The Ultimate Guide to Preventing Startup Loneliness

Startup life can be lonely: ordering single double shot flat whites from your local bearded barista,  tinkering away on your Macbook, building “the next big thing”. But it really does not have to be lonely. And to be honest it really shouldn’t be lonely. Today I am having a look at Cape Town’s startup ecosystem and how best to prevent startup loneliness in Cape Town.

When I first decided to join Cliquidity in early 2013 I knew very little about what it meant to be involved in a startup. All I knew was that I would get to work from home – and to be honest, that was all I needed to know (or so I thought).

You see, the thing is, no one ever tells you just how lonely startups can be. Without the morning coffees, water cooler talk, scheduled lunch breaks in the canteen and mid-afternoon sunning breaks (yes we did that at my previous job), the day quickly becomes a long uninterrupted silence. You have a million tabs open in your browser, including Facebook (no longer blocked by an employer) but not much is going on because everyone else is at work (on computers that have Facebook blocked). But you reassure yourself that you don’t really want work friends anyway.

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The Ultimate Guide to Preventing Startup Loneliness

I was lucky enough to be exposed to the benefits of the startup community early on by being part of the Net Prophet Startup Workshop in 2013, where I got to meet the founders of 9 other startups. We all kept in touch, meet up every now and then, attend startup events together and even started our very own SA Startup Support Group on Facebook. It is really great to have people who understand what you are going through and who can give you honest, uncensored opinions when needed. So here are some of my tips for making your very own startup friends.

Join the Silicon Cape Initiative

I freaking love Cape Town. I know I have said it a million times (on this blog and to anyone willing to listen) but it is really just such a cool city. And one of my favourite things about Cape Town is its ambition to become the Silicon Valley of Africa – hence Silicon Cape (in my mind this means we will soon have super fast internet and will no longer need to be throttled all the freaking time).

silicon-cape

The Silicon Cape Initiative was started in 2009 by Vinny Lingham and Justin Stanford with the aim “to improve the environment in the Western Cape to create more and better startups as well as increase access to capital”. Now with more than 8 500 registered members, this is a great place to find out about startup/ tech events, to join important discussions in the space and to source talent.

Add your startup to Mapped In Cape Town

So I guess you are thinking, “Sure, saying Cape Town will be the Silicon Valley of Africa is easier said than done”. Then I challenge you to have a look at this:

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I discovered Mapped In Cape Town the other day and love the idea. Basically it is a visual snapshot of the Cape Town startup ecosystem. You can easily filter for various stakeholders including companies, co-working spaces, services, community, investors and (my favourite) wi-fi hotspots.

But why does it matter, you ask? Because networks matter. I absolutely love this quote from a recent blog post Sam Altman (of Y Combinator) wrote:

The natural state of a start-up is to die; most start-ups require multiple miracles in their early days to escape this fate. But the density and breadth of the Silicon Valley network does sometimes let start-ups cheat death.

And the best part about Mapped In Cape Town is that you can list your startup absolutely free. And it is as simple as completing the short form below:

mappedinct-add-your-company

Attend Startup Events

Chatting to friends who work 9-to-5 jobs in corporates about your startup yields a unique mixture of resentment and pity. Resentment because anyone who has ever worked a 9-to-5 spends a fair amount of time dreaming about quitting. And pity because anyone who has ever started a startup spends a fair amount of time counting coins out. Eventually you realise that having startup friends will just be so much less awkward.

Some of my favourites on the calendar are:

Startup Grind (Monthly)

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Startup Grind Cape Town hosts monthly events for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, offering an hour of networking (with delicious snacks) and an hour fireside chat with a prominent entrepreneur followed by Q&A. This year I attended chats with Elan Lohmann from SleekGeek, Andrea Boehmert from Knife Capital and Rob Stokes from Quirk. (Quite a few of the chats were filmed too – so if you did not manage to make it to the events check out the website). These events are a great place to get inspired and to meet like-minded entrepreneurs.

Net Prophet (Annual in May)

Net-Prophet

Net Prophet is probably the best attended annual startup event in Cape Town (usually taking place in May). The big pull is the headline speakers the event organisers usually get together, even including a little video call with none other than Julian Assange this year. Along with the day-long conference the event usually also hosts a startup workshop called SparkUp – which is definitely worth applying to attend for startups new to the space.

Simodisa Startup South Africa (Annual)

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I attended the inaugural Simodisa Startup South Africa event in October this year. It is great that government and big business are also coming to the startup party. Angled away from pure “Startup Inspiration”, the panel discussions focussed on the economic and legislative aspects of the startup ecosystem in SA and how this ecosystem can work to support and nurture a spirit of entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Lean Startup Machine (Based on Demand)

lean-startup-machine

Lean Startup Machine is intensive three-day workshop which teaches entrepreneurs and innovators how to build disruptive products by taking them through the lean methodology from product pitch to MVP to validation and pivots. I missed the first workshop earlier this year but will be attending the next one in February 2015.

Work from a Co-working Space

My introduction to this blog post might have created the impression that I like to work from coffee shops – I don’t. I find coffee shops too loud, the free wi-fi too slow and the croissants too tempting. Coffee shops are good for one thing though – coffee. Things that go well with coffee include: breakfast, meetings and procrastination. For everything else I recommend working from a co-working space.

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Luckily Cape Town has loads of co-working options. I wrote a piece on some of my favourites a while ago (you can find that post here). For the lazy ones amongst us, you could also use Mapped In Cape Town to track down the nearest co-working space:

mappedinct-coworking-spaces

Your favourites

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I would love to hear from you: What are your favourite tips when it comes to make new startup friends? How do you prevent startup loneliness? Have you signed up to Mapped In Cape Town and what do you think? What are your favourite startup events and co-working spaces?