Saturday, December 19, 2009

Startup Speed Dating

Last Wednesday I went to Startup Speed Dating, hosted by Capital Factory. It's like conventional speed dating, but it matched "sellers" (i.e entrepreneurs) with "builders" (developers and technical people). I assumed sellers came here to sell their ideas to the builders -- to "seduce" a builder to work on the seller's product. At least the structure of the "courtship" implied that. The builders were seated, and sellers went from builder to builder to talk, which is analogous to female and male roles in conventional speed dating. Since I was a builder, I enjoyed being courted. :-) But the actual distribution of roles turned out to be far more vague.

Only a few sellers had a startup they were working on. Many others were "between startups". They had built and sold companies before, with varying degrees of success. A few of them were interested in what kinds of products "builders" were working on. I figured they wanted to hitch themselves to an interesting product that had potential to become a moneymaking startup, to which they could offer their business and marketing expertise. So maybe the title "seller" was more literal, meaning a salesperson. Unexpectedly I found they were asking me (and other builders, I assume) to pitch my startup idea to them. I did that enthusiastically, even though it wasn't my original reason for coming here. I came to look for job opportunities in interesting startups, but of course I, like everyone in Austin, have my own startup ideas. Not all sellers understood what would be the purpose of the application I wanted to create; those that understood sounded somewhat skeptical about the feasibility of its implementation. (I'm already used to the fact that my ideas are hard to implement, both in fiction and in software.) But some understood, and one guy, before I even finished telling him my idea, exclaimed: "you need semantic web for that!", making it the best moment of the evening -- because that's exactly what I was thinking.

Another memorable moment, in a different sense, happened when a seller said: "CMS is a knockoff of Dreamweaver, right?" Umm, no. It's most definitely not. And this came from a person who was going to build her company's website herself! Ahem. :-)