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.