My first organized meetup was in October 2013. It was creatively titled “What’s New in Tech” with my partner Chris Hollenbeck at Granite Ventures. At the time, I had no idea what we were going to talk about or where the venue is going be at. So, nervously I posted the question on Founders & VCs page : “Any venue suggestion :)?” Surprisingly, somebody quickly responded and volunteered their work space! That was the first time I felt the magic of a community.
Ok, the venue was set. So was the starting time of 6pm. Around 5, I started walking up to Jackson Square from SOMA. I still remember the unsettling feeling of “what if nobody is going to show up — that’d be embarrassing!"
It was a chilling day October in San Francisco but it seemed to get warmer as I got close to the venue. There were couple of people who arrived early as well, chit chatting with each other — maybe a bit confused of how to get in, just as I was. Eventually, we figured it out. I was moving chairs around and putting pizza (of course!) on the table. And then more people showed up… 26 people to be exact. More people that I expected but it was a very intimate event. We chatted about tech (duh!), fundraising and shared some laughs over jokes about VCs.
It was A LOT OF FUN!
So we went on to have 18 more and the community grew from the initial 26 people to now 2800-member strong! Who’d have thought!
Thankfully, To make us look less crazy, many kind luminaries have joined the conversation --
We hosted David Hornik from August Capital to chat about the importance of finding a good VC partner; we talked with Ethereum Co-founder Gavin Wood when Bitcoin was not even a thing in the valley; Hans Tung from GGV Capital shared his VC journey with us and encouraged many companies to go global; Rotten Tomatoes’ co-founder Patrick Lee told the untold story of the early days of the company and its ultimate exit; Mayfield’s Tim Chang showed how VR could be an “empathy machine” and how founders can take advantage of a new tech platform.
There are simply too many who I need to be thankful for.
Many oversea founders told me that the event gave them an first hand experience of what Silicon Valley was like on a true community level. Many founders appreciated the platform where they could socialize and mingle with other VC investors informally instead of simply pitching to them.
At the core of Silicon Valley where I live, it’s about being nice to each other (for no reasons); it’s about building relationships; and it’s about giving rather than taking.
In truth, I’m the one who have benefited the most. I’ve got a chance to work with my volunteer co-hosts Cris Miranda, Kim Pham and Donna Zhou, who had attended a community event once and then decided to help out the community generously and unconditionally. Along the journey, I have also been fortunate to meet with founders from all over the world. Sometimes, I even got to see startups and partnerships been formed because of our events. Heck, I even sourced good investment from the community!
In a blink of an eye, it has been almost 5 years. So where do we go from here?
In short, I’d like to continue the conversation. But in a larger scale way. I’m starting my own website called www.amisfit.vc (that’s me!) where I will blog regularly and host “fireside chat” podcasts with highly respected founders and VCs. To that end, I will turn off the meetup group on meetup.com shortly.
As for offline meetups, I am not ready to let it go yet. But interestingly, I want to scale it down — in a way that’s more intimate, more of a safe place to share the dos and donts in startups and venture. The meetup will be on a invite-only basis, prioritizing more involved members in the amisfit.vc community.
As always, feel free to say hi. And don’t be a stranger! :)
Onwards and upwards.