Every Friday, right about noon, a curious thing happens here at the PIE space where Cloudability lives. Many of the denizens gather about the central table, near the door. Laughing and jovial, they come together as a community for an hour. Jokes are exchanged, tales are told, and the social fabric of the Portland startup community is woven stronger and tighter.
What gathers them so? The power of cheese.
I could tell you where this came from, but it’s neither a very interesting nor a very good story. What matters is the event. A brave soul – or sometimes several – ventures forth into the untamed wilds of the nearby Whole Foods to gather a selection of fine cheeses. Then this party proceeds to the Pearl Bakery, to harvest its ripe and fertile fields for bready goods. They return, in victory, to PIE. The riches are set out for display, and people gather for the feast.
Wherever people gather, they will talk. When this happens often with a regular group of people, community is born. Here, community at PIE is born by the power of cheese. A few lessons can be drawn here.
First, communities form around something. It could be a coffee shop, a webcomic, a food, an art gallery, or a technology. There is always something at the center that gives people a reason to associate. Every community has a focus.
Second, community is not accidental. All the people involved show up for a reason and keep showing up for a reason. Until the community becomes self-perpetuating, an effort to keep it going is required.
Third, people really like cheese.