I posted the other day about holding an “open office hours” session at AlphaLab, and that happened yesterday and was a great success. I met with three local Pittsburgh entrepreneurs, two of whom I had met but not spent any significant time with, and one whom I had never met before. The interaction was great, and I think 20 minutes really gave us a chance to meet and get to know one another, and for us to dig into at least one meaty problem/issue/question in enough detail to make a difference.
In one session we talked about product direction, pricing models, and the competitive landscape; we talked about philosophy of how to build a product and get feedback from your market. We talked about how to build faster, something that I have been thinking alot about lately and I am going to post on tomorrow.
Another session was much more free flowing – we philosophized about what was right and what was wrong with the Pittsburgh ecosystem. We both agreed that the broad and somewhat murky culprit of “culture” was our number one problem. All of us involved in this industry in Pittsburgh have our work cut out for us to keep pushing our region to be a receptive home for entrepreneurship in all ways we can. If we are more receptive, we can keep more of the entrepreneurs we have and attract others from outside, too. I know of great founders in Pittsburgh who fit both of those categories of inside/outside, and we need to gain a critical mass of more of them to really boost our local ecosystem.
Another session was about strategy – and we talked about how being a platform for information was often much better than having a specific tightly-targeted product, but sometimes you had to build that product just to seed the market and justify your existence as the broader platform. We discussed RunKeeper as the model here; they started out with a paid app pointed at tracking running, and opened up to become more of a platform with a free app generalized to track a broader set of exercise/activity data for the “quantified self“.
I am always amazed at how much bigger our local Pittsburgh entrepreneurial ecosystem is than I imagine in my head. There are all kinds of great people out there working on amazing things. Like I said in a post the other day, I give thanks daily for you entrepreneurs; you people are the ones who are really doing the hard work in our industry, and you give me a job to come to every day.
It was such a success that I decided to schedule more for a couple weeks out – you can find them here. Same format, same venue, hopefully same results. I made a note that I am happy to take calls over the phone since some people are not Pittsburgh based. I will give first priority to people who want to meet face to face, but if I get enough notes and requests, perhaps I can arrange a phone-in-only session as well.
I hope to meet with and talk with more of you soon.
- Open Office Hours (pittsburghventures.com)