by Jared Cate
All my prior experience being an entrepreneur has basically consisted of me writing down a quick and dirty plan, scraping together a little money, and making something happen without a lot of fanfare or excitement. This personal approach has been effective for my small scale projects and served me well as an operating partner for pre-existing, cookie-cutter businesses. However, our project with Vagrant Coffee mobile delivery is a newly derived model still in testing. The stakes are also very high as we have much more ambitious aspirations for this project than anything we’ve seen in this industry to date. It’s far more technology based and is designed to be completely disruptive and shake up everything in the specialty coffee industry and beyond. For those reasons, it has required us to be far more calculated with all of our decisions and to seek out experts with insights into areas beyond our reach. Beta City allowed us to do just that.
This annual event in Baltimore exists not only to support the startup lifestyle, but to celebrate it! Beta City connects and embraces leaders, innovators, and makers of all kinds. It serves to grow and connect this community of hustlers in order to encourage collaboration and support of each other’s initiatives and projects. This is what brought us to Beta City, and this is where I realized the importance of events like this. These are my key takeaways from this entrepreneurial driven event.
You can’t do it alone
An entire ecosystem exists within the startup community. We were in a room with people from wildly diverse industries, with widely different levels of expertise and backgrounds. We had conversations with app developers, bankers, investors, augmented reality programmers, and local government officials. Each was there within the same context of celebrating “startups”. We had a opportunity to showcase our skills by keeping everyone happy and caffeinated. This got us a ticket through the door and offered us a spotlight to be introduced and engage with this influential “startup” community. We constantly found ourselves in conversations with folks happy and eager to help us answer questions we had regarding their respective fields. This context freed us from having to explain why we were doing things differently or ever feeling the need to continually defend our disruptive, newly derived business model. People just got it. That was great and a breath of fresh air!
Community is important
It was an incredibly encouraging experience to be in a room with hundreds of other people that “get” building something from nothing and are genuinely excited for the projects you are working on. When this happens, you can’t help but get genuinely excited for their projects too. There is a comfort in knowing you aren’t the only crazy one trying to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before. Outside of a room like this, you’re constantly bombarded by a stream of negative feedback, and seamlessly never the helpful kind. It is so rejuvenating being with like-minded people who understand the challenges you face and encourage you to go after it, regardless how daunting they may be. It’s like recharging your batteries back to full capacity.
You feel so ready to get back at it and keep on hustling! Since this event, we have maintained meaningful relationships with many of the other hustlers we met and have now found ourselves intertwined with this wonderful and exciting community of startup professionals.
Feedback is imperative
Sometimes, you are working around the clock on your hustle because when you dive in, you are “all in.” This hustling attribute is what makes things happen, but it is also why we sometimes dive too deeply and miss solutions or opportunities right before our eyes.
We had so many conversations during Beta City where people immediately noticed an alternate solution we had not thought of, or even mentioned an unforeseen problem we had overlooked. It can be a little humbling to have someone envision a better way of doing your hustle and even more so, have a respected hustler tell you when you’re wrong. It’s key to be able to take that feedback, honestly evaluate it, and make those necessary changes. The small headache it may be causing you now is nothing compared to the massive migraine it could be sparing you from down the road. While we need to be audacious and supremely confident in the big vision of our hustle, a little humility goes a long way in making sure you are able to make changes when smarter people have insights you may not.
BetaCity was so good for so many more reasons beyond the food being simply amazing (big shout out and thanks ---). The atmosphere was so awesome and inviting. The team from Betamore, putting on the event, were the best hosts you could ask for. So, if you are on the fence about these types of entrepreneurial events, it’s time to get on-board! If you have a chance to come to next year’s Beta City event, please do. We’ll see you there!