Born and raised in Indiana, I’ve made my life and my living as a Hoosier. A fan of both my hometown and history, my home is punctuated with Indiana historical photos. Technology is not just my profession, but also my passion and purpose. But even though I love what I get to do every day, my enthusiasm reaches new heights every time I travel to California on business.
Just yesterday, as I was awaiting a flight to San Francisco, I couldn’t help but notice that the people around me seemed to feel that same sense of anticipation and excitement about what lie ahead. I was looking around at other soon-to-be passengers on my flight and I could sense they were either in the tech industry or affiliated with tech in some way. They were on their smartphones sending that one last email, or the guy tweaking a line of code to show his buddies his weekend’s work.
When I travel to San Francisco/Silicon Valley, I am overwhelmed with a sense of renewed optimism; with the right idea and execution, anything is possible. I can’t say for sure, but I have to assume it is the same feeling that compelled so many men and women to forge westward in the early to mid 1800’s risking everything, including their lives, in the pursuit of good fortune and happiness. I’m sure the good weather and scenery didn’t hurt, either. And while the journey westward is exciting in and of itself, it is what one does upon reaching the destination that matters.
The reason for my latest visit was to attend the Annual Small Business Web Summit, which draws 200 SaaS providers to talk about challenges and new ideas facing our industry. Some of the bigger names included SalesForce.com, Intuit and Google, but the vast majority were startups like SmartFile, vying to make their mark. The event was held in the EBay Town Hall located in San Jose, the epicenter for technology. Unlike other events that bring so many people together, the format is very organic and relies on audience participation. It is a great opportunity to get instant feedback on new ideas within minutes of striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. The environment is highly collaborative where people share lessons learned, problem solve, and are transparent in their conversations.
Don’t get me wrong; Indy’s tech sector has matured significantly over the past 15 years. Back then (ouch… that sounds scary), what we had wasn’t even called a “tech sector”. There were a few companies that made money providing technology services, but very few that made their money from technology products.
Even with all our progress, the one key ingredient Indy is still missing is openness: the belief that people’s ideas matter and collaboration works. This includes talking about your failures, things that keep you up at night, and if asked, your insight. It means talking to people in your industry, people you look up to, and if at all possible, your competition. Reach out to people you’re not around everyday, like a college student or a seasoned professional. If you’re in marketing, ask a programmer’s perspective about a campaign you’re about to roll-out.
It always feels good when you’re a part of the conversation and your input is acknowledged.
My take away is this: the more we share, the more we learn.
No matter what business we are in, we all encounter the same problems. And the sooner we come to together, the sooner we can all take our business to the next level.