The past sixth months we’ve seen an explosion in the DC community. Events where we normally may have expected a few dozen of the same faces to show up have now grown into the hundreds. There seems to be this constant flow of new people, new companies, and general enthusiasm around creating new ventures in the region. We’re hoping that this becomes self sustaining, and all signs point to that being the case.
With such a large community of new individuals, new challenges arise. We keep an ear open to every bit of feedback, and there is one constant piece of advice. The people sitting in the audience want to know each other, above all else.
Michael and I, and numerous others, have talked at length about this, and I’ve condensed this into a few hypotheses.
- A community relies on 1:1 connections – I can honestly state that, over the past four years of networking events, dinners, drinks, and coffee – I’ve been able to both give and receive the most amount of value by sitting down – in person – with one other person. Getting to know them, learning what they are up to, and figuring out actionable next steps to help each other out. I’ve made clients, friends, and business partners this route.
- Large events don’t provide the right atmosphere to facilitate real connections – When I walk into a large networking event, I maybe walk out with one or two people I’d actually be interested in talking with. Now, my tendency is to gravitate towards the people I already know, and just chat with them. I’ve heard how daunting it is, as someone who doesn’t know that many people, to walk into a room of 700 people, and not know who to talk to, or how to.
- Existing social platforms aren’t built for discovering other people – The initial use case of Facebook (I was in college at the time) was exploring and connecting who was in your classes, and who your friends were friends with. Over time, privacy and new features have all but destroyed the ability to connect with people you wouldn’t know otherwise. Even the groups feature isn’t conducive to connections amongst its member. Twitter’s utility as a discovery decreases with each new member being added… more noise.
- Social context isn’t necessarily the solution – Just because you’re in the same group on Quora, checked in to the same venue on Foursquare, or “like” the same social objects – doesn’t provide enough data to ensure that some kind of meaningful connection will happen.
- A platform purely focused on people discovery can serve many purposes. I’ve seen the value of connecting with others, and facilitating further connections between others. An online solution to facilitating offline connections has value.
That being said…. keep your eyes open. We’re working on something.