As I was walking back from the beer table at Tech Jobs Under the Big Top last night with my second (and final) Top of the Hill Old Well White, replacing the one a Durham police officer had inadvertently knocked off the small table it had been haphazardly placed on (and we had a good laugh, he couldn't have been nicer about it), I decided to hang out at the entry to the event tent and hawk name tags of candidates as they walked in.
Within seconds, a guy walked up with "Data Scientist" on his name tag. I stopped him, introduced myself, and said I'd love to talk to him for a second. He looked at my Automated Insights T-shirt and said, "Cool. I'm here to talk to you anyway."
After about a minute of conversation, I said, "Look, I'll bring you in for an interview tomorrow if you can make it."
And with that, our money was more than well spent.
By 5:15 p.m. (for a 5:30 event), the line to get into Tech Jobs snaked down one block of downtown Durham's Corcoran street and spilled over into a second block. Other folks from Automated took to strolling down the sidewalk, starting conversations with job-seekers as they waited for the event to begin.
What's more is we weren't the only company doing that.
Tech Jobs, as promised, was an aggressive hunt and strong pitch to get about 450 of the Triangle's talent to be interested in working for the 11 startups who paid to present ourselves and our collective hundreds of open positions to them. --Read On
The most difficult thing about hosting a great event is that you have to up the ante and keep it fresh every time out. I've made no bones about Tech Jobs Under the Big Top being my favorite local startup event, and it continues to raise the bar in both value and straight-up fun.
And you have to have fun. Otherwise you might just as well go work at IBM.
I've attended every single Big Top since the first, when people still thought it was somewhat crazy to have companies pitch themselves to prospective job seekers in a circus-type atmosphere. And when I say "circus," I mean jugglers-clowns-acrobats-hotdog-peanuts-everything-but-elephants circus, not stand-in-line-for-an-hour-to-have-some-HR-rep-shuffle-me-into-the-ERP-system circus.
An important distinction.
I'll be there April 9th for the spring 2014 version of Big Top, repping Automated Insights as we pitch our open positions. We'll be one of about a dozen startups who will take the stage to promote ourselves to the talent of the Triangle, hoping one or more of you will join our team.
And for the record, I'm not and never have been an HR rep. If you talk to me about joining my team, you'll be talking to me about joining my team, as in we'll work together.
I could reiterate the unique and clever ways Big Top turns a soul-sucking job search into a spirit-lifting celebration of the unsung talent here in the Triangle. I could tell you that it's outdoors this year in downtown Durham, under a real tent which will hold over 450 participants, and it's the kick-off event of the three-day-long Paradoxos, itself a celebration of Triangle startup and culture. I could tell you that every Big Top has sold out.
But when I talk about how Tech Jobs Under the Big Top continually improves upon itself, the tack I'm going to go take is a little out of left field.
Or rather, right field.
You're looking at the view from the Automated Insights offices -- we'll be moving in at the end of April. Not only is this a shameless plug to get you to work for us (Ruby developers and data scientists, seriously, hit me up at jproco.com), but it makes two important points about the improving quality of Big Top.
1) Working at a Triangle startup is no longer a garage-shop proposition
The Triangle startup community has come a long way since that first Big Top. We've got incredible career offerings with solid, financially stable companies with bright prospects for big futures. Sure, we still talk about long hours and hard work, but now we're able to throw in fully-paid health plans, free lunches, and awesome views.
And it isn't just Automated Insights (seriously though, jproco.com, let's talk), Bronto, for one example, has a careers page that's busting at the seams as they grow past 150 people. --Read On
Monday night was the 29th(!) ExitEvent Startup Social, and by 5:45 p.m. on what turned out to be an fantastic evening, weather-wise, entrepreneurs and investors started trickling in to FullSteam brewery in downtown Durham.
A few were already there. For example, Craig Stone from Triangle Angel Partners had even taken the liberty of scheduling a couple meetings at FullSteam beforehand, and was chatting with Zenph's Kirk Owen (formerly of Merscom and Playdom as well), when I arrived.
It was Owen's first Social. He said it won't be his last.
FullSteam turned out to be a great location -- walking distance for about 20 independently-housed startups, not to mention all the folks from American Underground and AU @Main who were also within a short, pleasant walk. As has been the case with every venue thus far, everyone at FullSteam was incredibly nice and accommodating.
Local is part of the charm, so to speak. When I started ExitEvent, I made it a priority to integrate the event and the site with any willing local vendor, to any extent it made sense.
Thus, we still use Adzerk for ad-serving and Argyle Social for social media. For the first 20-or-so Startup Socials, we exclusively poured Mystery Brewing beer (before they could even sell it), and we're thinking of going to their Public House for April's Social. ExitEvent was a beta customer of BoostSuite, I got initial digital marketing help from MethodSavvy, and we just started using Contactology to eventually replace those all-text emails you get for Startup Social invites and the weekly newsletter.
That will be awesome, because that part of ExitEvent is some of my most horrible coding.
With the acquisition of ExitEvent behind me, and the transition not only going smoothly but already starting to pay dividends, I've gotten wrapped up in another mission. This isn't a startup, there's enough work at Automated Insights to keep me extremely busy for decades. This is a mission, something I'm passionate about making happen. --Read On