There was a bit of a chill in the air this morning when I was driving my older daughter to Kindergarten – “big kid school.” She started back to school last week. I knew the day would eventually get here when she’d be off to elementary school, and I could breathe a sigh of relief that I got her from birth to school-aged as the stay-at-home dad for the past five and a half years, with no major problems along the way. Once I get my younger daughter there, I’ll really be able to take a step back and admire what I’ve done for these kids.
With the school year starting up again, it means things are going to be busier than ever around the house. In addition, the startup grind isn’t slowing down at all. I’m starting up the latest leg of the BondingBox pitch tour in mid-September with two confirmed 1 Million Cups appearances: September 13 in Des Moines and September 20 in Cedar Rapids. Stay plugged in for updates on the BondingBox social media sites: Facebook and Twitter. I’m also in talks with the 1 Million Cups location in Rockford, Illinois, to present sometime in October, and have applied to present our business at the Innovation EXPO PitchLab in Coralville the afternoon of September 19. I’m also waiting to hear from 1 Million Cups sites in Cedar Falls, Peoria, and Bloomington/Normal.
While we wait for the rest of the 1 Million Cups sites and the Innovation EXPO folks to get back to us, we’ve been busy building out the new Web site with the subscription order form and developing new activities. David and I took a Saturday a couple of weekends back and had a BondingBox work day to come up with new ideas for the coming months’ boxes. We developed more than half a dozen new ideas, and now we’re going through and pricing out the components that we need to include in the box. I have also been building out our social media presence and looking for ways to automate as much as I can. Luckily for us, there are a fair number of existing articles on relationship building that I’ve found, and started creating a backlog of things that I can post on social media. I will also have plenty to post once the pitch tour starts here in a couple of weeks.
Cider Finder also continues to plug along. The first part of our cider list has been created, and it’s just a matter of turning the list into a database that our eventual prototype can talk to before we can launch an early alpha version of the app. From my experience, just turning a list into a database can take longer than just creating the list in the first place. Hopefully, I’m wrong this time.
Startup Weekend Iowa City is rapidly approaching, and we’re starting to promote the event throughout eastern Iowa. The team has done a great job so far bringing in products from in-kind sponsors, and our ticketing page is up and running. The task now is to convince a couple of local companies to actually cut us a check as monetary sponsors and to send out information and invitations to coworking spaces throughout the state, and to recruit colleges and universities in the area to send some of their entrepreneurial and business students our way.
We’ve received some great in-kind donations. Everything from prizes for the top teams to snacks for the participants during the weekend. We reached out to something like 100 different companies, many of which are startups looking to get the word out about their products. I can’t mention what we’ve received so far, but nobody who attends Startup Weekend Iowa City is going to leave empty-handed. If you’d like to pick up some awesome swag, eat some great meals, and hang out with dozens of other awesome people, go to swic.rocks – yes, that is the URL for our ticketing page, because SWIC rocks!
Iowa City Open Coffee made the transition this week over to the MERGE space in the middle of downtown Iowa City. Turnout was still a bit low, but we’re just starting to rebuild the program after being in a holding pattern for the past few months. Also, I now have the support of MERGE and help from someone who works in the space – which is great since I’m going to be unable to run Open Coffee the next couple of meetings due to the BondingBox pitch tour and the week I’ll be in Denver for Denver Startup Week. We did have a couple of new people in attendance, and hopefully, they will come back in two weeks and bring some friends.
I’ve thought about potentially scheduling some programming during the hour in order to drive up attendance. However, I worry that would take away from the entire purpose of the event – the ability to connect with other creatives and entrepreneurs in an unstructured event. Other Open Coffees in the area schedule speakers though, and the attendance for those events is much higher – perhaps, the presence of a speaker and a bit of structure gives people a reason to attend. Hopefully, the free coffee we’re offering will start driving people in the door.
Speaking of creatives and entrepreneurs connecting, I’ve been pondering what I can do to get more people talking while better utilizing the banner of “freelance media producer.” I’ve connected with hundreds of people and have a stack of business cards over a foot high. It made me wonder if I should start producing content beyond what I’m doing in this blog. The format is what eludes me – a podcast? A newsletter? Some sort of freelance exchange message board or Web site?
I’m trying not to start anything new, but there are projects I’ve talked about above that won’t be around forever. Startup Weekend Iowa City is done after the 15th of October. Once Open Coffee gets some momentum with help from the folks at MERGE, it won’t take more than an hour a week to keep it rolling. I do want to start focusing on the freelance community in eastern Iowa, because I don’t think there’s any type of centralized location where freelancers can share victories and struggles. Meetups for freelancers have been tried, but then fizzled out. The idea for a Web site was proposed, but it went nowhere. People on message boards are always searching for team members, especially technical help. Why not create some sort of online clearinghouse for local talent?
I’m probably coming up with an enormous project, but it’s something that needs to be done. Yes, there are freelancer podcasts out there. Do they look interesting? Personally, I think I can do better. However, it’s a matter of finding the time to produce it and the guests to interview. Editing an audio podcast doesn’t take the time a video podcast does, but a video podcast would be so much more fun to do.
Put it on the to-do list, I guess.
The next few weeks are going to be an adventure. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to post something before I make the trip to Denver – that week is going to need its own post, or possibly two. I’m incredibly excited to pitch in Des Moines – it will be my first 1 Million Cups outside Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, and it will be the first time I’ve been inside the Science Center of Iowa since they moved it downtown. I’m looking forward to reaching out to all sorts of folks across the state regarding Startup Weekend Iowa City. I’m really interested to see if the folks in Fairfield have the turn out they expect for their Startup Weekend.
Now is the time to stock up on caffeinated beverages.