, so its hard to see if it would have really solved the problem today. Companies like Medium and Svbtle are doing well with high quality publishing and better tools for publishers, but are not really looking at community as part of their platforms.

What’s the Irish tech scene like? Do people feel they need to move to the US to build a global company?

Dublin has a nice tech scene now. There’s a lot of people building products and tools and starting companies. It wasn’t that way when I left in 2010. One of the major changes since then has been the massive explosion of US companies setting up in Ireland. Dublin was always a tech hub, and Google very famously set up there, but in the last few years about 40 large US companies like Yahoo, Facebook, Hubspot, Zynga, Dropbox, etc, have all set up there too.

During the mid-2000s, when the Celtic Tiger was booming, tech wasn’t a very glamorous profession, unlike finance and real estate which were major drivers of the economy. Now, developer salaries are rising, tech is booming, and most of the rest of the economy still hasn’t recovered. So tech is important and interesting now in a way that it never was before.

There is a lot of debate in Ireland about whether you have to move to the US and to San Francisco to build your company. I suspect its the same debate being played out in New York and Austin and London and Berlin, with the caveat that emigrating for better opportunity has been something the Irish have done for hundreds of years.

Whether or not to move has the same factors in every city: does your market and company and product benefit from being in SF, through access to capital, customers base, press, engineering talent, startup experience, etc. I’m a firm believer that the best thing an Irish investor can do to help their company is to buy the founders a one-way ticket to SF.

Where’s your favorite place to relax in San Francisco?

This sounds a bit lame, but my most relaxing time is walking my dog near my apartment in SoMa. We live just by the Bay Bridge and walk down to AT&T Park along Embarcadero and under the Bay Bridge.

What local events do you recommend checking out?

Once your company starts kicking off, you kinda stop going to that many events any more. I really enjoyed going to tech meetups once I got to SF, and then more once I started using them to network and find customers and early hires. Once CircleCI really took off, I’ve mostly stopped going to meetups, with the exception of particularly high quality events, in particular events where successful operators are presenting. 

For me, the best recent events I’ve been to are at Heavybit and Y Combinator, both of which are unfortunately members-only.

About our writer // Kate Kendall is the founder of The Fetch and CloudPeeps. She also blogs about startup life and advises businesses on the role of community. Follow her via @katekendall.

Top 13 London Venues for Tech Events — September 22, 2013

Top 13 London Venues for Tech Events

STH

If you’re an event organiser looking for an interesting venue to host your next tech event, then check out our list below.

Most coworking venues have spaces to hire (you can view our guide to coworking in London here), but we wanted to highlight alternative spaces for your next conference or event.

Spaces for a conference

1. The Brewery

One of our top venues to hold a major conference is The Brewery. In the past, London Web Summit, Wired Conference and FOWA have pitched up here. With a massive auditorium that holds up to 800 people, The Brewery is an ideal venue to host a major conference. There are plenty of break out rooms too for networking and exhibition space.

2. Shoreditch Town Hall

Based in the heart of London’s Tech City, is Shoreditch Town Hall, home to Digital Shoreditch Festival for the last couple of years. There is a grand hall with a stage plus balcony seating for extra capacity. There are several rooms downstairs for workshops and ‘spill over’ areas, however the t-junction at the entrance to the stairs isn’t ideal for networking space. In lieu of this, there is a great space in the basement for an different kind of exhibition including a rabbit warren of cellar rooms; ideal for tech + design + art displays.

Spaces for an exhibition 

3. Business Design Centre

The Business Design Centre is a traditional venue for exhibitions and conferences based in Angel, Islington. It’s best known for major exhibitions such as TNT Travel Show 2013. It’s a great venue for business and entrepreneurial showcases and exhibitions.

4. The Old Truman Brewery

Situated on Brick Lane, the Truman Brewery is a huge warehouse available to be use as an exhibition and conference venue, near the centre of Silicon Roundabout. Known for the Silicon Milkroundabout Jobs Fair, it’s a great venue with plenty of space, and good for hosting exhibitions, road shows and events.

Spaces for networking drinks 

5. Shoreditch Grind

If you’re looking to hire out a venue for some networking drinks, then check out The Shoreditch Grind, a great venue on the corner of Old St Roundabout, and well known haut for Silicon Drinkabout drinks. We love that you can change up their iconic sign, to give your event a personalised touch!

The LightBar

6. The Light Bar

Another great venue to hold a networking event is upstairs in The Light Bar, complete with a lounge area and an outside balcony. It’s perfect for parties, meetings, corporate functions and presentations. It includes a fully stocked bar, DJ booth plus catering options.

Having a private screening?

7. The Hospital Club

If you are looking for a private cinema for a screening, then check out the private members club, The Hospital Club, which has a private cinema that seats approximately 50 people, complete with a popcorn maker and a catering service. It’s a very stylish venue which offers private networking areas for pre- or post-event events.

8. Rich Mix Cinema

For an alternative cinema experience, hire a screening room the independent Rich Mix Cinema in East London. There are several small cinema rooms available with adjoining function rooms for extra event space.

Looking for a room with a view?

9. Altitude360

With a panoramic view of London, Altitude360 is the perfect venue to host a conference, workshop or networking event. The venue offers theatre style conference setting, integrated and customisable audio/visual options plus in-house catering.

10. Centre Point Tower

Based in the centre of Soho, Paramount’s Centre Point Tower, has a restaurant/ bar private dining rooms plus a 360 degree viewing gallery of the city. It’s a good venue for networking events, awards and socials.

Hosting an awards or after party?

11. LSO St Luke’s

For an unusual venue to host your next awards evening, then take a look at LSO St Luke’s centre which is a renovated church. Home to the Lovie Awards for the last couple of years, it’s a unique and stylish venue, great for any event or awards ceremony.

12. Village Underground

If you’re hosting an after party, and you’re looking for oodles of space, then look no further than Village Underground, which is a renovated warehouse in the middle of Shoreditch. With a capacity of 1000 people, this is the place to throw an after party to end all after parties.

On a boat?

13. HMS President 

If you’e throwing a networking event, then check out the HMS President, and host your party on a boat. With a massive ballroom, complete with a stage and decorative fairy lights, this is an excellent venue to host a party with a difference.

This list has been inspired by @Joshr’s crowd sourced list of London Tech Friendly Event Venues.

Subscribe to The Fetch’s weekly email digest for the best events happening in London via thefetch.com.

Image credit: Top: Shoreditch Town Hall, middle: The Light Bar

Interview: Melbourne local, Steven Farlie of OpenTechSchool — January 22, 2013

Interview: Melbourne local, Steven Farlie of OpenTechSchool

This week, we chat to Steven Farlie – the person bringing OpenTechSchool in Australia after he was across the initiative in Berlin. The workshops supporting education and sharing across diverse backgrounds in technology are kicking off in Melbourne next month. Stay tuned for more event announcements in upcoming Fetches and we’ll see you there!

steven

What is OpenTechSchool and how does it differ from user groups, dev bootcamps and the like?

We are a group of volunteers who offer free programming workshops. It began in Berlin back in April 2012, so we are still fairly new. Some of us became quite fond of OpenTechSchool in Berlin and decided to start up local chapters once we left.

Our workshops are fairly small and we like to bring a lot of coaches who are themselves professional programmers. There is only so much you can teach in a couple of hours so we like to keep it practical, keep it fun and encourage people to experiment.

It’s all open technology, and free of charge, so why not just have some fun and poke around?

In addition to the workshops we have a regular beginner meetup. These are usually evenings where we have a couple of talks such as introductions to algorithms or programmers talking about how they started programming. Beginners also share their experiences over the past few months with a particular language or personal project.

You started out with clear positioning saying OTS was for women? What prompted you to change the language?

We started after the first RailsGirls Berlin workshop, so OpenTechSchool is from the women in tech movement but isn’t specifically women in tech, if that makes any sense. We like to think of ourselves as complementary to organisations like Rails Girls and Girl Geek Dinners. There is a strong cross-pollination of coaches and organisers and we hope to keep that going over time. The fact of the matter is that the women in tech scene is the most fun, vibrant and exciting community in technology right now and OpenTechSchool wants to bring that to everyone.

picAn OpenTechSchool session in Berlin

Why do you think it’s important the wider popular and diverse groups learn to code?

The issue of empowerment is often overlooked and yet so much of our lives are controlled by technology. When someone learns how to program then they start to experience technology in a much more informed way. Possibilities open up and people are able to solve problems that programmers haven’t even considered. From farmers managing their crops with Android apps to journalists crunching data with Python you can actually get a lot done without having to be a professional programmer.

One the other side, bringing in a diverse group of beginners actually strengthens the community. Many of the things we do as professional programmers are actually dictated by history or convention, often with detrimental results. Beginners ask the right questions and call us out on doing stupid things that we’ve always put up with before. The end result is that our original assumptions get challenged and a lot of really good ideas come out.

You started out of Berlin – have you noticed many differences between Melbourne and it? Where else is OTS headed?

After Berlin I will never complain about the weather in Melbourne ever again!

Of all the places I’ve been in Europe I found Berlin to be the most Melbourne-like. Both are multicultural, dynamic cities with a lot of new things happening all the time. It’s interesting that there are so many analogues between the two, even in the tech scene. Berlin coworking spaces usually have a spiritual equivalent in Melbourne, though the Berlin ones can be quite large. We both have interesting startups and well established larger tech companies. I say to people if you love Melbourne you’ll also love Berlin.

We’ve been a bit lucky, starting in Berlin. There are so many expats and temporary visitors that movements like OpenTechSchool can spread very quickly. We have plenty of Germans, French, Americans, Australians and Italians on the team, and when people do leave they have a tendency to take OpenTechSchool with them. Stockholm is quite well established now, having hosted several workshops and beginner meetups. Soon we hope to also be in Munich and Paris. We even made a blueprint guide on our website for people wanting to start an OpenTechSchool chapter in their city.

What can attendees expect on the day? What tech knowledge do they need to know beforehand?

All we ask is for people to bring a laptop and a smile. Our beginner workshop does not require any programming knowledge at all. Our coaches are there to help people with any problems that they have. We design our workshops to be at your own pace, so there is no such thing as “being behind”. We try to get a basic level of coursework that most people will finish before the end and then add extra topics for people to explore. All our coursework is free and available online after the course, and all software we use is free so you can continue the journey after the workshop has finished.

What upcoming events should we keep a look out for?

After the beginner Python workshop, well, maybe I shouldn’t say, but… things might get a little political! The past few years have seen a rise in data-driven journalism and some people have expressed interest in seeing what actually goes on behind the scenes. In case you haven’t heard, data journalism is the new punk. If enough interest is there we might do a workshop looking at things like transforming economic and political data into infographics and maps.

Check out the first event with an Intro to Python here!

For a great round-up of upcoming programming events and news from OpenTechSchool plus other related goodness, subscribe our free email digests via The Fetch.

About our Curator // Kate Kendall is the founder and CEO of The Fetch, a community where professionals can discover and share what’s happening in their city. Before this, Kate led product, content and digital at magazine companies, handled outreach for new startups and organised too many communities and events to mention. Follow her on Twitter at @katekendall.

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