Flash forward to 2012. The NY Tech group’s membership has swelled to 22,000 people. Its monthly Meetup events, held at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, sell out almost instantly and even more $10 tickets are sold for live simulcasts at two off-site locations.
It’s not an accident that the trajectories of NY Tech Meetup and the city’s technological scene are ascending in tandem. As the city attempts to rival Silicon Valley as the place for start-ups and developing tech companies, NY Tech Meetup is taking its role as a supporter and cheerleader for New York tech companies very seriously.
“We are here to help increase visibility and support the New York tech community,” said Jessica Lawrence, managing director of NY Tech Meetup. “That’s our mission.”
Lawrence was hired in April 2011 and is the first full-time employee. Since she started, the tech scene has exploded in New York City, and in just one year nearly 7,000 new members have signed up.
Tech Meetup acts as both an incubator of ideas and a platform from which to present, or demo, those ideas. At each monthly meeting a handful of tech start-ups present their newly launched products to a crowd of hundreds (the Skirball Center alone seats 860). In return, they receive exposure, feedback and credibility.
“It’s a rite of passage, you have to go through the Meetup as a tech start-up,” said William Mougayar, CEO of Engagio, a New York City and Toronto-based company that presented its social media product at the Tech Meetup in February. “It’s a validation point.”
And of course, in a city as big as New York and with as much competition as anywhere else, exposure is paramount. Lawrence says a major appeal of presenting at Tech Meetup is the press attention and the fact that companies are able to demo their products in front of the cream of the crop of the New York City tech world.
“To present at Tech Meetup, in front of the most forward-thinking and innovative minds in start-ups and veterans alike, it’s quite an honor,” said Glenn Rogers, CEO and co-founder of Float Schedule, a Brooklyn-based start-up that demonstrated a schedule management tool for work teams at February’s Tech Meetup. “This was number one for us.”
HYPING ‘MADE IN NYC’ COMPANIES
A new project that has launched on Lawrence’s watch is the Made in NYC campaign, which promotes start-ups that were founded in New York City and do at least 51 percent of their coding, or development, here. By promoting and supporting these companies, Tech Meetup hopes more companies will be inspired to come to New York and make a go of it in the tech scene. The label is proving itself desirable. Already 300 companies are listed on a central site as “Made in NYC,” and more are launching every day.
And just as Meetup’s membership is growing and the number of companies Made in NYC are growing, so too is the entire industry, citywide.
“In the last year the tech industry has taken off,” said Lawrence. “Events are filling up faster and more and more tech companies are being recognized by an influx of venture capital funding.”
“People aren’t having to go to Silicon Valley to get funding,” she said.
Indeed, with the city’s announcement in December of the applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island, to be run by Cornell University and its partner, Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s very public push to bring accountability to government through the use of technology, New York is positioning itself as “Silicon Alley,” the next Silicon Valley.
BEFORE THE BOOM
Tech in New York has exploded over the last couple of years, but there was a slow simmer before the boom. NY Tech Meetup was launched in 2004, just a few short years after the first crash in the digital economy.
“NY Tech Meetup provided the foundation and a place for the people building companies in the early days and people building new companies, to build a sense of community,” said Lawrence. “It [the Meetup] provided a place for people to gather.”
By bringing the old and new guard together, the Meetup has shown members that working together benefits all.
“After the collapse in 2001, companies fell apart and a lot of people got out of the industry,” said Mark Chackerian, who has been attending NY Tech Meetups since the early days. “It was a good time to start a new organization.”
And although the start-up scene in New York today is much stronger than it was then, the goal remains the same for NY Tech Meetup.
“Our existence is about getting people excited about building companies in New York,” said Lawrence. The next project of Tech Meetup is Start-up School videos, in which individual start-ups tell their stories and share lessons they’ve learned.
For more technology news, watch “MetroFocus: The Tech Economy,” airing on THIRTEEN on June 30 at 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and July 12 at 8:30 p.m.; on WLIW at 5:30 a.m. on June 30; on NJTV on July 1 at 5:30 a.m. and July 2 at 4:30 a.m.