Growing up, I always remember how my grandfather used to tell me: “You never know who you’re going to meet and what it could lead to.” That little anecdote of wisdom couldn’t hold truer when it comes to Startup Stay and the global community of entrepreneurs that it has built.
You have an idea of who you may be meeting, but until you actually sit down and start talking with them, it is still a world of connections and synergies that have yet to be discovered. And in the potentially isolated world of start-up-land, this is sacred oasis of like-minded people.
The day I met Matthew Barnett (British entrepreneur, coming from Sydney, Australia) he ventured out across the sea
to San Francisco to raise some capital for his startup, Vimily. We connected on Startup Stay and decided to meet
for a beer after work and talk about the bold and adventurous world of entrepreneurship, as well as the startups we were both working on. He liked my background in feel-good philanthropy and social enterprise, and I was
interested in hearing more about how his business went about capturing the life stories of loved ones.
Matt and his business partner, Katrin Seuss, have developed a tech platform that allows users to film interviews
of their family members retelling special moments and lessons learned from their life. The footage is then
directly uploaded from the user’s iPhone and put into a “living family tree” online to be shared with other family
members, allowing for collaboration and contribution from the whole family. Immediately, I was blown away
by the concept and saw how brilliantly they have designed this business (big thumbs up from the entrepreneur
in me). After diving in and sharing story after story about my own family members and retelling stories of
their childhood, when they fell in love, what was most important to them in life… I found myself wishing that I
would have had the opportunity to secure those stories, told in my grandfather’s voice, with his mannerisms,
so eventually my own children will also be able to relive his adventures and learn from his wisdom. Two beers
down and I had taken the proverbial “Vimily pill” and developed a great deal of respect and appreciation for this
life-story champion that sat beside me.
Business can indeed be a powerful catalyst for bringing about great changes within the social spectrum and can
often times, do more measurable benefit than many do-good counterparts within the NGO sector. By nature,
action and innovation is what propels any business forward, and as entrepreneurs we must recognize that we
have the audacious ability to change the world. The question is: Do we use these “powers” for good or… not?
While Vimily is busy safe-guarding family roots, my own startup, Farm from a Box, works to build “roots” in
the more edible form, with both being united in our overall aim to transform and empower. Farm from a Box,
co-founded with my business partner Scott Thompson, is a social enterprise designed to be an alternative to
traditional food aid, one that works to build resilience to the challenges of climate change and self-sufficiency
in vulnerable communities globally. Basically, we are working to mitigate the growing problems of hunger
and poverty by addressing some of the root causes of it, and help provide a tool for building the strength of communities, while lessening the dependency on food aid by quite literally providing them with all the necessary components needed for a sustainable small farm. We believe that by empowering women, localizing the food systems, and encouraging the transition from subsistence farming to a market economy, lasting and measurable change can happen.
In Matt, I had found a comrade; we were immediately bonded by our mutual missions to do well by doing
GOOD. He and I continued our “après-work beer” well into the next few days, talking about everything from capital raising and strategy, to communications and opening new markets. The energy was enlivening and having the ability to brainstorm and share ideas from each other’s experiences was brilliant!
After Matt returned to Australia, our collaboration deepened as I would dive in and assist him with
communications and he would help me with pitch strategies for investors.
Within a few weeks, I was on a plane bound for Sydney, where he rolled out his entire network of advisors and investors for me to meet with and expand the range of Farm from a Box. Those have proved to be instrumental relationships that continue through today- providing a wealth of experience and connections that have added incredible value to my business.
Aside from acting as dedicated ambassador for Vimily, I am working to set him up with my network within the Bay Area when he returns to San Francisco, now that the product has been launched.
Matt and I have taken quid-
pro-quo to a new level, and yet, I imagine the situation is not unique to us- but rather, is something that Startup Stay has carefully cultivated and encouraged through its community.
One seemingly random email in my inbox has snowballed into a connection that goes well beyond simple
business networking and evolved into a relationship that is rooted in friendship, mutual respect and support, strategic advice, good times, camping, surfing, snowboarding and … one rock-star boyfriend for me.
With that, I lift my after-work beer to Startup Stay and the wise words of my grandfather. Here’s to the community of change agents, innovators, and the entrepreneurs that trust and act on all of their wild ideas. You never know who you’re going to meet and what it could lead to.