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Au’Guest’ Blog Post – Start anything and start it small

Written by Premasagar Rose of Dharmafly, web software creator and community events organiser as part of the Wired Sussex guest blog month.

For me, Brighton is a perfect size. Big enough for lots of different things to be happening. Small enough that I meet people I know all the time. It's got the sea, which is incredible. And lots of grassroots collaboration, lots of opportunities for working with people and projects. And it's close enough to London that you can get there if you really have to.

I moved to Brighton six years ago. Since then, the web development and creative industries have matured. And I have. It's getting slowly more interconnected. There are new co-working and project spaces and hacker spaces. More, bigger, better events taking place, with the semblance of a start-up community poking through. There have not been so many product start-ups, not like London. There are lots of freelancers and small companies doing creative work for other people, but not many homegrown products and services. But that's starting to change.

I'm wondering. Brighton's got the first Green MP and the first Green council. There's a good layer of progressive thinking, and there are some amazing projects going on. I wonder to what extent that comes together with the tech focus in Brighton? The tech is beautiful and we're learning new ways to wield it. Though its sheen can be seductive and distracting. There are big changes happening in the world, and I'd love to see more ways in which we can make tech be a tool to change what matters to us.

An easy place to start

I came from London, then Manchester, then London again. I found that in Brighton it was way, way easier to connect and start working with people, to be passed work from others and to feel part of something. It was very good for me. It let Dharmafly expand from a very small operation working on general websites, to something more focused and niche. We now specialise in interactive web applications, with an eye for the cutting edge.

Brighton allowed me to find people with really specific skills, allowed the team to diversify and let the projects expand and be more engaging. With the city's network of freelancers, we get bigger and smaller according to the needs of each project.

In terms of starting new ventures, new events and new spaces, Brighton's a very receptive place; open to new things. When I started Async, it was incredibly easy to say "We're doing this. This is the date. This is what it's about." and people came. And it's been going for three and a half years and has a lot of goodwill and support from people in Brighton and around.

And it was the same with the Lab for the Recently Possible and The Wild School. We said "We're doing this." and people got involved. I've been so enriched by this environment, to be able to create something as part of the local scene.

Start anything and start it small

Async and Dharmafly had been knocking around as ideas in my head for a couple of years before I actually did anything about it. In Async's case there was nothing in Brighton about JavaScript (a language for programming web apps) and I wanted to attend such a thing, but it didn't exist. I had been feeling that for quite a while before I actually did something about it - because I was busy and it seemed like too much effort to arrange it and get people along, to be responsible for it.

Then one day, I had a conversation with Simon Willison (now co-founder of Lanyrd). We were talking about an exciting new area of JavaScript, "Node.js" (for writing JavaScript on the server, not just the browser) and we wanted to put on an evening about it. I said if you talk, I'll arrange it. And that's how Async started. And since then it's been really fun to create these little events and getting people up to speak who might not normally have an opportunity. And meet some people, maybe work with some of them and become friends.

The future

We first ran the Lab for the Recently Possible as an experiment in Hove last year. It went well, and we set up again this year in the centre of Brighton. Most likely, it'll run for the season and winter down once more, early next year.

There's nothing major planned at the Lab from October onwards. We'll still be working on web apps, and there'll be Async and some workshops, but I'm open for some new vital, progressive project that integrates the strengths of the city - its creative, collaborative, tech-savvy people with open-minded, forward-thinking movements. Feel free to get in touch, if you have something in mind for an event or an app.

It feels like a creative time. Anything is possible, just start small.

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