I’ll level with you right away. I’m not a big fan of talks. Not that I see anything inherently wrong with them. If people get jazzed from hearing someone monologue on the motivational, inspirational, informational, or any other front, then more power — especially if it gives them the courage or insight to go out and try to do something groundbreaking.
I’ve been to one TED and half a pecha kucha, so maybe my opinion on the matter is moot. But I’ve also been to infinity conferences and some time ago I pretty much gave up on keynotes in favor of panels and demos.
I just happen to be more of a dialogue guy. I like interaction, and I’m much more comfortable on a panel, where there is the potential for disagreement, than in front of a podium, where I’m constantly worrying about dropping an f-bomb – not because it’s a lack of decorum, but because the eight speakers prior had already dropped at least one, and to top them I’d have to go blue like Tobias Funke in Season Two.
I want you to know this about me because I want you to understand that I had absolutely no stake in the Next, the Friday afternoon speaker series portion of Paradoxos. There were no tweets from me of “Be the monetization you want to make” or “Someone you’ve never heard of is crushing it at this thing you’re not at!”
See? If anything, I’m neutral.
But by not waxing my opinion on how it went down doesn’t mean I disapprove, it’s just not my bag. So I’m laying off.
One takeaway though was when TSF’s Chris Heivly opened the show and asked rhetorically if Paradoxos was South by Southeast and then shot the concept down. Thank you. This is a point I made after Day 1 of Paradoxos in another column. Chris stated, quite correctly, that this was Durham and we need to make the event our own.
Startups Buying Beer for Startups
Of course, I’m most comfortable on a bar stool in a poorly lit room. That’s when most of the good talks go down anyway.
So if there was an event that spoke directly to my comfort level, it was the Adzerk and Shoeboxed sponsored Night Cap at Fullsteam on Friday night. These are two of the most hands-on startups in Durham, and Adzerk’s James Avery and Shoeboxed’s Taylor Mingos and Tobi Walter bought beer for what wound up being a talkative crowd in a talk-inducing atmosphere.
Again, call me biased, but this is where I think you’ll see a lot of value in events on as grand a scale as Paradoxos. I not only met a few entrepreneurs I hadn’t yet come into contact with, but I met a whole bunch of interested parties – and these are exactly the type of people that Paradoxos, from a startup community standpoint, needs to be reaching out to.
These are your college students, pre-grad, post-grad, grad-school, biz-school, law school, either locally or having just moved here because Durham sounded like a good idea. These are the IBMers and Ciscoers who have an idea and nowhere to go with it. These are the database geeks who dream of someday opening their own brewery.
Paradoxos, and especially events like the Night Cap, bring out not only the best in Durham, but something that goes beyond “Hey, look at all the workplace/quality of life/arts and entertainment we’ve got hidden in this underrated burg.”
You get to meet people who are, in short, impressive, like my friends James, Taylor, and Tobi. These are smart people who are making it in the startup world (or the business world, or for that matter the arts world), and doing it their own way, much like these kids are imagining it would be if they moved out to the Valley or up to New York or over to Austin.
We’re showing them, not telling them, that they can make it here. Because we’re making it here. And in the open space of FullSteam with a diverse, gregarious, and warm crowd like the one at the Night Cap, it’s easy to figure out that you wouldn’t be missing out on much, from a lifestyle perspective, if you went after your fate and fortune here in the Bull City, or for that matter the Triangle.
Now, Let’s Get That on Tape
Back to Thursday, day 1 of Paradoxos, which began fittingly enough with The Startup Factory’s Spring 2013 Pitch Day at Carolina Theatre. Since I was skipping the office and heading straight to Pitch Day from home, I wound up getting there a little early and went inside to see if anyone else had shown up.
Turns out a few people did, and one of the first I ran into was Taylor, who answered my “what’s up, dude” with not the expected “what’s up” – but with an out-of-nowhere: “Can I shoot some video of you?”
Now, normally, I would respond to this with something like “I’d rather stab myself in the eyeball.” This is why there are exactly four pictures of me floating around the Internet. I have a sixth sense for cameras, and the uncanny ability to dodge them. Reverse photobomb.
But Taylor is such a nice guy and a huge supporter of ExitEvent. You don’t say no when he asks for something. So within a few seconds, I was miked up and sitting on an antique red couch in the lobby of the Theatre, answering questions about the Durham scene, Automated Insights, The Startup Factory, and ExitEvent.
As I de-miked, I finally realized I should probably ask Taylor what this was for. I’ve been down that road, if you know what I mean. His response was just short of awesome – it’s a compilation video of anything and everything that’s going on in Durham. When completed, it will be edited into a series of clips that anyone can use to promote Durham, the startup scene, the culture, an event, whatever.
If you were around Paradoxos, you probably saw this couch, which reappeared in the lobby for the Next, where TSF’s Heivly was among the interviewees, and found its way to FullSteam for Night Cap, where I saw Adzerk’s Avery, who is a world-class talker, speaking truth.
The red couch was one element of Paradoxos that had an eye on the future, helping make sure that people can keep this mix of tech, arts, food, beer, and everything else Durham has to offer in mind until the next one. And even though this event was solid, I think the next one will be better, so much so that I think they should plan it for the winter instead of next summer. After all, this is Durham, and it’s our event.
Editor’s note: Joe Procopio is a serial entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. He is VP of Product at Automated Insights and the founder of startup network and news resource ExitEvent. Follow him at @jproco or read him at http://joeprocopio.com