To preface this, I'm a kid in high school that enjoys playing with ruby and ruby on rails. During the summer, my web development passion gets close to 100% of my time, but during the school year it is significantly dropped with school work and other activities.
Last year I joined the robotics team, as I have some C experience, but it turned out to be a real time suck from my ruby on rails based startup. During the year, I also work at our local grocery store to gain some real work experience.
My question for all those with startup experience is whether it's really that valuable to have experience working with technically minded people? I feel like my general work experience (interacting and getting things from others) is fulfilled by working at the grocery store.
What do owners of startup style companies look for in an employee? Am I wasting my time doing C and not focusing on my rails project?
If I were looking at your resume, I'd really be trying to answer 3 main questions:
It sounds like #1 is easy to demonstrate - so you're really just stuck on #2 and #3. You need to be able to give evidence that you've built relevant projects. If you want to work with a web startup, focus on Rails. If you want to work with a robotics shop, then focus on the robotics team. Splitting attention probably won't help you much, as it's hard to build legendary track records when you're juggling many things.
With regards to the experience at the grocery store, that will help you understand what's involved in getting a paycheck and clocking in, but unless you automated some of their scheduling or build robots to manage produce, most startup employers aren't going to care ;)
"Real world" experience isn't as important as experience "building awesome stuff". I'd recommend sticking with Rails to build cool things, and interact with people on open source projects if you need evidence that you can collaborate with other technically-minded people.