Network Schmetwork

We attended the TechVibes event the other night at Urban Well. This event is put on by the same crew that puts on the GeekRave events, and is designed to take over where Ideas On Tap left off when IdeaPark imploded. All in all, it was a pretty good event, although the “elevator pitch” competition sucked as usual.

For those unfamiliar with the concept: the idea of an elevator pitch competition is to imagine you step into an elevator only to be faced with the venture capitalist of your dreams. You’ve got thirty to sixty seconds to sell him on your idea during the elevator ride. Go!

Now, you’d think people would probably plan to be able to highlight, at a high level, the market opportunity they’ve identified, the technology they’ve developed to address the opportunity, and the barriers they’ve put in place to prevent others from duplicating their efforts. But do they? Of course not. They talk about who they are, and deliver something akin to a speech delivered by a high school presidential candidate. We’re number one! We’re number one!

Unfortunately, none of the contestants are actually involved in innovative businesses and, that said, don’t really have anything that interesting to offer to begin with. The candidates this time: a local computer store, a business plan preparation service, a cell phone store, and some other equally forgettable characters. When did these things turn into social events for recruiters and secretaries? Where are the real innovators?

Well, to be honest, they’re probably not at this event. People at TechVibes remind me of the guy in Singles that goes to a club to collect phones numbers to fill his new digital watch. People at these drink’n’network events seem to be part of some weird cult obsessed with collecting business cards, rather than trying to build innovative businesses. What do you do with all those cards? Build a small fort?

If you’re really looking to meet interesting people, check out other events like the Vancouver Enterprise Forum networking events, or discussion groups like Fast Company‘s Company of Friends. This is where you’ll find the real innovators trying to build real relationships, which, as pointed out by Mike Volker, will beat out “networking” any day. If you can’t call someone and have them remember you, don’t bother taking their card. Just sit back, enjoy the cheap drinks and stop fooling yourself.

New Ventures BC

Those of you with aspirations of entrepreneurial glory might be interested in the business plan competition underway over at New Ventures BC. The competition is one of the largest business plan competitions in North America, based on the $120,000 worth of prizes up for grabs. Registration costs $25, and the deadline for registering your idea for the first round of the competition is April 15th.

Though I was interested in entering the competition this year, I haven’t really got an idea that I’m happy with. I also wouldn’t really feel good about entering the competition, given that I don’t really plan to start a business right now. I know I’m going to be pretty busy for the next year now that I’ve accepted UBC’s offer of admission to their MBA program. Sure, I probably wouldn’t win, but if I did, I think it would be pretty slimy to take the money and run.

That said, the New Ventures BC competition is offering a number of free seminars on various aspects of starting a new business venture. The seminars are designed to help those who are registered for business plan competition, but are open to anyone that registers to attend the seminars ahead of time. I attended the first seminar, “Managing Intellectual Property”, last Thursday. Two hours with two patent lawyers that probably would be worth a couple thousand bucks if you actually had to pay for their time. Anyone interested in business would be stupid not to take advantage of this learning opportunity.

Then again, maybe spending your Thursday night with lawyers isn’t your idea of a good time.