There's been some interesting discussion on Hacker News today about what sort of people attended the Hacker News London event. Comments included complaints that many attendees aren't actually working for/on startups, and some people questioned the value of meetups, saying that you're better off staying at home to actually work on your startup.
As one of the orgnaizers of the Hacker News London event I've certainly seen lots of different people come along. Some, like myself, are working fulltime on their own startup. Many are working on side projects. Some just come for a good time, and to learn from others. I posted a poll on HN and is seems that this is fairly representative of the HN readership, rather than something limited to the attendees of the London meetup. But what about the question of are tech meetups worth attending at all, are we all better off saying at home and working hard on our projects?
I think Brian Balfour put it excellently in his recent post on core peer groups, under a section titled workaholics:
"While some have their head in a book, others just have their head down. It is easy to think that the more hours you put in the more progress you will make, but this leads us to incremental and linear progress, when we need to be on an exponential path."
Of course a startup is hard work, requires long hours and dedication, but if all you are doing is working hard then you're missing other opportunities. You're making linear progress at the expense of exponential progress.
I've been working full time on my own startup for 8 months now, and prior to that was an early employee at a startup where I worked for 2 years. I'm no stranger to hard work. What progress could I make in one evening though? I might be able to iron out a few bugs, finish off a feature, or tidy out my inbox. Those are the things I could be making linear progress with. By contrast, at the Hacker News event last night I learnt about some interesting new technologies I'd not heard of before. One of these could end up saving me months of development effort. At previous events I've met people that are now helping me out with my startup. I've made some genuine friends, and at future events I could meet potential investors, partners, customers, or even future employees.
Clearly there is a trade off. If all of your time is spent at events instead of working hard then your startup or side project will suffer, but equally by avoiding these kind of events you could be missing out on lots of great opportunities. Not only related to your project or startup - but also to make friends and relax! Hacker News London is an event that I personally really like, and get a lot of of, but obviously it won't be for everyone. There are loads of tech events in London though, and probably in cities all around the world. If you haven't checked one out yet then I really suggest you do. You never know what exponential progress you might be missing out on!