Saturday, March 26, 2005

April meeting full up

The April meeting on mobile strategy filled up in about 24 hours. If you didn't get an Evite, you aren't on the list -- please send email to invites@106miles.org to rectify the situation.

We tried a tweak this time, which was to give working engineers a few extra hours to RSVP before letting in former/non engineers. This might be a little controversial, so let me try to explain. When I first got the idea for 106, I had the notion that there are already quite a few formal and informal networking groups for businesspeople. If you want to found a company because you're a good organization builder and evaluator of technology, I figure you can join the Churchill Club or the Grapevine event or SVASE or any of a number of others. But if you're a humble engineer who dreams of someday doing your own startup based on a technical innovation, and wants to learn as much as you can about the venture-creation process beforehand, preferably in a friendly low-pressure environment -- where can you go? To me, that's the core mission of 106 Miles.

Yes, we also want diversity of experience. Yes, it's difficult to pick out the future technical innovators based solely on their current job title. Yes, there are plenty of ventures that involve technology but don't necessarily embody a technical innovation. All of that could be true, and I'm still going to try to ensure there are a majority of working engineers at every 106. Thanks for being patient as we continue to experiment with different methods of getting the right mix.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

April 106 topic

We're very happy to announce the April 106 Miles meeting. It will be on Wednesday April 13th at 7PM, our guests will be Russ Beattie and Mike Rowehl of Mobile Monday fame, and the topic will be "Every Business Needs a Mobile Strategy". Watch for the Evite, and be one of the first to RSVP! Oh, it will be my birthday week too, so there's extra incentive to join us this month.

Ideas for managing growth

As you doubtless know if you've subscribed to this RSS feed, 106 Miles has grown faster than we ever expected. Now we have the duty or opportunity of trying to figure out how to manage things in the way that is best for the most people.

Let me explain a little bit of our contraints. I would like to be as inclusive as possible while still maintaining the intimacy that I think makes us a little bit different. A lot of groups constrain size for reasons of exclusivity or control, but we do it mostly because it turns out to be incredibly hard to find a conference-style table that can seat more than 35 people. We also originally figured we'd only accept entrepreneurial engineers as members, although that's been really hard to hold the line on.

Basically the ideas we've heard have fallen into three main categories: change the format of the event; hold multiple sessions; and/or filter. These three ideas could be combined in various ways:

1) Make 106 events lectures rather than face-to-face Q&As.
2) Make 106 events more like traditional networking events (aka cocktail parties) than Q&As.
3) Keep the original format with a smaller group, and add a networking event for a larger group.
4) Hold one event in San Francisco and one event on the Peninsula/South Bay every month.
5) Ask all non-engineers to voluntarily quit 106.
6) Ask all non-engineers to only attend the networking events.
7) Involuntarily cut non-engineers by category until we get to the right size.
8) First come, first served with some pre-filtering to maintain group balance.
9) Pure first come, first served -- anyone can sign up whether they're an entrepreneurial engineer or not.
10) Move more of our activities online to relieve pressure from offline activities.

So this would be a really great time to hear from people about their preferences. Send me email or leave me a comment telling me what you think about the various options on the table. Oh, and if there's anyone who is on the Evite list but has realized you don't want to attend regularly, please don't hesitate to ask me to remove you -- I won't mind, honest! :-)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

March meeting recap

Thanks to everyone who came to the March 106, to Rifkin for moderating, and to Jeff Winner for speaking! As always, Jeremy's writeup is the first. Former Red Herring reporter Irina blogged her impressions of the meeting too.

In another first, Jeff asked the assembled not to blog the specifics of his talk. He was extraordinarily frank in answering our questions, and I think everyone understood the reasons for his request. I hope the various speakers find us flexible in honoring their preferences, which have already spanned a wide range from Dave Sifry's webcast to Jeff's non-specific-blogging request.

I'm so excited about all the new people who are finding their way to 106 Miles! I try to make a new friend every time, in between my hostessing duties, and this month Bill Lennan of Knight-Ridder really stood out for his enthusiasm and his helpful suggestions. I hope everyone feels comfy asking to be invited even if you don't know anyone who has attended before. We are friendly and we will give you snacks!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Align yourself

Thinking back on the first two 106 Miles and the words of Graham Spencer, Joe Kraus, and Dave Sifry, I remember some advice given to me when I first tried to start a company five years ago:
Keep your eye on the ball,
your shoulder to the wheel,
your nose to the grindstone,
your feet on the ground, and
your head on your shoulders.

Now... try to get something done.
Starting a company feels like that every minute of every day.