I attended a meeting on healthcare innovations the other night. It featured a panel discussion of experts who attempted to describe what is happening today at the leading edge of innovation in health information technology. It was an interesting discussion, but the setting was more interesting. The gathering lasted three hours and that provided time for networking over hors d'oeuvres, a full dinner, introducing what the chapter and overarching organization are about, and the panel discussion. (Never having met a cuisine I didm't like, I deemed the food excellent.)
The hosting organization was The Indus Entrepreneurs of the Carolinas (TiE Carolinas). It is a local non-profit chapter of a global movement fostering entrepreneurship through mentoring, networking, and education. Their website notes that they are "dedicated to the virtuous cycle of wealth creation and giving back to the community, TiE’s focus is on generating and nurturing our next generation of entrepreneurs." TiE Carolinas is one of 57 chapters worldwide.
Taking nothing away from a superb panel and discussion, for me TiE Carolinas was the star of the evening. I've been involved in entrepreneurial efforts off and on since the late 1980s in the Triangle, but I'm kicking myself for never having noticed this group before. The attraction is the sense of community they espouse and practice. At one point, the host invited a Siddhartha B. Gautam to speak a few words before the main program. He was introduced as the author of Happiness is You as well as a business professor. He talked about combining business and personal life. He gave the air of a person with a deep well of joy. (Of course, mentioning the book prompted me later to buy a copy.) He, and other speakers, also spoke about the mission of TiE Carolinas. They mentioned programs for youth mentorship for high school students. They spoke of the informal efforts of the group's members to embrace new entrepreneurs with the skills and connections they would need to succeed.
But there was more than business going on at the meeting. At the table where I sat, the conversation over dinner was about family and work rather than work with family a distant second. My dinner companions were sincerely interested in hearing my story and were gracious in their time and attention. The attention was warm and caring. At the end of the program, as I was walking out to my car after dusk, one of the people I had met made a point of walking next to me to ask how I found the evening. He was going beyond politeness. His interest was genuine and he was closely listening to my responses.
I found the group a welcome tonic to the notion that business is war where we all struggle against each other, even within our own organizations. These were clearly competitive and sharp entrepreneurs, but they had not forgotten they are human beings as well.