Last night I had the privilege of being part of the first Pitch Crawl, sponsored by the ever-so-fabulous Tracy Lee. Pitch Crawl is Tracy’s most recent adventure in the world of bringing people together. The Pitch Crawl format allowed twelve investors to listen to pitches by entrepreneurs over three minute rounds. There were possibly 75 or more people and the interaction was literally buzzing. Ideas were being spat out and demos flying on mobile phones and tablets. Puzzled faces, intrigued faces, and smiles were the responses of the investors.
Tracy Lee is also the founder of Dish Crawl, a wonderful food adventure where people collect and experience various tastings provided by local restaurants and chefs in a quasi flash mob fashion. I have also attended several of the Dish Crawl adventures and have enjoyed each one. Not only did I enjoy the wonderful food, but also the chance to meet new people while walking between food spots. If you haven’t experienced Dish Crawl, check it out and join us next time!
Last night was Pitch Crawl and the concept was to bring together people with ideas and people with money and see what happens. At the same time, having the opportunity to see new spaces in downtown San Jose and enjoying more great food offered by Tracy’s food partners. We first began at the San Jose Tech Shop. From the outside, I thought this was simply a bunch of work benches where people could come and tinker with their toys. However, the tour showed me so much more. They offer classes, they offer computers that you can design and print posters, wood working equipment, plastic mold injectors, CAD conversion systems, a machine shop, and even an area to pull out a motor of a car! If you haven’t had a chance to see this space, stop by and take a tour. There is no doubt one day you will be reading how the next great thing was started on one of these benches.
Next, we visited Next Space a collaborative work space located at the corner of 2nd and San Fernando Avenue. Gretchen Baisa, hostess for the evening and Next Space member explained how Next Space worked with open space, private offices, and conference rooms available to members. Fees vary for space needed and the concept and tag line is simply, “Working alone sucks”. The concept provides a professional space with utilities, internet, etc and a group of entrepreneurs, free-lancers, consultants with a variety of experiences which creates an environment of support, networking, and a potential referral source. The membership is growing rapidly and as a member you also have access to other Next Space spaces in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and anywhere else a Next Space location is present.
Onward to the Irish Innovation Center on Santa Clara Street. Another incredible space where connecting businesses in an open work space is blossoming. How can you argue with Gigabytes and Guinness, the name of the networking event held routinely at the center? You can rent a desk, cube, office, or conference room. Rates are reasonable and also provide you access to funding, legal, and human resource support. This is an idea past due for the brilliant minds of Silicon Valley.
If you haven’t been downtown lately, check it out. Not just the Christmas Park or the Shark Tank but the restaurants like Morroco’s and Vino Vino, visit San Pedro Square Market and the entrepreneurial spots like The Tech Shop, Next Space, and the Irish Innovation Center. Visit the San Jose Museum of Art, take a moment to sit in the pews of Saint Joseph Cathedral where Pope John Paul II is quoted, “Every city needs a soul if it is to become a home for human beings.” , walk around the campus of San Jose State and enjoy a cup of coffee at Philz coffee shop. Tour the high rises; The 88 (my favorite), Axis, City Heights, and then visit the Martin Luther King Library and ponder what you have seen.
Walking back to my car last night, I thought about downtown San Jose and how I have watched it grow. In spite of these strange economic times, there is a palpable energy pushing up from the sidewalks, busting out of the corporate cubes; a force that is clearly determined to succeed. Much like our small orchard valley history, this new generation believes in hard work and an attitude to change the world. There are so many brilliant, beautiful people attracted to our valley, to our downtown, and San Jose is reaching out with open arms to provide them space. Welcome.