In just a few weeks, a busload of members (from students to founders) will take off for a weekend of skiing at Kicking Horse. Lauren, our resident ski expert and Community Manager, does a tonne of work in her free time coordinating all of the extra details that make a trip like this special.
You might be asking yourself "how on earth does a ski weekend in the mountains remotely support tech entrepreneurship and innovation?" Fair point, it might seem that some of the extras seem unnecessary - the coffee sessions, socials, Summer BBQs, t-shirts for toddlers or onesies for new babies, Christmas parties and pizza (so much pizza). These activities are vital for our startup community to thrive and grow. It's so much more than just bringing people together for networking.
Tech entrepreneurship is hard. Intense focus can drive your product forward quickly but it can also be incredibly isolating. The Jo Cox Commission issued a report in the UK about the crushing effects of loneliness and the pervasiveness of its hold in modern society. The study found that more than 9 million adults in the UK are either always or often lonely, and 35% of men feel lonely at least once a week.
We've all heard that standing is the new smoking. Well, loneliness might as well be the new sitting. Moya Sarner, writing for The Guardian, shares "scientists are learning more and more about the damage chronic loneliness does to our bodies: it is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, as dangerous as obesity, and increases the likelihood of an early death by 26%. But what we don’t hear much about is what happens to the people who recover. Is loneliness a life sentence, or is it possible for some to break through it and come out the other side?"
Coworking and events where the focus isn't on work or your hustle are important weapons in the battle against loneliness. Shared experience plus a friendly environment go along way to connecting with others in a way that feels purposeful, not transactional.
As a founder, knowing there are other people nearby who know exactly what you're going through can be comforting. As a struggling junior developer on a high-performance team, the pressure to deliver can feel crushing & being able to give your brain a break over ping-pong can be just what you need to get back to work.
Our job here at Startup Edmonton is to be of service to the community as they build tech products and companies. Most of our work is in programs and mentorship, working with students and helping companies recruit and retain top talent, operating an awesome coworking space, and facilitating a massive community of meetups (shout out to all the volunteers that make them possible!)
But that's not all we do. We have the privilege of hearing the good news and bad news from our members' lives, whether it's a big raise for the company or an ailing parent. We like to think that we know the difference between a member having a bad day and a member having a lot of hard days and having the confidence to ask if we can help.
All of the extras aren't really extras at all. They are the foundation for making sure that our community is healthy, sustainable and poised for growth.
We don't get it right all the time. We push members to build faster and with more risk. Sometimes we don't know what to do to help a community member or how to reach out. We're lucky to have a community to support our efforts but also to turn to when we need them, and we couldn't be more grateful.
So, we'll see you soon on the slopes, or at coffee, Hack Day, DemoCamp, Students Work @ Startup Day or a meetup! We can't wait to meet you.