Building Up the Start-Up community in the Puget Sound
I know I’ve written about my doctoral ambitions a couple times, so bear with me if you’re heard this one before. Back in early 2002, after having scuttled my plans for law school and while co-founding a 501c3 non-profit (eBig.org), I came up with an idea for something that I called the Samaritan-Web Project that aspired to the goal of connecting subject matter experts (SMEs) from across various technology and business areas with emerging technology companies, start-ups, and entrepreneurs who desperately needed the help from the experts. The idea had a technology component, but the thrust of the plan had more to do with one-to-one connections with people – and from those early plans and white boarding sessions came an idea which, after discussing with a couple of my previous company’s advisors, became a plan to pursue a PhD in the interdisciplinary study of the social informatics of collaboration technology. Specifically, I planned to study the affects of collaboration tools and methodologies on community-based service, and whether by lowering the barrier of entry through the use of these tools and methodologies, the amount of service provided by the community would increase.
That idea is where this blog was started, which is why you occasionally see “samaritanweb” pop up in archived URLs. I began the blog in 2002 by researching various social networking tools and platforms to catalog what each did, and how certain features could be applied within my thesis. I won’t bore you with the details behind my proposed research, but some of these ideas have stuck with me for the past decade. Due to work (I was consulting at the time, with a very heavy travel schedule), I delayed my start 1 time too many and lost my placement – and then with life and work, just never reapplied.
However, this past month I took the steps and organized a new non-profit entity – the SamaritanWeb Corporation (SWC) – to once again pursue some of these ideas. I’m excited to get things organized and off the ground, and have already begun to enlist the help of some members of the local tech community to participate. For those who know me and my extensive travel and writing schedules, rest assured – this is just a side-project for me, not a full-time job.
The basic idea of SWC is to help emerging technology companies, start-ups, and entrepreneurs to more quickly and easily tap into the community of experts all around them. This is my old Samaritan-Web Project concept at play: entrepreneurs need help, need questions answered, need advice from those who have done it all before, or who may have certain technical or business experience – but they may not know where to go for help. SWC will provide a network of experts from various fields and backgrounds, all of whom have volunteered a certain number of hours each month to work with these entrepreneurs at no cost. Experts are paired based on their ability and interests, and for a pre-determined amount of time, while entrepreneurs receive the help they need — and develop new connections, and hopefully advocates, within the community. The more connections you have, the more you amplify your message, the quicker you reach your goals.
Some of these relationships may lead to additional business (consulting or job) opportunities for the participants, but the goal of SWC is not to profit from these, or even be involved in any consulting or placement activity. SWC is not a headhunting outfit, nor a consulting company. The point is to provide a way for the community to help each other, and as a result, to create a more collaborative and vibrant start-up community here in the Puget Sound. That’s it.
What is the next step? I’ve created a private group on LinkedIn and have started to enlist members of the Puget Sound community. The goal is to create small teams or cohorts of experts, and then begin to reach out to the start-up community and to offer our free services (advice, business plan creation or review, strategy, marketing, networking, and so forth). Sorry if I’m not more specific about the details, but I’ll be building out a website and some formal documentation over the coming weeks to streamline the process for people who want to get involved.
I’m excited to finally pursue some of these ideas that I feel like I have been sitting on since 2002. Of course, that’s not exactly true – I’ve started a couple companies since then, and through my various roles (especially my current role as an evangelist with Axceler) I’ve always been more than willing to help people connect with experts within my network, as well as provide advice and expertise myself. But it feels good to embark on something a little more formal – and to do something that could have an economic impact on the Seattle start-up community.
If you’d like more information about the SamaritanWeb as it becomes available, please send me an email, and I’ll include you in our announcement when the site and program go live.