I decided in December to try something new. I had been working on my project and realised that I needed some design input. I also knew that I was working on a limited budget. Luckily I’m a programmer, and if you listen to anyone in this town you’ll know that programmers are a rare commodity.
Developer = hot girl at a party
Being a regular at Berlin’s startup network meetups, I now know what it feels like to be a good looking girl at a party. Everyone tries to convince me to be their CTO, buys me drinks, and tells me all about their world-altering new product. Some ideas are more interesting than others, but my commitment is to my own project. So, with my own marketable skills, and given my requirement for others with specific skills, I decided to organise an event where people with skills can help each other out.
This was the beginning of the Berlin skills exchange.
I went onto the Couchsurfing Berlin forum and posted a thread entitled ‘I’m willing to give 1-2 hours of my time to work on YOUR project, anyone else? ‘
The response I received was quite significant, so I organised a meeting only 3 days later at Betahaus and invited a few friends. 15 people showed up and we had a dress rehearsal of which would become a much bigger event.
After this initial run-through, Stefan Hoth (co-organiser of Berlin Hack and Tell) offered his organisational services to the Berlin Skills Exchange. I believe his exact words were “I’m quite jealous that you’ve organised such a cool event.” I gladly accepted his offer of assistance, and we started planning the next Berlin Skills Exchange. We set up a meetup.com group, organised everything with Betahaus, told everyone we knew, posted on forums, and last night we held the first properly organised Berlin Skills Exchange with over 70 attendees.
So how did it go?
We rented Betahaus for 3 hours last night between 7pm and 10pm. We used a projector, and Tweetdeck for Chrome which displayed hashtags #skexseek (for people seeking skills) and #skexoffer (for people offering help) on the wall. People then posted to twitter using these hashtags, and this served as a noticeboard. We acted as matchmakers with microphones, locating people with specific skills and matching them with others who had specific requirements. It was a lot of fun, and I met lots of interesting people.
Blogging, Podcasting, Storytelling, Gaming, Gambling, Bootstrapping…
Maybe we still need massage.
Overall the night was a great success. It’s a pity that the masseuse who said he would come couldn’t come (due to his car breaking down). There are a lot of techies out there who need a good massage, and it would have been a great addition. Next time for sure! I also regret that my laptop was in use for the night with the projector, so I was unable to get or receive help. In future, I want to spread the scope of the meetup so we have more skills that are not necessarily startup related (Furniture Making, anyone?).
Could we swap physical skills too?
I also have an intention in the back of my mind to do a ‘Physical Skills Exchange’ in a different venue, where people can swap Physical Skills e.g. Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, etc. etc. I’d also like to somehow incorporate food into this.
The spirit of Skills Exchange.
I’ve learned as a sole founder and bootstrapper that collaboration is the only way forward. I always ask for feedback on my product, I always try to engage people in what I’m doing in some small way, even if they’re not going to co-found or “work” on the product. It’s through the benefit of their expert insight that the product can be better, and a clearer perspective is attained. I’m also willing to help anyone who needs similar help. This is the spirit with which I started Skills Exchange, and I hope it proves useful to others, as well as to myself.
To keep informed of future Skills Exchange events or join the meetup group, http://www.meetup.com/Berlin-