Monday, July 19, 2010

Three Simple Truths for Making Something Happen --The Caroline Collective

I first encountered Matthew Wettergreen at SXSW in 2009. He was just getting his co-working space, Caroline Collective, up and running in Houston. With soft-spoken sincerity and Daniel Day Lewis good looks, Wettergreen's easy-going nature disguises a fierce drive to make things happen.

I would later interview him as part of a piece of research I did assessing the size and scope of Houston's creative economy commissioned by the University of Houston and the Houston Arts Alliance. By then, Wettergreen has picked up other gigs to supplement his portfolio, and no doubt his income. In interviews with movers and shakers, his name kept cropping up. Why all the buzz? My hunch is that Wettergreen had unlocked the mysteries of what it take to create something from nothing, AND make it stick. Lots of people do the former. Fewer people achieve the latter.

Here's my take on the Wettergreen Way of leadership:
1. Care about other people's ideas and work almost as much as your own. Every time I check in on Facebook, he's touting someone else's success. No, no...not in a smarmy way. Wettergreen is simply very excited about new ideas and the people who generate them. Hence, it's what he talks about. Building a sense of community happens one relationship at a time. Before you know it, you look up and a ton of people are in your network.
2. Every great cause grows up. For Caroline Collective to reach its first birthday, it had to experiment, draw attention, make friends, and lure foot traffic into its collective work space. So, it threw parties. Live bands, booze, be-up-late funsters. But when the tenant entrepreneurs booted up businesses in the space, Wettergreen was wise enough to lower the volume. It was time to grow up.
3. Keep everlasting at it. There is just no substitute for tenacity, which is the soul mate to hard work. Each time I encountered Wettergreen, it was clear he was working his ass off. People looking to start something can underestimate the grinding effort involved.

Recently, Caroline Collective had a birthday party. I was sorry to have missed it. So let me say it now: happy birthday to an experiment in Houston that brings artists, scientists, social entrepreneurs and renaissance geeks who defy category, all under one roof to cook up the next wave of opportunity.

Matthew Wettergreen, and his cohorts such as new media maven Grace Rodriguez are poster children for the RenGen.


Matthew said...


These words are kinder than are deserved and while my heart has been warmed by them I cannot accept them. This project we've been running would not have been possible without two people, first, my partner in crime: Ned Dodington and second, Grace Rodriguez.

Ned and my views of leadership that you discuss could not have been possible without the strength our relationship and the ability to push each other to what we are capable of. Which is admittedly too far most of the time and has at least once resulted in free climbing outdoor structures. This passion for each other's ideas and goals has kept us running even at times of disappointment and strife.

Although Grace was not a founding member of Caroline Collective and although we've just invited her to become a co-owner she has been a part of our family for some time now. What started for her simply as an interest in a comfortable red swing in our backyard turned quickly into providing significant vision and mind share. I do not believe we would be so effectively community minded if it were not for her contribution.

Thank you again for the kind words and Birthday wishes to us all, myself, Ned and now Grace. We're all in it together.

Grace Rodriguez said...

Thanks for the write-up on Caroline Collective, Patricia! Please don't forget how much Matthew's better half, Ned Dodington, has contributed to the project as 50% partner...Ned is the man behind the curtain, so to speak. You can catch a glimpse of his brilliance on his site - - or through our new creative incubator, C2 Creative -

Thanks again - I hope to see you sooner than the next SXSW!

Anonymous said...

I'm honoured to be apart of Caroline now for ... well, more than a year. I won't brag about Matthew and Ned's visionary status. What I will say is that they're the people I would want to share a beer with - and long conversations. And isn't that what it's really all about?

Patricia Martin said...

It doesn't surprise me that Matthew, Grace and Ned are quick to share the credit for making Caroline Collective the success that it is. You work collaboratively. How very RenGen of you. More good fortune awaits you, I'm sure of it.