Last week was an eye opener of sorts, when I stumbled across the Silicon Drinkabout, a weekly get-together of those connected with the tech revolution originating in the Silicon Roundabout in London. Organised by a team who call themselves the 3beards (for obvious reasons) on behalf of Mind Candy, I loved the concept of a weekly watering hole for those trying to revolutionise the world in one way or the other. So I emailed Bryce Keane one of the 3beards to find out how it all started. What I got back was a rather detailed email–Bryce calls it the short version–of the proceedings, which I decided to use as a guest post. Hear all about it straight from the bearded one himself :
“Long before 3beards was even a thing, myself, Mike and another chap Ben Southworth met at a tech tweet-up (remember those?) randomly and then again a month later at the same tweet-up. We became mates, went to the pub one Saturday and were reflecting on how randomly we all met but that it highlighted for us that there seemed to be a strange gap between random tweet-ups or irregular £10 meet-up speaking events and the ridiculously expensive £1,500 ‘start-up’ conferences.
So out of that realisation came a crazy idea which basically was, ‘Hey guys, what do you reckon it would look like if we ran our own event?’ – which quickly led to ‘Who cares? Let’s do it anyway!’ this quickly led to a chat about what was missing from tech meet-ups/events at the time (food) and what was the most social type of food to encourage people to mingle (as the token Australian in the beards, I immediately volunteered the BBQ as it makes every event feel just that little bit like a social occasion at someone’s house).
And that’s how Digital Sizzle was born!
Well…sort of. When I say ‘Digital Sizzle’ we a.) thought we’d have 20 people show up to a park and b.) it was legal to BBQ in London Parks. Both of these points proved wrong when we had 120 people sign up and we had to quickly shift to the Water Poet pub just off Bishopsgate.
One of the people at that very first Sizzle was Michael Acton Smith from Mind Candy who had started Silicon Drinkabout at around the same time. A few months later he approached us as he had seen the buzz grow around Sizzle (we were already onto plans for number two by then as we realised pretty quick that consistency is key to growing and adding value to the community) online from all our social media outreach. He really loved Drinkabout but no one had time to give it the love it needed to grow, so he asked us if we’d be interested in taking it over, growing and running it.
As semi-regulars of Drinkabout, we liked the event but could immediately see areas we needed to address and we so began our work every Friday for over a year, growing it from 15 people in a bar to nearly 300 at our one year anniversay at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in Whitehall (and every East London bar in between).
As both Drinkabout and Sizzle grew, we realised we had two amazing crowds of talented people from a huge variety of backgrounds and we wanted to use all these combined skillsets to help start-ups. So Ben (shortly before he was spotted by Number 10 after compering our Town Hall Q&A with the then CEO of TCIO, offered the job of Deputy CEO and departed beards, which we have always greatly supported him on) came up with the concept of Don’t Pitch Me, Bro! – a live product demo and feedback night for start-ups. No pitches, just 4 – 5 start-ups, 30 mins on stage each, 15 minutes to do a live product demo (from MVP upwards), founders must come armed with the development problems they’re facing and then we turn the mic over to the audience for 15 minutes to help them solve those problems live.
Ben then left, Joe Scarboro joined us full-time as beard (having previously worked with us for five months on Drinkabout while getting himself reaquainted with the scene after a lengthy corporate sojourn)
By this point we had three events, all of which are free, and so we need to raise a lot of sponsorship privately to be able to both put them on and keep them growing to meet the demand we were experiencing. 3beards came out of nothing more than a need for a recognisble umbrella brand (so we were no longer just ‘those guys from Drinkabout’, ‘those guys from Sizzle’ etc) so people knew the events were linked, a need to have a registered company to be able to credibly invoice sponsors and the fact that we looked around the room trying to come up with a name, scratching our mutually hairy chins and realised we had no imagination 🙂 “
PS: Tonight’s friday Drinkabout is at the Bedroom Bar, upstairs in the Casbah room at UPSTAIRS (62-68 Rivington St, London, EC2A 3AY). You don’t need to register – just turn up, and look for the 3 bearded men.
You can reach Bryce Keane, 1/3rd of 3beards at @Bryce_Keane
Other sites to check out
Digital Sizzle – www.thedigitalsizzle.com
Don’t Pitch Me Bro – dont.pitchmebro.com
Silicon Drinkabout – www.silicondrinkabout.com