“Startups struggle to find technical help and Gaper would be an affordable and reliable option to fill the void.”
Entrepreneurship is a gratifying endeavor and the idea of Propelify encompasses that for Aaron when he set up his nonprofit idea of New Jersey Tech Meetup – which organically went on to grow on to become the largest entrepreneurial group in New Jersey over the last decade.
This simplistic tech meetup inspired him to create Propelify and how ideas are easy to propel into something tangible. An Annual Innovation Festival, Propelify brings together 8000 attendees for talks, education, and inspiration.
It is a single space where there are 100s of exhibitors and a chance to speed date with investors in the duration of the event.
“Propelify is meant to represent the ethos of propelling ideas into action”
Starting off in April 2010, the event grew organically and Aaron and his team put on an event every month. The whole event is about innovation and entrepreneurship; as there is 30 minutes of networking and a featured speaker. “I leveraged my own network and grew it by inviting great speakers and we had speakers from the like of Huffingpost, Venture Capitalists, and Cory Brokes among others.”
Over time Aaron’s reputation was built because the New Jersey Tech Meetup was a place where people could find excellent networking opportunities and learn from the best technology leaders in the country. The group is about 7500 members strong and each event garners at least 100 attendees per month.
“With Propelify, initially the goal was to bring 3000 attendees – and instead they managed to get 8000! More than twice the expected number! The lesson is that for the network to create really interesting content or create real value and over time it would spread and Propelify I think is something similar. We create real or really valuable experiences for people and so they come.”
“The main difference between the Tech Meetup and Propelify is that the former is the grassroots side project that is really a nonprofit and it is to bring together the tech community in a small intimate way that is impactful. While with Propelify the mission is very similar but there is a business around it and so we think about how do we grow this festival to be one of the best events on the planet, for technology and how do we create year-round value to our members (because it is a membership model) so that we can help their business grow and in fact over the summer the New Jersey Technology Council (a separate entity) acquired Propelify and so now I am the CEO of the Tech Council – which neighbors to a lot of big corporate relationships so to me what is exciting here is that now we have a really strong representation of the entrepreneurial community alongside some of the biggest corporates in the country and that is where really interesting synergies can happen.”
Aaron talks about his experience with remote work by using a lot of tools for remote employment. He managed to get a digital rendering of how to have 8000 people in a space – where people thought he was crazy to even imagine putting that idea into action. It ended up being his number 1 selling tool!
“I am a big believer in remote working and in leveraging people from around the world. I think one of the interesting things in technology is it does break down the barriers of geography and age. So that you can really find people anywhere who can help you with a variety of projects and building your business.” You can gauge talent from around the globe “and often in a much more affordable way.”
He believes that the future of remote employment really is technology making it easier for people to work outside of what have been the traditional work structures, at least in this country – where you have more flexibility in your working style and working hours. At the same time, he thinks, it brings with it different challenges about accountability and management. One thing that has really worked well for him is for instance for design projects it is easy to put together deliverables and prioritization of due dates. While on development work where he does not have the same skillset it becomes a little harder to judge and get feedback. Thus, he feels the future of remote work is the ability to find skilled people around the world becoming easier. That is the next challenge and something that is seen right now; is, how do you manage these processes, how do you make sure that you are getting the quality of work that you need. And how do you make sure that you build an ability into the process in a way a traditional office has already built because everyone is in the same room together.
“Well, I think some of the basics are necessary like real clear communication, writing out deliverable, not having a casual understanding of this will be ready this week even.” He pushes the fact that the date and time (and locked in a particular time zone) should be locked and understood. Writing things clearly helps in his opinion. Go all out on the descriptions of what is needed and what is expected to be built.
“In particular when it comes to cultural differences, one person’s understanding of ‘I need a website that does XYZ’ can be very very different than what someone else in the other part of the world might expect without going into significant detail. From the aesthetics to the user experience. I think you need to be very clear on what your expectations are as the client is the key to success.”
Future of Propelify:
“I would like to see us attracting more people, to be a multiday event, and to empower people. Also, be an event year-round. Which is one of the reasons why I’m networking with the Tech Council to see how do we build stronger opportunities for people around the year. So I would like to see us continue to push the limit of what’s possible when a community gets together and to make sure that we are highlighting the people who are propelling the future. Because I think that at the end of the day people who speak at our event, the companies that exhibit are the most significant part of what the attendees are getting out of the experience. And so I want to make sure that we are curating some of the most interesting people and companies on the planet.”
Advice to Future Entrepreneurs:
“The world has changed a lot since I started off. So I would say if you are interested in getting involved as a founder there is probably some group of people in your backyard who want to meet and maybe are doing so already. Who I think you will find will be helpful in making your business grow and in my case it made me a lot of good friends in the process so I think it is a lot of benefit to getting out of the house so to speak and surrounding yourself with other people who are working towards a similar goal. But obviously I would also encourage you to find a diverse group of people who you do not want to be isolating with the kinds of thoughts that you get from people. But I really do think it is enormously helpful.
And I think going in with the attitude of how you can help as well as what you look to get out of it is a very important mindset. The mindset to help opens the most doors to opportunities and going in with the right attitude of looking to be helpful and also looking for some help is going to be the most beneficial in the long run.”
Aaron leaves us off with his parting words of how he thinks, “that being more deliberate about your program, treating people professionally, picking out the cultural tone that works for you is going to be the key to success of what will make people show up.”
Let us know what you think of his approach toward building synergies and creating value.