Mesh Networking

In one of my last posts about networking in Indianapolis, Jeremy Houchens of Pro Media Publishing said, “Thanks for including the links to the local events!”, which when juxtaposed against a recent comment from Ashley Hardy of ANH Media about how, “You know all the networking events in Indianapolis”, and it made me wonder if I really had become a source for Indianapolis networking knowledge.

Jeremy, Ashley, and I are all business owners with loose affiliations and referral partners that allow us to sustain and grow without the burden of an employee/partnership relationship. This is more than just the gig economy‘s freelancers who are in the business of creating jobs for themselves. This is about building bigger companies with less employees. It’s The Startup of You without the Long Hallway. It’s Mesh Networking.

Now I know ‘mesh networking’ is already a term for interconnected devices who can communicate to use each other as nodes on a network, but that’s exactly what I’m suggesting these new types of solopreneur businesses are. The business owners are the ‘devices’ and through each other, they find work.

3 Ways you Know You’re a Mesh Networker

1. You’re a power connector – a power connector connects two people who didn’t previously know each other, thereby helping two people at once. Mesh networkers need to be power connectors in order to leverage their networking time.

2. You’re building a business, not a job for yourself – like Steven Covey, you begin with the end in mind and that end does not include you being in the employee corner of the Cash Flow Quadrant for long. Your end goal is lower-right and you’re moving there as fast as possible.

3. You’re not interested in partnerships and employees right away – you’re more interested in finding the right referral partners who can funnel business to you while you’re funneling business to them. It’s all about strategic partnerships and selling first.

7 Indianapolis Networking Events You May Not Have Heard Of

1. Power Circle Network – PCN is a free version of Rainmakers and BNI-type networking that meets weekly on the north side in Carmel, Westfield, and Noblesville; on the east side in Broad Ripple, Cumberland, Greenfield, and New Palestine; on the south side in Greenwood, Southport, Beech Grove, and Franklin; and on the west side in Avon and at Initech Park.

2. Linking Indiana – a Facebook and Smaller Indiana group that holds monthly networking events with a training session – usually with a speaker, but sometimes simply fun exercises like “speed networking”. In the past the events have been at the Rathskeller downtown, but they could be anywhere in the future so sign up for the Facebook group to stay informed.

3. Meetup.com – after 9/11 the founders wanted to use the Internet to help people meet together in person around topics they loved or found interesting. It just so happens that meetups (as they are called) can also be used to network with other like-minded individuals. I currently run a meetup on Indianapolis Marketing. Most meetups are free. Verge Indy is currently the biggest meetup in Indianapolis.

4. BNI Indiana – Business Networking International is a networking group that meets weekly in groups all around the Greater Indianapolis area. It’s a paid membership group, but this and the strict attendance rules means the members are more likely to come. Seeing the same people week after week leads to trust and more referrals. You can attend each BNI meeting twice for free to try them out.

5. Glazer Kennedy Insider’s Circle Indianapolis aka “No BS Indy” – you won’t see this billed as a networking group, because it’s not – but anytime you get a room full of business owners in one place, networking is bound to happen. Scott Manning teaches business owners how to grow their business as fast as possible and charges them for this information, but you can go twice for free.

6. Blog Indiana – this conference is an annual event for bloggers and Internet marketers hosted by Noah Coffey and Shawn Plew. It’s a chance to meet the big players in the business like Douglas KarrErik Deckers, or Tricia Meyer. It’s also a chance to meet up-and-comers like Ben Risinger who built DoItIndy with Scott Tolin and just recently founded Somnium Media with Stephanie Eppich Daily and Susan Decker. It’s a two-day event.

7. The Combine – this conference is also an annual event for startups, which is sponsored by, among others, Sproutbox. Like Blog Indiana, The Combine is a two-day event, but it’s in Bloomington spread over the IU campus. This is where I saw Merlin Mann speak and I met Cedric Savarese, the founder of Form Assembly, and up-and-comer Nick Tippman, both of whom I invited to Verge Indy (’cause I’m a mesh networker).

The Gig Economy

We went from trading mp3s with Napster to trading cash with Paypal to trading actual work for goods. Brace yourself. The barter economy is back.

Gigwalkers, Runners, and Giggers in the Cloud

You can now pay for anybody to do almost anything, anywhere, at any time. From gig walkers at Gigwalk, to runners at Taskrabbit, to peer to peer, realtime bartering over your mobile phone with Zaarly, the barter economy is here.

This new peer-to-peer economy is all be part of a bigger trend, or movement towards leveraging social platforms as the new killer app: cloudsourcing.

Cloudsourcing is when you use social network platforms to crowdsource a group of eager participants into creating something that may have been impossible for one man or woman to accomplish on their own. Call it peersourcing, a peerforce, or peersourcing, companies are reaching out to the general public to get new ideas or new inventions – or creative new ways to solve a problem they may have.

For example, Quirky lets anyone submit, vote on, and improve an invention in order to create products that people actually want (and will buy). Kickstarter uses it’s social platform to allow people to ‘vote with their dollars’ towards a new, creative project. If enough funds are raised, the project will start – and if not, it doesn’t. Call it survival of the fittest, it’s an extremely efficient business model and we’re going to be seeing more of it soon.

The CEO of Salesforce.com, Benioff, saw it coming and calls it “social enterprise” because he believes social platforms are the disruptive technology – on par with the development of the Internet itself. That’s why Benioff pushed to develop and rollout Chatter, a private and secure social network that allows users to follow others, information, and groups; and share files and status updates.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk has been crowdsourcing “requestors” since 2005, and Reckitt Benckiser uses IdeaLink to invite the public to submit ideas, products and technologies that they want to see built. Imagine what some organization like Google could do to the job hunting network if they could create or purchase a social platform that connected people wants with people’s needs and availabilities inside a massive database?

If you’re interested in learning more about crowdsourcing, Crowdsourcing.org is the place to go if you want to check out what’s happening with crowdsourcing or if you want to join the debate on ‘all things crowdsourcing’.

Gig Economy Allows Entrepreneurs to Start on a Dime

Cloud Computing Lowering Barriers to Entry, Allowing the Gig Economy to Thrive

Startups have traditionally been capital intensive ventures and most have had to wait until they got big to look big.  Not anymore. Web services in the cloud have made start-up costs not just affordable, but in some cases free, and they are the same software packages being used by major corporations. This puts any Tom, Dick, or Harry piecing work together from elance, odesk, and Amazon’s mechanical turk on par with popular startups like Color. As long as they are running WordPress and Google Apps, the world does not know the difference. And some Gigger’s as they are called are now starting their own business using the very tools they used to get jobs. Matthew Stibbe, a serial entrepreneur, combined cloud computing and long hallways to start his third business, Turbine: The Company Built With Elance.

Enough time has passed for BestVendor to do a survey of 550 startup staffers — most in marketing and executive administration positions — on their favorite tools for email, accounting, web analytics, CRM, productivity, design, storage, payment processing, operations and so forth. Their answers, in aggregate, speak to the growing trend in startups moving toward predominately cloud-based operations, the most popular being DropboxPaypal, and Salesforce to name a few, although I was glad to see Square in the running. Google Apps, Google Analytics and Quickbooks each garnered a majority of the votes in the email, accounting and web analytics categories, respectively. Salesforce bested its CRM competition with 59% of respondents selecting it as the application of choice, and consumer-friendlyEvernote proved hot with startup-types, too, in the note-taking category. For netbook and MacBook Air users, utilizing cloud storage programs like Spotify and DropBox is key to maintaining enough disk space for maneuverability.

Cloud computing is a relatively new model with lots of benefits and a few drawbacks. For example, it’s scalable, the provisioning cost is near zero, and you don’t need to hire a tech team, which saves money on payroll, benefits, space, insurance, supplies, and equipment, but with cloud computing, if the service or product you are using goes ‘down’, there is little to nothing you can do about it. You’re essentially trading control, security, and privacy for cheap, convenient, up most-of-the-time software running on hardware that you didn’t buy and will probably never see, let alone have to upgrade.

The Gig Economy

While a study by the Kauffman Foundation indicates startups create an average of 3-million jobs per year (about four times more than any other group), cloud computing and its reduced need for workers is creating a new economy. Sarah Horowitz, the executive director and founder of the Freelancers Union, says the employment picture in the U.S. is changing quickly. “People are working gigs now, but the BLS is tracking jobs. They’re two different things,” Horowitz explained to the LA Times. “We are really moving towards a gig economy.” The bureau of labor and statistics now tracks self employment (giggers) – and the number now stands at 14 million. And that number is set to grow. A Forrester Ressearch survey of small- to medium-size businesses found that 40% of businesses with 2 to 19 employees said using cloud service offerings was a “very high” or “high priority.” For medium-size businesses (20 to 1,000 employees), the figure was 25%.