Today’s post is not like any of the previous ones. I believe it is better to mix and jinx your style from time to time. Don’t you agree? Today’s post is about being local: local communities and local entrepreneurship. It’s something related to these three letters: O, C, D and the entrepreneurial OCD, too. And it opens up the first post under Friday Entrepreneur category.
Today’s Points of Discussion Are:
– The Meaning Behind the Entrepreneurial OCD
– Why Entrepreneurship Means Sometimes Being Autistic and Obsessive-Complusive in Business
– Entrepreneurship Done in Local Communities
– How Local Communities Work and the System Behind It
– Presenting OpenConnect, Local Community of Entrepreneurs in Bucharest and Why I LOVE IT
– The Right Way of Offering Value to a Community
– Mentoring a Community: How You Should Do It the Right Way
– The Organic and Human Factors in Local Communities: How Far Can It Go?
– 10 Steps to Build a Strong Community both Offline and Online
Opinions are my own. This is not a sponsored or paid post, and this is not advertising. IT’s simply sharing my experience with local communities in the past year.
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The Meaning Behind the Entrepreneurial OCD
In common terms, OCD stands for “obsessive compulsive disorder”, right? A disorder of brain and behavior, causing anxiety, involving obsession and compulsion, and generating internal reasoning or lack of it that might get in the way of important activities a person values. Here’s how some Psychologists describe it (I found this example here and it made me smile and relate to it):
Your mind gets stuck on a certain thought, a certain image or action or even object. Then the thing you got stuck on is being replayed over in your mind over and over again, no matter what you did.
I find it similar to a song that grabs your attention in such a way, that you “rape the replay button” over and over again, it’s like you can’t get enough of it, no matter what you do. It is similar to a person or book or author or sentence that has such an impact upon you, you just can’t get over it and move on.
It’s just that we’re people who are sort of excluded from society, too. We aren’t mediocre, so we don’t necessarily fit in, we’re constantly trying to push our limits, to lean over our boundaries and exceed them. We’re different, too. So don’t worry, it’s okay to be different. You don’t need every single person to get your world, you just need a couple of folks to accept you as you are.)
As an entrepreneur, your mind gets stuck on ideas on how to improve the world: we all dream that our voices, our products and our actions will improve not only our own beings, but also the other beings out there. You don’t become an entrepreneur for yourself only, you do it in order to stand out from the crowd and make yourself heard by the appropriate audience. And in the process, you convert some of the audience who didn’t believe in you at first, but had a change of heart when hit with your enthusiasm, your knowledge and your results. BUT in order to get there, you are sort of OCD-ed: you are obsessive, you are compulsive, your anxieties are the fuel to your Idea engine: the brain.
How a Local Community Works and the System Behind It
I’ll share with you what is OpenConnect, a local community of entrepreneurs, freelancers, business angels and investors who meet every Thursday, in a Starbucks cafe, at 10am in the morning, in Bucharest, for two-three hours.
OpenConnect meetups were initiated by Dragos Roua in the Fall of 2012. I joined the community in March, 2013 – it was the first time ever meeting Dragos and this organic community. Dragos is a very dear friend of mine and an inspiration. He’s also my tango teacher and he somehow connected me to my current circle of friends. If it weren’t for his idea to start inviting people to Starbucks, then to form the OpenConnect meet-ups, then to be so open in accepting anyone in the community, I’d probably be now a less rich person in terms of personal interaction. He wrote a couple of posts on his personal blog about OpenConnect, posts you should totally read to better understand the concept behind the meetings.
In a Nutshell…
- This is where we gather to fill ourselves with positive energy, to exchange ideas, to “brag” about what we believe will be the next business to change the world.
- This is where we “ice-break” each other in 30seconds, presenting ourselves, telling everyone who we are and what we do, why are we there and what’s our plan/plans.
- This is where each week, 4 people do an Elevator-pitch (1minute) to present their business ideas, projects, workshops, conferences, events, themselves – anything pertaining the interest of the community.
- This is where after each pitch, an audience of 60-70 people (on average) is impacted with the information briefly presented. It’s a great exercise to be even more efficient than the “140 Twitter characters message” in the real world. The pitcher would then be asked questions by people in the audience.
- This is where on average, pitchers get to answer between 5-to-10 questions, the rest being asked in private during networking session.
- This is where pitches are voted and the winner gets a 15minutes interview, live broadcasted. As it is the entire event.
- This is where this things happen for free and you don’t have to pay USD $400/hr for an “expert” to listen to your elevator-pitch and tell you the Do’s and Don’ts, because a Public Speaking Expert will tell you briefly, free of charge, how you should pitch your business idea in front of an audience.
- This is where Claudiu Gedo, the Gamification Master will apply gamification techniques to your pitch and if you fulfill certain steps, he’ll award you with a book – mostly related to your pitch. An e.g.: let’s say your pitch is an event you’re planning on organizing, related to Financial Entrepreneurship or how to handle your finances as a Startup (generic example), then Claudiu will offer you a book, mostly prose, universal literature, not “business books”, called “Other People’s Money” (nothing related to the movie, but pun intended in some way). How cool is that?!
- This is where you get a free Mentoring session. The Mentoring session has a minimum time of 8-10minutes on average, where an expert mentors the audience on a topic of community interest. You might get even 20-30 minutes in some cases.
- This is where everyone’s Networking during the Networking session, interacting, hugging each other, sharing (briefly) their enthusiasm, answering or asking more questions.
The OpenConnect community is an Open Community. We have foreigners and Romanians (local entrepreneurs, local wannabe’s)as community members. We sometimes do these meetings in English, but most of the time they’re in Romanian.
Expert and the Community: Why Thursdays are my OCD
My Entrepreneurial OCD is related to what I wrote so far in this post. And perhaps even more. My own OCD contains the same letters: OpenConnect Day.
Thursday is that day of the week where I wake up earlier than usual, skip my breakfast, skip my English Breakfast tea and head straight to this Starbucks located 15minutes away (by foot), rush into the cafe, smile to the waiters, because they already know I want a Tall Late and a bottle of still water, then take the stairs to the first floor (yeah, it’s that sort of Starbucks). And then, I’m here: in this community, in this open space that’s ours alone for two straight hours.
I’ve joined them in early March, 2013. That’s an entire year. Since then, I never missed more than 10 editions, I participated in one Bootcamp for three days where we connected, shared insights, held workshops. My Workshop was related to Data Analysis and Internet Marketing, of course: white hat SEO approach, present and future trends, Semantic web search query, Statistics, case studies and more. I have also held 3 Mentoring sessions:
- My First Mentoring was related to SEO and Link Building, explaining how ranking is done Internationally, on Google.com in comparison to local ranking on subdomains such as Google.ro. My audience had almost no technical knowledge in terms of SEO, search algorithms, data analysis, web search queries, website seo architecture and so on. It was based on 6+ years of hands-on experience in International Marketing. Hehe.
- My second Mentoring took place in the Fall and it was related to using webinars as a Marketing&Sales strategy. It was based on 2+ years of organizing monthly webinars, for both business and my role as Elance Ambassador here in Bucharest. I’ll share with you a the tips and tricks I shared during that Mentoring in a future article. Until then, here are some of my tips mentioned on the GetvoIP blog (a wonderful surprise, btw): GetvoIP.com/Webinar Tips from Experts.
- My 3rd Mentoring was Yesterday, on how to use GooglePlus for your Businesses: an audience reluctant to “yet another social media platform”, an audience that was eager to find out how to generate sales and leads, but who knew Romanians don’t actively engage on Google+ much. That’s because they don’t understand the platform yet.
But I nailed it: I grabbed their attention, I was so relaxed, I looked everyone boldly in the eye, I was confident and I shared what I thought it was best to make them start using it. I talked about communities on Google+ such as PlusYourBusiness, about Hangouts on Air, about Plus Post Ads, about Authorship, User demographic data, Stats and everything I considered useful. I correlated the talk with Google Tag Manager and Universal Analytics, to level up their game.
A curious entrepreneur or freelancer is what you want your outcome to be after your mentoring session. You’re not mentoring for money or for generating Leads. You’re mentoring because you can. Because there’s knowledge that needs to be shared. Because it’s the most direct engaging way to train and teach an audience. Because this is how you can show your support towards a community of Entrepreneurs and towards Human Potential and Excellency.
Thursday is my OpenConnect day. Thursday is my OCD. This is where some businesses are born, others are torn apart with honest constructive feedback, others restart or sky rocket. It’s the best way to show your support to these people who try. And that’s what makes them special: they try. Some succeed, some fail. But it’s not about success or failure anymore, it’s about people giving themselves a chance, finding and attracting opportunities towards their business idea.
The Organic and Human Factors in Local Communities
Richard Millington wrote an interesting article on Moz blog recently, called The Holy Grail Of Building Communities: Developing A Strong Sense of Community. While I do agree with most of his statements, I believe his expertise and points are more oriented to the type of online communities where you attract online people. While the case with Local communities is all about human factors and organic growth. Check out the 10 Steps to Build a Successful Engaging Community. Below!
The 10 Steps to Build a Successful Community Both Offline and Online
And the “winners” are:
1. Build Offline communities through Social Media (Facebook groups, Google+ communities), blogs and word of mouth. No money invested, just time investments.
2. Attract people onsite by having a regular venue, regular schedule of meetings, regular meeting agenda. Give them some free coffee to stimulate the “non believers”, too.
3. Focus on social media group. For e.g., the OpenConnect Facebook group has over 3,700 members gathered in 1 year and 6 months.
4. Get influencers from other cities to join your meetings and organize regular meetings in their cities, too, based on your model. For e.g., right now there are weekly/by-monthly OpenConnect meetups in more than 5-6 cities across Romania. (:
5. Create a digital platform with a gamification process to maintain users’ interest in activating online. We have one for OpenConnect, as well.
6. Observe community behavior, collective personality features. Who does this? The Moderator, of course.
7. Live broadcast the event, so that those who stay at home receive at least the mentoring and -elevator pitch value. In time, it will transform them from passive participants to active participants, many joining the live events.
8. Communicate Core Values and stick to them. Such as “We comment ideas, not people”, we discuss and criticize business ideas, not the person behind the idea. The person is safe. We offer feedback, we don’t offer promises such as “join our community to generate sales”.
9. Bring together people with 30+, 20+, 10+ experience in Entrepreneurship, but do not shut the door to people who are still employees, students or barely have 1+month of experience. Embrace startups, individuals, freelancers, no matter the industry. There’s room for everyone, right?
10. Let the community grow organically, and once it’s there to stay, create a place for them: a co-working space. Presenting Connect Hub, probably the most quickly established Hub in history: an idea was suggested in February, the community supported it, investors were found, and now Connect Hub launches by the end of April, on the 24th, Thursday. Built upon community needs, for the community, with help and support inside the community. This is a picture of the Connect Hub in progress:
Should I just say that it takes some balls (*pardon my French) to constantly engage with people for the past 1year and a half, and to believe in a community, in networking and to make others understand that you’re not doing this for the money, but out of a need to share and connect? #justsaying
I’ll stop for now. This article is a follow-up based on the powerful emotions generated by Yesterday’s Mentoring success. The feedback was excellent. It made my day, even with 7-8 hours of traveling and fatigue, and with work afterwards. I fell asleep at 4am with a huge smile on my face.I woke up 6hours later and I thought to myself: I gotta write about this. And I DID!
- Local Entrepreneurship: The Ups, The Downs and Why You Should Try It
- How to Approach Local Communities: A Case Study
- How to Become an Authority and Position Yourself in the Community
- Core Community Values: Embracing and Making the Best of Them
- Pitching Your Business Ideas, Mentoring People, Teaching and Sharing in a Community at the “Cost” of a Smile
- To Where from Here: Resources, Ideas, Foundation of the Future
Until Next Time, remember to Subscribe to my Blog for cool reads, real life case studies and just bursts of optimism.