It’s the conversations that make the community

Startup Village in entering into its third year. Its been a very interesting journey in all respects for everyone who has been involved in this journey in some manner or the other. From the humble beginnings in 2012 when the whole concept was pretty much a collection of words on few sheets of paper to an organisation that is now regarded as one of the top 10 startup destinations in the country; from a dream to create 1000 product startups to an aspiration of building one of the finest product startup ecosystems in the world, we have surely come a long way in this relatively short span of 2 years!

We have had a lot of memories and key moments all along. Its not been a perfect story all along and it probably will never be. And that’s fine. What has been heartening is the overwhelming support that kept pouring in from all quarters; the government, media, educational institutions, entrepreneurs, influencers from across the spectrum etc. What has remained the biggest achievement to me is the role Startup Village played in bringing about or even triggering a change in mindset.

One such instance, which is a manifestation of such a social change, happened yesterday. Well, lets make it two. One was a startup job fair, a first of its kind for the state for sure and probably even a first of its kind for the country as well. The inauguration of the job fair, one that was being organised by one of our startups and of which many of the participants also happen to be Startup Village startups, happened yesterday at one of the reputed MBA colleges in the state in the presence of the Labour Minister. From the days when people wanted to work only in big name companies and in Technopark’s and InfoPark’s of the world to this interest and acceptance of startup opportunities is quite a leap.

Bagyourjob – Startup Job fair inauguration event at SCMS

Another lament that belongs to the spectrum of social challenges facing startup founders being that they found it difficult to get married. Well, following the inauguration, we also happened to have the bachelors party of one of our entrepreneurs yesterday. Interesting trivia being that, the bride-to-be happened to be one of the interns at the startup that is the organiser of the startup job fair!

Well, aside of that fact that all of us are trying to achieve our goals and targets and all, its always the lighter moments that serves as the social glue and the intrinsic motivation to keep moving forward. Its these small stories that fosters the conversations; and its these conversations that foster the community. And these stories, the most memorable ones, are almost never about that investor pitch you nailed but the one that you royally screwed. And all entrepreneurs will who has ever attempted to raise capital, will have a story of how they crashed and burned at their pitch. Some happy, some painful, but its always the not so perfect story that remains etched in memory.

Ive also had my share of interesting and humbling moments at Startup Village; instances that still command few rounds of laughter at any “spirited” gathering. One of the advantages of being part of a startup ecosystem, and something that I absolutely make use of, is the flexibility you have in deciding your attire. Walk into Startup Village any day, and you will find our founders loitering around and hacking away in their shorts, jeans and casual t-shirts. I also resort to wearing t-shirts on most occasions and almost always when I’m invited to speaking engagements at colleges; its convenient and also because I can perhaps. And almost on all occasions, some one in the audience will end up commenting how fortunate it is to have a job in which you can wear casual’s all the time. At yesterday’s job fair inaugural function also, the Minister Shibu Baby John ended up commenting about it during his talk. While it’s definitely a good thing to be positively acknowledged as a CEO who walks around in a t-shirt, the practice does have its own challenges as well. Walking around unassumingly can at times be truly humbling. And I can speak from experience.

The tshirt almost always attracts a comment

One such instance happened during our days at the 5k building at Startup Village. The room in which I used to sit happens to have a direct entry from the corridor and on a day in which I was working on something, someone knocked on the door enquiring where the office was. Not wanting to move out of the work mode, I duly pointed him in the direction of the office door and proceeded back to engage myself in my work without as much saying a word. It was only a few moments later when Gokul came over and provided be with a remark from the conversation he overhead this person was having with one of the other startups. “Aa reception-il irikkunna chekkanu bayangara jaadaya” – apparently he wasn’t quite happy with the manner in which the person sitting at the reception desk gave the directions to the office. Well, I wouldn’t blame him either And in another instance, during the weekend @ SV event, I was stopped by one of the kids who was volunteering for the event. “Engotta? Ivide aano work cheyyunne?” – I was thoroughly quizzed as to whether I worked at Startup Village before I was granted entry to the building by this dutiful lad! To this date, my colleagues at Startup Village take my case with these two instances at every “spirited” conversation that we have had subsequent to that.

The reception desk!

We are having our monthly community gathering today. And community gatherings are about us getting together and sharing our stories and engaging in conversations with each other. And in this occasion of commemorating our two years of existence, its probably only reasonable to assume that we will be recounting some of these stories over the past two years at today’s gathering. What really got us all to what we are today I’m sure are not the planned moves, but the manner in which all plans went haywire and we still somehow managed to bring it all together. And a community like Startup Village, as one can appreciate, will be littered with stories of that nature. It’s also said that the ability to laugh at yourself is something that you must always retain and nurture. At the end of the day, the things that don’t really matter are perhaps the only things that matter.

Nawas Meeran sharing his stories

And Subrato Bagchi is sharing his

And the customary post conversation picture

I look forward to listening and reliving some of these stories and sharing my fair share of stories as well. After all, its conversations like these that really is the heart of any community and by extension that of any community gathering. And we invite everyone who is interested to come join in on the conversations and the camaraderie. Give anyone of us a shout, or drop by for one of these gatherings. And as for todays gathering, it starts at 4pm in our 10k building at Startup Village.


About

Sijo Kuruvilla George is the Founding CEO of Startup Village, India’s first Public-Private-Partnership Technology Business Incubator.

At present, he is involved in initiatives and activities in the field of education and governance, and is working on creating environments that foster learning and collaboration.