Friday, 10 February 2012

Guest Blogger Series: Creating a community within a community

Followers of Expat Explorer might recognise a familiar name for this week’s guest post. Back in 2010, UK-based expat, Bryce Keane shared with us his tips and advice on integrating into a completely new country and was one of the most read blog posts that year.

Two years on, Bryce is safe-to-say, fully settled in and has even gone about creating his own community of like-minded individuals. Here, he talks about how he came up with the idea of combining the appeal of a cold beer, sizzling sausages and burgers and good banter.

Creative Spaces are Flourishing Everywhere, but it's Communities That Can Make the Impact*

Source: Digital Sizzle

The idea for Digital Sizzle was born one Saturday afternoon on the rooftop of The Queen of Hoxton pub in Shoreditch, East London. A start-up project manager, a web designer and an Aussie ex-pat digital PR guy sat down and wondered if there was a way to make a real contribution to the local tech and start-up community? How could we create a space to share stories, work, lessons and laughs? We decided on something as simple as the common BBQ and, for the first time, we would try and bring together the start-up community with the digital, advertising and other creative agencies in the area that have the skill and resource to help them grow.

We would later realise two things:
  1. A digital, tech and creative networking BBQ would prove hugely popular amongst our little community and;
  2. It's incredibly hard to hold a BBQ in Central London
What seemed like impossible to start off with, we somehow managed to make it a reality. With this, Digital Sizzle was born.

Lately, it seems to have grown to be one of London's most-attended and talked about meet-ups, thanks largely to a steadily growing (and digitally-savvy) community of fans, and the fact that it is the only networking event that brings together the world of creative agencies and tech start-ups. We like to think it might also have something to do with the burgers...
Building the community
Mid-last year, we were approached by Michael Acton-Smith, CEO and founder of the of global kids hit Moshi Monsters, to partner with him to develop and expand his popular tech meet up, Silicon Drinkabout, in association with the quarterly Sizzle events. 

Founded at the end of last year, the Silicon Drinkabout has become a popular Friday night event, a regular Friday night drinks for tech start-ups in or around Shoreditch - (dubbed the Silicon Roundabout or London's Tech City). As The Digital Sizzle team had been regulars at Silicon Drinkabout since its inception, and felt it represented a very important part of the community that we were trying to create, it seemed a natural fit. 

When speaking to Michael, we realised that it made sense to combine forces and ensure that there are really great weekly meet-ups for the tech community, and then much larger quarterly events for the wider creative community, in place to help connect people. After all, community is so important in the start-up industry, and more regular meet ups can help to help drive growth and innovation.

Overnight our little community doubled. With the weekly casual drinks and a much bigger quarterly event now under our care, we very soon began seeing the results of our work go from online, to offline and back again. New jobs, new working relationships, new creative collaborations, new relationships with interested members of the media, and even interest from the big players - we began to see first hand the fruits of our labour of love. Our community was growing but, more importantly, it was growing based on open collaboration, co-operation and mutual connection.

It’s exciting to be in such a vibrant community. Out of that unique combination of creative and business integration that exists here in East London has emerged not just "traditional" tech startups like Huddle, Mind Candy and Skimlinks, but a new breed of creative and digital agencies like Albion, Poke, and TH_NK.

They exist alongside an array of VCs and investors, a mature and responsive tech media including, and the big technology companies that are moving into the area.

About the author

Bryce Keane is an international communications professional with experience managing a wide variety of communications campaigns in both the EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions. Originally from Melbourne, he has a fascination with digital, tech and London's booming start-up culture, and has managed communications campaigns across a wide variety of sectors including national and regional campaigns across a variety of industries including: Resources, Agri-Business, Government, Travel/Tourism, Telecommunications, Hospitality, Transport and Logistics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Architecture and Design, Lifestyle, Not-For-Profit, Hygiene, and Technology. He has recently joined the Cohn & Wolfe London team as a Digital Strategist, is a co-founder of tech and creative networking BBQs Digital Sizzle and is a co-organiser of Silicon Drinkabout,a regular after work drinks for startups every Friday 'round the Silicon Roundabout. You can reach him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

*An edited version of this article originally posted on The Huffington Post UK.

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