One of the qualities I have never lacked is confidence. I never looked at my background – growing up on the South Side of Chicago, going to a state university or working in near poverty in journalism for a decade as anything but a joyous ride of my life.
I’ve interviewed senators and school teachers with equal awe and assertiveness. So very few situations intimidate me – especially if you don’t count nuns, they frighten me still.
But when I decided to embark on this “start up” journey well, it was easy to seem outgunned.
Drowning in first-tier university folk with lots of letters behind their names, men who wrote languages I could barely recognize with funny names like Ruby Rails and PHP, it’s amazingly easy to forget who you are, where you came from and what God has assembled you to be. But people are just people, even if they went to Stanford and are now worth billions of dollars. And you must still be you. And what I learned in my short stint in the Chicago start up world is that your background, color, gender, upbringing, education notwithstanding, if you’ve got a good idea people will tell you. And if you’ve got a bad one, well, they’ll tell you that too.
Sure, some not-so-good ideas gain traction and garner a lot of attention – see the now defunct Hunter Moore’s IsAnyoneUp.com, and the tech world has its share of “haterators,” but there are people who are looking to do good with tech and they admire people who want to use tech to tackle lofty goals. They are joyous to hear about someone who wants to start a tech project that isn’t goo-goo eyed over being the next “manquisition,” (i.e., Facebook’s billion-dollar buy of Intagram talent) or million-dollar sell offs to traditional media companies. The world of tech is super focused on money-making right now, as any business should be, but now more than ever these “instant” millionaires turned billionaires are seeking to solve some of the world’s toughest problems if only because they are perennial problem solvers who believe “Code is Law.”
The legacy of this thinking is fodder for another post, but as Google’s first unofficial motto “First do no harm,” epitomizes, these are not your atom-bomb technocrats. They believe in technology for social good as opposed to annihilating life as we know it.
Which is why I am overflowing with glee and happiness at the outpouring of love and support I’ve received from some top-tier Chicago start-ups. They’ve been patient, and strict, benevolent and intrigued by our little idea to train citizens to tell their own stories.
To be sure we’re still struggling to put some money behind this venture (so if you can, visit our Kicstarter project) but we haven’t been told yet, “You’re crazy…stick to knitting.”
From BrightTag Founder and CRO Marc Kiven taking the time to diagram our dreams into business model reality, to Jessica Schultz, guru over at Groupon Grassroots providing a willing ear and making connections for us to networking maven Lennie Rose at Big Ooga giving us shout outs on Twitter to my BFF from kindergarten tapping into her vast network of folk, to countless developers, media specialists showering us with time and attention we have felt the love.
We’re working enormously hard to turn that love into money to fuel this rocket ship so we’re going to be doing some local proof of concepts to help get the ball rolling. Still, for the first time in a long time we feel solidly on track. We have a business model, a target market, a talent pool, partners with integrity and working on our business and marketing plans. To look at us you would think we were in the infancy of being a start-up.
We are no social graph platform, we’re not an enormously powerful search engine but we are a group who want to use technology for its most altruistic purpose to connect folks through media so all can enlarge their vision of the world. Because transformation takes knowledge and knowledge takes connection and if when we succeed we’ll have a great sustainable product that builds those connections throughout the world.