Just part of the volunteer force that helped TrepHub move in to the new building
An Interesting Year for Startups…
2016 was a very interesting year, as many would probably say, but it was particularly interesting for TrepHub and the Startup Community in the Space Coast. While there were some rough patches, all in all, it was a year of growth. The Startups at TrepHub grew, the Startup & Tech Community in the Space Coast grew and there are now at least four places in additional to TrepHub that I can think of, off the top of my head, that are dedicated to serving geeks and budding Treps. Space Coast Fab Lab, Melbourne Makerspace, Groundswell & FIT Student Incubator (and I’m sure there are more) are all doing a fabulous job of making sure techies feel at home in the Space Coast. Even monolithic companies, previously known for applying daily beatings to their engineering staff (yes, I’m kidding), have begun to realize that those talented engineers need to be treated better (or they’ll come to TrepHub and launch a Multi-Million Dollar Startup & leave!)
The Best of Times…
Tech Meetup at TrepHub
Personally, I’ve been really happy to see the developments. It’s a far cry from the first meetup of Coders Hackers Founders, when we couldn’t even get people to give us a space to meet. People aren’t worried about getting fired from their day jobs if they attend meetups and try to bring their own ideas to life! However, all of this has had an odd effect on TrepHub. Given that we’re a volunteer run organization, what happens when those volunteers are CEOs of companies that aren’t just a small idea anymore, but rather successful, growing organizations? In some ways, success seemed to be a double edged sword. At one point Brandon was putting in 20+ hours/week in addition to his 60+ hours week of startup work to keep the gears of TrepHub grinding away. As some in the community noticed, I’ve been able to host just a few meetups in 2016. I don’t feel too guilty because Jenna at Groundswell has been doing a bang up job of keeping startup (“businessy”) meetups going. Michael Prentice, Sandy Carter, Chris Crisafulli and other community leaders have been doing tech meetups. And I’m happy to say that there’s even a Machine Learning meetup happening at FIT.
The Worst of Times…
Ahmed and Brandon in front of the Apple Garage
So, right at the end of 2016 we were faced with a dilemma… TrepHub is a valuable community resource, given its open source and community driven nature. We even have donors (successful TrepHub Alums) that are willing to give back, but nobody seems to be particularly keen to volunteer for operations. I think we answered only 25% of the request for space rentals that came in last year, which not only affects revenues but also community participation. The latter being a bigger deal than the former. We can easily make up the revenues from Alum Donations, but if there aren’t more people coming by and using TrepHub, we start to take away from the community. Throwing money at the problem is one way other incubators have solved similar problems, but if you know anything about us, you know that’s not our style. We bootstrapped and innovated our way here and throwing money at anything is the opposite of who we are. To make things worse, we were put on notice by the new owner of the building where we were renting space for TrepHub that we’d have to move by Feb 1st, so we started scrambling to look for new office space. We put in quite a bit of legwork. As one Real Estate Agent told me, I knew more about the market than he did since I’d seen more properties.
Federico Our New SuperTrep
Then the stars aligned and I was introduced to Federico & Valerie, who are the new owners of the 1900 Building and other properties in Downtown Melbourne. TrepHub has always been about people. It’s the people in our community that built the space, the people that power it and the people that run it. As I walked thru the 1900 building and interacted with Federico, I realized that his vision for his projects, and passion for what he does, makes him a Treppie too. And in typical Treppie fashion, he said “We’ll make it happen!”… And happen it did! TrepHub’s new home is now the 1900 building, which is basically what TrepHub would’ve been 5 years from now, in our ultimate vision of a “Startup Space”:
- A space with lots of Common Area,
- Office Spaces for Startups,
- Meeting Rooms (7 Rooms Altogether),
- a Starbucks,
- a Co-working space
- And Even More coming soon (befitting a Proper Tech Startup Office)…
Imagine, a space with seasoned professional management who genuinely care about the community & have a vision that aligns almost perfectly with ours for the SpaceCoast. That means basic supplies don’t run out if Amazon misses a subscription delivery (Yes, I’m sorry about the paper towels running out in the old space!)
Valerie our New SuperTrep
TrepHub didn’t just move into a new space, but our community got a new home & got new champions! I can’t thank Federico & Valerie enough for going all out and doing custom buildout for the co working space with everything we wanted, including a room with walls from reclaimed wood from pallets, within Just 2 Weeks! Incidentally, I was also looking for Office Space for Call Sumo & we ended up getting office right across from the co working space. This is HUGE! We didn’t just solve the space problem, but we essentially fast forwarded 5 years!
A Community Effort…
In typical TrepHub Fashion the community showed up and moved furniture from the old space to the new in 6 hours. We have access card readers with 24 hour access, super awesome internet from Level3, 7 Meeting Rooms (those are always in demand) and tons of common area space to hangout. Federico’s revamping the whole building inside & out and his vision is to fill it with Tech Companies which would previously have to hunt for office space once they were beyond the co-working phase. And already we have a few tech companies in the building!
Our New Home:
1900 S Harbor City Blvd, Melbourne, FL 32901
Jeff Hopper SuperTrep
Jeff next to Pallets
New Space in Progress
Settled in to our New Digs
In House Starbucks
Federico Sneaking a Cup of Fresh Ground Starbucks
Just part of the volunteer force that helped TrepHub move in to the new building
Looking Forward to a Great 2017!
What more could we ask for? Space for meetups, startups and early stage tech companies! And this frees Brandon and myself up to host more of the tech meetups we’ve been meaning to have. I think it’s fair to say that we’re looking forward to a VERY exciting 2017 for TrepHub & the Tech Startup Community in the Space Coast!
“regret is of the devil”
I heard something very interesting today… “regret is of the devil”. And for some reason it resonated with me. After thinking about it a little I realized that this is an old lesson that I forgot. Regret really doesn’t serve much of a purpose. Sure, it’s good to recognize mistakes, only so far as to learn from them, maybe even analyze them and move forward. However, the actual act of regretting goes much further than that. Regret can be a gateway to depression. If you’re obsessive like me, then regret can mean obsessing about all that could have been. And as you get older, you’re bound to look back and regret some things. If you don’t catch yourself fast enough, you’ll find yourself daydreaming about the path not taken that could have made everything so much better than the path you chose. This line of thinking is for fools. Because if you step back and really analyze things, things could have been a hell of a lot worse. There are things that I have now, that I never could have dreamt of achieving. Sure, some of the crazy dreams I had didn’t pan out (yes, still haven’t taken over the world). Therein lies the evil.
In all the times you’re lamenting the path not taken, lamenting getting old. Lamenting still not really knowing the meaning of life or purpose, or whatever it is that you’re lamenting. You’re actually spending precious time and energy on something that’s useless. You’re beating yourself up for the hypothetical. You, of all people, know the futility of planing and then expecting everything as going to plan. You also know about how fast time can go by. You, also feel your mortality nipping at your heels as you calculate how many of your friends you’ve already outlived and how few years might be ahead of you. Yet spending the time in regret and lament promises nothing more than depression and more things you will lament in the future.
“Look forward to what can be, because ‘could have been’ is a mirage”
This is the reason entrepreneurs respect other entrepreneurs. They now that despite all the planning, etc, a startup is not more successful than another because of smarts, talent, grit. They know that to be in the game at all, you’ve got to have Grit, talent and a really tough skin. Material success be damned. Even the more “successful” entrepreneur has to deal with it all. It’s easy to look back and regret, but to be honest, if you think about it…. Regret is for the birds. Get up, dust yourself off, put on your smirk and jump into the fight again. Now there’s one decision you won’t regret.
You’ve got what you’ve got. Appreciate, all the good that’s there. Sure it isn’t perfect, and everything’s not figured out. But start with today. Look forward to what can be, because “could have been” is a mirage. What can be is still all there before you. Be happy that yesterday is there to give you guidance and wisdom. Today, you look forward to all that there still is. Notice how the possibilities really aren’t much less than they were yesterday. if you think, well, I had one extra day yesterday, then you’re fooling yourself. If you’re more focused on recapturing yesterday, you’ll certainly waste today and put tomorrow in jeopardy. Carpe Diem!
Regret is of the Devil
An interview with TrepHub founder Ahmed Reza, as originally published in The Beachside Resident.
Tell us about the origins of TrepHub. When did you all first come together and what is your overriding vision?
TrepHub started September 2012.
It all started with me wanting to move to Silicon Valley. I was flying there on the weekends to attend various events and was inspired by what I saw. I met tons of creative people, many geeks who loved their craft and in the process I became a much better Engineer and Entrepreneur as I learned about new technologies and methodologies and got to connect with my counterparts at companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and several of the hottest StartUps.
On describing my experiences to a fellow Engineer and co-worker at the time, Brandon Schmitt (who is my CoFounder at TrepHub), I learned that Space Coast boasted one of the highest per capita engineers in the country. This was perplexing since I hardly saw the same vibe here. I further learned that during the Y2K boom, we were a hub of innovation, and the recent NASA Shuttle project cancellation was just another in a series of setbacks for the area and it’s talent pool. At the time, I used to hang out a lot with my coworkers Brandon Schmitt and Jim Maroulis. They are some of the smartest people I’ve worked with thus far, and I figured if there are more people like this, then maybe what’s missing is the Venue for them to meet.
Silicon Valley has tons of things for Engineers and Creative Types to do on the weekdays and weekends. When these people get together I see what I can only be described as “magic” happen. I’ve been a part of a hackathon where 5 complete strangers came together and built a complete product from scratch (being from the industry, where I’ve seen it take years, this was magic to me). I really wanted to meet some similar people in the local area.
So I started a meetup group called Coders Hackers & Founders. The first meeting was at the Sun Shoppe Cafe (One of the few places that would let a group with the word “hackers” in the name meet there) with Brandon, Jim, and 2 others who had shown up (I remember being so excited and someone else showed up). That meetup group is now over 400 people and our total community is over 1000 engineers, entrepreneurs and creatives in the Space Coast.
When CHF had about 30 members, we saw a common trend. Many of us were working on our own projects/businesses after hours. It was hard finding a decent place to meet or collaborate, and you definitely didn’t want to bring a potential client to your Garage/Office. So Brandon decided to rent some Office Space (2 office rooms to be precise) in a place that would be fun, Downtown Melbourne. Those days we called it “Fight Club” for hackers and it was strictly invite only. We remembered how many places were hostile to letting people meet up, so we opened up the offices to CHF and other community related meetups (Startup Space Coast being the second meetup). We expanded from those two office to what is now a budding started ecosystem. The experience of the community was really awesome and Brandon and I decided that we shouldn’t try to turn this into a money making thing, but rather something that other engineers like us needed. So we formed TrepHub and filed for our non-profit paperwork.
What are some of the more challenging/difficult projects you’ve embraced since you began? And what are some of the typical problems you face in helping local clients?
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride and TrepHub is no exception. We have seen talented people from our community get taken by Google (who btw, is kind enough to sponsor us, so no ill feelings) and move from the area. There are often startups that have great ideas and good people, but struggle in the area. Then there’s the negative stigma and culture of secrecy that keeps people from collaborating and sometimes even scares them away from just hanging out.
One of the biggest challenges in dealing with potential founders is getting over the cultural barrier. Creative and High Tech startups don’t follow the traditional route. It’s move fast or die, meaning if you’re busy writing an 80 page business model, someone will probably beat you to market. Then there’s the ever present fear of failure. Most people have only had traditional types of jobs, and so the uncertainty and fear of failure found found so commonly in business causes paralysis. It’s when they start to see that failing fast is not such a bad thing and it isn’t absolute, that they understand the value that the community provides in helping them get back up and try again.
What is one of the most rewarding projects you’ve been involved in thus far?
Every time I see a meetup group at TrepHub that I’ve never seen before or a Startup that’s launching from TrepHub, it is a rewarding moment for me personally. TrepHub is bootstrapped and runs on a shoestring budget thanks to the efforts of SuperTreps (Our Community of dedicated volunteers) and we have launched more successful startups and built a community for a fraction of what well funded incubators can do. This is something we, as a community, are proud of.
What is your general outlook on the state of technology and tech-related businesses here in Brevard? And what role do you hope to play in their furtherance?
In my mind, Brevard is a Technology area. It’s the biggest industry and talent pool. I’ve seen the different types of people in this area and it is amazing. We’re partnered with Florida Institute of Technology, the Space Coast Tech Council, and the Economic Development Commission, and enjoy very good working relationships with organizations in the area who are working very hard to make good things happen for the Space Coast. I think our mission statement sums up how we see ourselves contributing to that:
“Our mission is to ignite the spirit of technology innovation and entrepreneurship by empowering the best and the brightest individuals that the Space Coast has to offer. We will do this by fostering the following values: a greater purpose beyond profit, spontaneous collaboration, ground-breaking innovation, and the courage to resolve problems for a world in desperate need of amazing solutions.“
What can prospective clients expect from you once they walk through the door or establish contact with you? That is, describe the process of taking them on board with you.
New members always report being surprised since we don’t operate like most organizations they’ve been to or are used to. It is a little bit chaotic at times, and you may have to find your way around by asking whoever is close by, but that’s the point. When you become part of TrepHub, you’re becoming part of the community. People help each other out. We have a wealth of information and connections which attracts most new members, but it is in becoming part of the community that you really get to take advantage of it.
Sometimes it’s hard for new members to get over the transactional nature of relationships with most organizations. Here the relationship stems from becoming part of the community. You can pay for a lawyer and pay for an accountant, but you can’t pay for people to really care. Especially if you want to get advice for an entrepreneur who has already made his millions (yes we have a few of those too). That’s where the big value is to new members. They may have to introduce themselves to several people and pitch their ideas, but soon they’ll find the mentors or even other entrepreneurs whose advice they need. Looking back at it, our success rate is higher than many well organized incubators (we don’t label ourselves as an incubator or an accelerator) in Florida and I believe this is one of the reasons why.
What are some of the services you offer that other similar businesses — here and elsewhere — don’t?
As far as I’m aware we’re a pretty unique organization, not just for the Space Coast but for the United States at large. Our Community is the core of what we do and what we offer. While we’re not always the answer, if you’re looking become engineer, artist or business person, you’ll likely have much to gain by becoming part of the TrepHub community.