Finding a (net)work-life balance close

David Hart
David Hart
In Musings
17th February 2010
Finding a (net)work-life balance

I was reading Vikki Chowney’s blog on Reputation Online about the Mobile World Congress (MWC) and she made a really good point. She was speaking specifically about how all the shouting going on at this event makes it hard to find the best information.

And MWC isn’t, of course, the only event going on where people are launching new products and ideas. Chowney asks, “Is there anyone doing anything interesting with digital that doesn’t rely solely on attendees reporting on the announcements in one way or another?”

There’s not a day goes by when I’m not invited to an event. Either a conference, a networking event, a seminar, a business dinner, a panel debate… in fact I found myself speaking at one earlier this month. Every one of these events seems to attract the most remarkable, recognised and respected industry luminaries, according to the organisers. Even I was described as an ‘expert’ at the panel debate.

It got me thinking about events more generally. The best I have ever been to aren’t where everyone is trying to sell their wares to everyone else; it’s where I’ve met people who have a similar set of challenges to me. We found our creative director that way. We changed the way we bill our work that way. We got advice about late payers that way. And I’ve even made some great friends along the way. But we’ve never sold a website that way.

A decade ago, I was part of a team that raised £15m in seed funding and a further £45m on AIM. We used this money to invest in agencies and dotcoms. Like many of us at the time, we went to First Tuesday: an event where investors, entrepreneurs and journalists all came together to talk about, and do deals. Maybe some actually did deals. But did I want to hear someone, stinking of red wine, bark their dotcom start-up innovation down my ear? No. I just wanted to meet up with some of my friends.

In my experience, the networking “roll up, roll up, get your lovely tickets here first-come-first-served” type events are mainly full of 20-somethings telling you they are famous on Twitter (no offence @jlcoassin). Let’s not pretend it’s anything other than a social. But events like Robert Loch’s YesAndClub are different because it feels like it has a reason beyond getting drunk. For a start, you have to be invited: which means that you have to know someone, which in turn means that the people there have probably actually done something interesting in the first place. Secondly, the concept is more about having an idea, running with it and seeing what happens. You don’t meet potential clients, but you do meet people who are like you. And what you share are nuggets of advice, support and reassurance – all the things that we all need as we direct our careers or new business ideas forward.

Anyway – back to Vikki’s blog. Mark is on Digital Mission’s trip to SXSWi where we are due to “launch” a new app. It’s a pretty big deal and we don’t want to blow it by relying solely on attendees Tweeting about it. We have identified different groups: some will be resellers, some collaborators, some end-users and some will just think it’s cool. We need to work out a way of getting people to share what they have seen not just because we exist, but because we are giving people something to improve their lives.

This is just a small step in terms of launch and gaining a name in the marketplace. As with Tepilo, we will have to make a constant level of noise in the press, on TV, email, Twitter and by leveraging existing users to gain critical mass. The advantage of launching at an event though, is that you get to see how a user reacts to your product first hand.

Digital platforms may be measurable, but they can also be fairly blind.