By Lauren Keyson
NY Tech Meetup, a nonprofit organization that builds programs and partnerships to support the growth and diversification of the city’s technology industry, started in 2004 with just four people sitting around a desk. By the summer of 2014, the organization evolved into one of the largest Meetup groups in the world. Now with 40,000 members, it represents professionals from all parts of the New York technology community.
Co-founder Dawn Barber initially liked the intimacy of the smaller group, but also did not want to restrict people who wanted to attend. “So that was the goal — whoever was interested should be able to join and not stopped. I didn’t expect it to be more than 850 people in an event.” She credits founder Scott Heiferman for the fast growth. “He has a certain bit of a dynamic presence in the technology space; people were interested in listening to him.
“I also I think it was the right time for a Tech Meetup group to start. It seemed to be the one umbrella that everyone wanted to be a part of. Too, I think the lack of salesmanship and the lack of business plan was a huge part!” she added with a smile.
NYTM is led by executive director Jessica Lawrence who said that the events grow by 600 to 700 members a month. “When I started with NYTECH Meetup in 2011, we had 15,000 members; it actually took seven years to get to 15,000 members and then in three years we jumped from 15,000 to 40,000 members.”
She thinks the reason for the growth is that for most people, the events are about connecting with the community. Attendees are looking for a demo on stage with the effects of getting funding, users and people to work with. Others are looking for co-founders or advice for building their company. “For now we are just concentrating on the growth of the demoing companies and seeing how we can help people amplify the connections that they are making through the community and really support them.”
The current board president, Nate Westheimer, started serving in 2008. “Yes, we have grown a lot. When I started attending, there were only 2000 members. I mean it just goes to show that we are in the early Tech Community. There is so much more to go. This is a huge city, a huge tech community and we’ve got a lot more to go.
People come from all over the Tri-State, making a point to travel and do business during a NYTECH event. Westheimer thinks that NYC has become a central point. “They come in for events in the mind of business and meet somebody at the events and start business with them. It’s this biggest ever community filled with people who have so much interest in technology. Although they are mostly New Yorkers, we do have a lot of other people coming in as well.
Chairman Andrew Rasiej believes there is no stopping the growth. “I mean, who knows? We could be hundreds of thousands. There are so many people in the city that work with technology and are interested in technology. The upside of this community is huge, just huge.”