Kimberly Kinchen, business network writer
Networking is one of the best parts of DRAFT. (Image: Yann Ropars)
It may not have been the heist of the century, but Jenn Dice is happy with the haul.
“We created DRAFT by taking ideas from other successful industries,” she says of PeopleForBikes’ entrepreneurial meetup series that mashes up the worlds of tech, startups, bicycles and beer for an evening of frothy community-building. “I studied the new tech meetups, the craft beer industry and the natural foods industry in Boulder for a year or two, looking at what they did to elevate their industries and communities,” says Dice, vice president of the PeopleForBikes Business Network.
Featured speakers get five minutes to tell their stories. (Image: Yann Ropars)
The format Dice arrived at is elegantly simple: a handful of speakers from the bike or business worlds get five minutes each for TED-talk-like presentations to share ideas or new products, sandwiched between informal introductions and announcements facilitated by an emcee. “That could mean the CEO of a long-standing bike industry company, a first-time entrepreneur who is creating their own apparel or a team of coders who have an idea to develop a new app in the health and training space,” she says.
These featured speakers are the main draw for many, but Dice’s favorite moments are before and after. “Before the talks start, we take one minute to have everyone look around and introduce themselves to someone they don’t know. Once the speakers have wrapped up we open the floor for quick bike or bike-business announcements. What’s fun is after those announcements, when event is over, you see people seeking each other out.”
Bike entrepreneuers show off their latest and greatest at DRAFT
“Sometimes people think this is strictly an advocacy gathering,” Dice says, “but DRAFT wraps our arms around the whole spectrum of the bike industry and bike community.” Attendance is roughly one-third bike industry, one-third tech and startup world and one-third bike lovers. “Someone might come to learn about a new mountain bike product, but leave saying “I had no idea that was happening in bikeshare or that there’s a new protected bike lane.'”
Jenn Dice emceeing a DRAFT: Denver meetup
As befits her role directing the Business Network and government relations at PeopleForBikes, Dice has found that DRAFT has also been an ideal mechanism for leveraging the power of business for bicycle advocacy. “About two thousand people have funneled through our meetups in Denver alone, and these are leaders, movers and shakers—people who stand ready to help when a threat or opportunity presents itself for a bike win.”
Attendees come for community, but the beer doesn’t hurt. (Image: Yann Ropars)
The first handful of meetups in Denver and Boulder, initially dubbed Bikes + Biz + Beer, attracted one hundred, two hundred and then three hundred attendees. “That’s when we realized there is an appetite in the bike space for ideas and community,” Dice says. Calls started coming in with people asking to host events in other parts of the country. After rebranding the meetups as ‘DRAFT: Tapping into People that Love Bikes + Biz + Beer,’ the Business Network team created a toolkit for partners to easily replicate the events and foster local bike and business connections. Since then, events have been held in seven cities, with at least three more scheduled or in the works.
“We think we know most of what’s going on bike-related in Colorado, but when we host these events people come out of the woodwork with new apparel or new tech,” Dice says. “The reason it’s been so successful and fulfilling is that we are creating a sense of community and connecting people in the good, old-fashioned, in-person way.”
For more information about DRAFT click here.