April is drawing to a close, and our time as the Geeks in Residence has ended. It was bittersweet to move out — we’re very excited about writing our next chapter, but our time at the library has been incredibly valuable. When we became the inaugural Geeks in Residence, we weren’t sure what to expect. We weren’t all that familiar with the resources the library has for entrepreneurs and startups.
Needless to say, we learned a lot. We learned about the library’s vast resources for entrepreneurs, including the incredible award-winning Maker Lab where our talks were usually held. Having an office in the library was pretty great for a startup, with easy access to all those resources. We could look up a book that was mentioned in the latest tech news, and go out to the stacks and find it. We also learned from all the startups and entrepreneurs we talked to along the way as they discussed their ideas and methods. Plus, articulating why we decided on different aspects of our business helped us think more clearly about our reasons behind our decisions. Increasing our knowledge while at the same time helping other people think through their ideas doubled the awesomeness. We hope that the next round of Geeks will be able to integrate the library’s resources even more smoothly into the GIR program.
Being the very first Geeks in Residence presented difficulties at times — we were busy beginning a company, and the library was busy creating innovative programs and being one of the top-ranked urban libraries in the world. Everyone had an awful lot of irons in the fire, and figuring out the logistics of the first program of its kind proved a challenge at times, in the midst of all our other responsibilities. But everyone involved in the program believes so strongly in it that we all worked hard to see it succeed. We’re still meeting with some folks who weren’t able to attend sessions in the library, but as of now we have talked with 80 people, both in group talks and one on one mentoring sessions. We also participated in a panel for Young Chicago Saves, discussing entrepreneurship and financial savvy with other panelists and an audience of over 170 Chicago high school students.
We hope that the people we talked with got as much out of the discussions as we did. Based on the feedback we received, we think they did, as you can see from these quotes from entrepreneurs who talked with us:
“Without a doubt, we gained far more from this session than we would have from a book or the Internet. Just having the opportunity to get an outside expert perspective on our concept (and the realities of starting a business) was enormously valuable. Not to mention, their combined years of experience in the industry meant that they were able to offer resources we would have never found on our own. Perhaps most important was that they asked us the right kinds of questions – questions that helped us craft a more solid plan forward.” — Ifunanyachukwu Aniemeka, founder of beginyourday.com
“[Leaving the session, I felt] elated. I got what I needed. They made sure to ask before I left what I came for (and if I got it). I’ve been to pay events that I left with less information from and more of a sour disposition so this was amazing for being free and valuable.” –Robert Konow, PhD student
“This is an incredible opportunity for the public. There is now easy access to smart entrepreneurs and technologists to answer any questions they have about starting their own ventures, just by going to the library. I wish I had this 10 years ago.” — Nate Kontnoy, Guest Geek and creator of draftin.com
We feel very lucky to have been a part of such a groundbreaking program, and honored that the library chose us. Being the Geeks in Residence reinforced our belief that collaboration is the best way to strengthen community and increase knowledge. It was a privilege to be a part of it. We hope you’ll keep in touch with us as we move into the next phase of our startup life, and we hope that you’ll be as supportive to the next Geeks in Residence as you have been to us.