StartWhys, a new Gainesville nonprofit based around innovators working together, held its second meeting on Wednesday at the Gainesville Hackerspace in the basement level of the Sun Center.
Students, tinkerers, business owners and entrepreneurs milled in and out of the tool-, wire-, computer-, nut- and bolt-filled space, where StartWhys co-founder Julian Miller, co-founder of Sharab Lounge and CEO of eMotion Technologies, helped facilitate meetings between people who could help each other and encouraged discussion about productivity software and strategies over the course of the afternoon.
Miller and co-founder Trevor Abbott, SpinChill co-founder and Hackerspace member, began StartWhys in an effort to bring the downtown innovation community together in underused spaces so that they can learn from each other’s successes and failures, and share tips and tricks to help each other out.
Miller said he wants to keep StartWhys events freeform and dynamic, with no set schedule or roster of topics. Here at the beginning, the two are bouncing around from place to place, trying to figure out what the local hacker community enjoys and what sort of environment facilitates collaboration the best.
Miller and Abbott want StartWhys to be an open and inclusionary program, where anyone who has an idea and needs advice can come in and find others that have already worked through the same problem or would be willing to work together on projects. Treating it like an old-timey speakeasy where one would have to know where to find it and a password to get in is not the route they want to take. Being inclusionary only benefits the hacker community and the consumer, Miller said.
“The goal is to tie the entire community together,” he said. “There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel here in Gainesville. We’re trying to bring this grassroots community together.”
Miller wants innovators to come in and be able to share social media tips, recommend books and articles, find out about upcoming events like UF’s War of the Worlds coding and design competition and build up their network.
Miller is also open to those outside of the hacker community. He said, for instance, if any public relations or marketing students are looking for experience and portfolio pieces then they should come find a cause to champion.
For now, events are being announced online through services like Twitter. StartWhys is also working with SwampMobile to create an app for last-minute event announcements.
Meeting places will change from week to week, depending on where StartWhys can find space. This week was at the Hackerspace and the first was at the Santa Fe CIED. Miller said that Front Street real estate has even offered spaces if they show up with their own furniture.