Thursday, April 26, 2012

Meet and Greet

So tonight I did something outside my normal comfort zone...

I went to a cocktail party.
I got invited to a meet and greet by someone I know online, A social gathering of people looking to connect. I wasn’t sure why I was invited. But I was.

I’ve been thinking about running a tech shop forever, I know exactly what I want.. .  I’m starting to get serious about it... so what the hell.

Maybe I can find out how to do the business side of this... talk to someone who understands and can point out the pitfalls that will almost certainly be there.

My problem was that I knew this would be a Non-Nerd event. No one would be impressed if I showed up in a tee shirt that said “Stand back, I’m going to try science”.  There would be business suits and cocktail dresses. If I start talking about 3d printers and fab labs...people would have absolutely no idea what I was talking about.. And if I start getting excited and go into one of my stream of consciousness ADD rants. Unlike my usual gatherings, It would not be considered normal or socially accepted behaviour. How does a geek who hangs around geeks constantly, talk to non-geeks without a keyboard to buffer?

So I put on a clean shirt. Tucked it in and de-rumpled my attire, and drove to Downtown Seattle.

Didn’t take long to find it. The Amber was the name of the bar where this was being held (the “e” spelled backwards on the sign). Another thing I don’t do much is bars... outside of the AFK tavern in Everett (very much by for and about gamer geeks), or a small party at someone’s house, I rarely drink.

And this place was clearly a bit more upscale than I’m used to. Pretty girls in little black dresses bringing drinks and passing out hor dourves lots of people standing around and talking loudly enough that it has its own background reverb thing going... Like that echo phone mcguffin  from Batman The Dark Knight, I bet with two microphones a laptop, and a good oscilloscope I could map that room in decent detail from backscatter sound alone.

I spent a few minutes thinking about that when someone came up to me and pointed out I didn’t have a name tag. I could go get them over on the other side of the room  by the fireplace... where all the people were..

Something I noticed immediately, waiting politely for someone to notice you want to move past them doesn’t work at a cocktail party. Instead, this waiting is considered an invitation to strike up a conversation. It took an hour  to make it to the table. put on a name tag, and make it back to the bar. In that time I met a person writing a novel, an architectural consultant  a hair stylist, an intellectual property lawyer, an investment banker, a licensing attorney, an investment advisor and a couple business consultants. All very cool and interesting people.

Each conversation started with  something like “So what do you do?” followed by me giving a short spiel about how a tech shop is “sort of like a gym membership where instead of working out, you are making stuff, and I’d be the guy supplying and maintaining the tools, as well as teaching how to use them... with a big focus on computer assisted design stuff like 3d printers, five axis routers, laser cutters and embroidery machines”

All of them seemed genuinely interested in helping me. pointing out resources they had that I might be interested in, and asking for contact information so they could put me in touch with people they know.

They then would all give me their business card, and I’d accept it politely, and then have to explain that I don’t HAVE a business card...  (so before I wrote this, I ordered some business card paper for my printer... I’ll have some business cards this time next week.)

I think  that I might now be a LOT closer than I thought to getting my  tech shop off the ground.

I’m writing this as a way for me  to organize my thoughts, I want to blog about every detail of this Tech Shop dream. So I have a record of what does and does not work. So I can get advice from people who read this, and hopefully so I can help other people create their own tech shops, whether I succeed or fail.