Jeff Keni Pulver has been around the tech startup community from its very early days. He now throws breakfasts around the world, and especially during conference dates, with a mission to bring together entrepreneurs and anyone interested in startups.
I attended my first Breakfast with Jeff in Israel last year on the first day of The Marker's Com.Vention. It was a bizarre experience walking into what felt like a cellar, seeing people walking around wearing name tags, each holding a sheet of small stickers on which they wrote things and stuck on people they didn't know.
I was was just getting to know the Israeli startup scene and found the freedom with which people walked up to one another and put stickers that said random things like "Rockstar," "Quiet" and "Delicious" refreshing. Someone tried to explain to me what was going on but frankly, I just wasn't ready for putting stickers on anyone at that point.
Since then almost a year has passed. I left my job in Corporate and opened Ustrategy. I've gotten to know the Israeli startup scene better thanks to people like Carmel Gerber of Playce and Shahar Nechmad of Nuconomy. I've also gotten to know the Silicon Valley startup community quite well and the bloggers, CEOs, and investors who make the Valley what it is. We're having important conversations about the next generation of startups and how to help people and companies succeed going forward. I'm truly cherishing this experience and the opportunity to be a member of this community.
And last week I attended my second Pulver breakfast, this time at San Francisco's Sears Fine Foods--somehow ending up again at the lower level of a restaurant (I'm sure Jung would have had something to say about that). And there I was again, being handed two name tags and a sheet of stickers for Social Tagging.
But this time I was ready. And I knew almost everyone in the room which helped.
As people sat down to eat, Jeff explained that he started out as an odd kid--shy and introverted. When he was just starting to network,he realized how difficult it was to have meaningful conversation at these events. So he introduced live tagging. You write your name on a tag and add a statement about yourself. You stick another tag someplace you don't mind others touching (very important, ladies!), then you walk around and as you meet people, you write stuff on tiny labels and put them on that extra tag. It's not as complicated as it sounds and Jeff has a video on his facebook page explaining how you do that.
At the heart of the matter is making it easier to connect with others in more meaningful ways. It's about creating conversation starters that lead to more (who wouldn't want to know why someone wrote "VC money" on them), and opening opportunities to ask questions ("It says here you came straight from SFO...where were you before?"). I ended up with a dozen tags--one that said "let's have lunch"; another that said "superstar."
Seated at a red vinyl booth, over pancakes and a fruit bowl, I had fabulous conversations that went much deeper than customary at such events. Random people came up to me and asked questions that somehow seemed more relevant and personal--in the very best way.
Jeff's passion for bringing people together is inspiring (he writes about it here). What's amazing is that he does it on the analog side of the experience--making live what others have been trying to do online. Jeff's candor as he spoke about what led him to start Social Tagging was quintessential Social Media: simply creating ways for people who chose to be there to have conversations that was meaningful to them.
And now Jeff is launching Social Media Jungle--an un-conference emulating the experience of digital social media, only live, and he has taken it on the road starting with this year's CES.
Thanks, Jeff! (You're a Rockstar.) (Let's have lunch.)