Building the South Florida Entrepreneur Club
January 15, 2021 – a day that literally has changed the trajectory of my life. It's the day I was invited to Clubhouse by the amazing Melanie Deizel. As soon as I joined Clubhouse, I was immediately fascinated by the platform. I quickly joined a room that was welcoming new people to the app run by Abraxas Higgins, and this room literally changed my life and the way I came to understand (and use) Clubhouse. It's safe to say I truly found my voice there. It was the first room I spoke in and the positive experience I had there really shaped my future experience with the platform.
From there, it's been a wild ride.
Early days on Clubhouse
Not too long after, I started noticing a pattern: I was running into lots of the same people in many of the rooms I was attending. Listening to them speak and learning so much about the topics they were talking about, but also about them as an individual, was incredible. By listening to just a voice, I could hear the passion, intensity, and conviction within them. It was nuts! No other social network to date has enabled that kind of connection before.
Obviously, the more apparent this became to me, the more time I ended up spending on Clubhouse. In fact, I think at my peak Clubhouse usage to date I maxed out at over 33 hours spent during a single week. That's almost equivalent to a full work week.
But unlike on social networks, I felt like my time on Clubhouse was actually being spent wisely. I was networking with and befriending so many incredible people. Connecting with people based on who they are as a person and not solely what they do for a living. In many of these conversations, work didn't even come up in our initial talks. To connect on such a human level was refreshing.
And that's really what it all comes down to: we're all human.
Humans are inherently social beings. I'll never forget the time when Aly Cohen came into a room one morning shortly after she had joined the app and said, "I almost stood up on the Subway and tried talking to people today." I couldn't help but laugh because that's the kind of feeling being on Clubhouse gives you, except instead of striking up a conversation on a subway car you're doing it with people anywhere in the world. This app gives you the ability to talk to anyone.
If you don't believe me, try this on for size: this past weekend I joined a room on Clubhouse started by Charles Forman, the founder of OMGPOP, who you may remember as the company behind the hit game: Draw Something. He was joined by two other guys, one from Amazon and one from Waymo and then I wandered into the room. I sat in the audience for a few minutes and listened to what was being discussed, the topic of conversation? Self-driving cars, which was especially intriguing since an employee at Waymo was taking part in the conversation, so I raised my hand and joined them on stage.
I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to take part in such a conversation without Clubhouse and that's just one of the truly amazing things about the platform.
Meaningful connections one month in
When I relaunched the site this past summer, I knew I wanted to build an awesome community full of entrepreneurs and people interested in building companies. While I had the initial vision, looking back at it, I didn't see the entire forest that was standing right in front of me – but the good news is: I do now. I now see everything and I owe that to Clubhouse.
Everyone talks about finding a niche in business. That's how you succeed – you find a niche and capitalize on it, then you can expand out from there. Up until getting on Clubhouse I found myself really struggling to find my niche yet it was right in front of me for 7 months. For me, it's the Florida entrepreneur and tech scene. Since moving down here in June, I've been looking for ways to entrench myself in the community (which is growing like crazy by the way).
There's a massive opportunity happening in Florida right now. Mayor Francis Suarez is doing amazing things for Miami and South Florida in general. But it's not just South Florida that's growing like crazy right now – Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville are all making waves too. How do I know all this? Because of the people I met on Clubhouse.
Clubhouse is what you make of it. It's all about who you follow. Who you follow dictates what rooms you see in your "hallway" and that will impact your overall experience. Since joining, I've been strategically identifying and connecting with amazing people in Florida tech and entrepreneurship and it's working, and working fast. The speed at which things can move on Clubhouse is unlike anything I've ever seen before on any social network. It's hard to explain, you kind of have to just experience it for yourself. People are so energized on the app, they want to do and do now.
Everyone I've spoken to down here realizes the tremendous opportunity in front of us and wants to make it a reality and that's really exciting to me. Having come from NYC and having watched Silicon Valley explode over the past 20-30 years, you can understand why it's an exciting time to be here in Florida but it's also so important that we realize in order to be one of bedrock communities in the tech industry and beyond, we need to work together. We all must give to get.
I need to give a shout out to a handful of the people that I've met already in the Florida entrepreneur and tech scene through Clubhouse (be sure to follow them if you're on the app):
Nicholas Mohnacky – Nick is such a positive force in the South Florida tech scene, as the CEO @ bundleIQ, Chairman at 1909, and my co-founder @ South Florida Entrepreneur Club, he's building an incredible product to help businesses share knowledge. I couldn't do the SFLE Club without him!
Bianca Peynado – Bianca is an amazing human being. She's leading the charge on Clubhouse to make sure it's an inclusive place. She hosts amazing rooms too, including Authentic and Genuine people on Clubhouse hosted daily at 5PM and Florida Tech Talks every Tuesday at 8PM.
Miriam Dorsett – Miriam is another fantastic person! She showed Nick and I around Miami when we visited recently, including taking us to the Lab Miami and the CIC. She's an artist and is super passionate about the Miami entrepreneur community.
Monica Rojas – Monica is working incredibly hard to turn Florida into a massive tech hub. She also happens to be an incredible person like every one else on this list!
Michelle Bakels – Another wonderful human, Michelle is the lead instructor at Boca Code. She, her team, and students are working on building incredible products.
Maria Derchi – I met Maria in one of Bianca's rooms actually and she was kind enough to connect me with Nancy Dahlberg who heads up the news section at Refresh Miami. Maria is the executive director at Refresh Miami and they're working on really amazing ways to cover the stories coming out of there. Be sure to look out for my articles on there as well!
Bobby Goodlatte – I met Bobby on Clubhouse in a room he was hosting, he recently moved from Silicon Valley to Miami and is loving it from what I understand! Bobby is a product designer and an investor, he and his firm Form Capital are going to be an amazing catalyst for this community and I'm super excited to have him here. I look forward to connecting with him further!
John Wensveen – I was recently introduced to John but in the short time I've known him I can tell he's a great guy. John is the Chief Innovation Officer at Nova SouthEastern University based in Fort Lauderdale. The university has launched an innovation center that I'm sure will be doing amazing things for South Florida.
Jason R Hill – I met Jason on Clubhouse in a room he hosts called the Shrimp Tank which is an extension of his killer 130+ episode podcast. Just listening to Jason speak really resonated with me, I can tell he cares a lot about the South Florida entrepreneur scene and telling its stories.
This list is in no way complete, there are so many incredible people I've met through Clubhouse – some in Florida and many elsewhere, but the one thing we have in common is how passionate we are about making the world a better place. I'm thankful for all of them.
What I'm working on
I'm currently looking to meet with as many entrepreneurs here in Florida as possible. I want to tell the stories of what you're working on. If you're building here, please reach out so we can build the TechCrunch of Florida (and beyond) right here at BestTechie.
What this means going forward
First, it means I'll be covering a lot more Florida-based companies and entrepreneurs on the site and across our social channels. I want to make BT the premiere source of Florida tech news and stories.
It also means that I'll be investing a lot of time in The South Florida Entrepreneur Club which is hosted by Nick and myself every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 3PM on Clubhouse. Please join us! You don't have to be in Florida to take part – it's open to everyone! We also have a public Discord server which we'd love to see you in.
All of these people want to see the Florida entrepreneur and tech community thrive and because of that, I know it will. Let's make it happen, people!
A special thank you
Lastly, I want to take the time to thank all of my amazing new Clubhouse friends. I hope I don't forget anyone! If I do, please forgive me.
Casey, Tony, Misha, Margaux, Anastasia, Sarbajoy, Andrea, Amanda, Ashton, Carey, Vyyyper, Daniel, Justin, Sylvester, Sherry, Zach, and Anthony.
Image thanks to Kenny Coil.