Where NY Tech's Culture Comes From (and why we owe Amit Gupta our bone marrow)

October 12, 2011 Filed under: nextNY

As the NY Tech scene has gained momentum over the past few years, I find myself talking to a lot of journalists who are trying to understand what's going on here and how we arrived at this point. In these interviews, I always highlight NY Tech's unique culture, and in so doing I point out that this culture is both native to New York itself, but also cultivated and defined by folks in the tech community 5 to 10 years ago, before this Great Boom showed up in Gap ads and magazine covers.

In my opinion, the culture we have here has been defined by three people:

Scott Heiferman, the NY Tech Meetup, and the culture of building "interesting things."

Let me be clear, I'm talking about the NY Tech Meetup I became a member of, not the one I run now. Scott created a culture, from the very beginning (2004) of "show the demo, not a PowerPoint." Scott set the tone in this City that building amazing software that did amazing things was more important and intellectually interesting than who your investors or partners are. When Scott picked people to demo at the NY Tech Meetup there was never a question of "is this a business" -- it was always, "Is this interesting?"

Charlie O'Donnell, nextNY, and the culture of coordinated, decentralized community.

When I was elected to run the NY Tech Meetup, it was on the platform of supporting a decentralized community, not creating a traditional, monolithic trade association. Saying "no" to doing more, and instead using the NYTM platform to nurture and support other groups (hackNY, TechiesGiveBack, NYHacker.org, etc) is the thing I think we've done best at NYTM. That idea and those values came from the community in nextNY, the non-incorporated, non-hierarchical Google Group-based "organization" Charlie founded in early 2006 and which served as the back-channel conversation and organizational tool for many of the leading entrepreneurs in NYC from 2006 to 2009.

Amit Gupta, Jelly, and the culture of working together.

And this brings me to Amit Gupta. When Amit started Jelly, there were no co-working spaces or hacker spaces or Barcamps or people hosting office hours in NYC. If you wanted to jam out with people about what you were working on you had to show up to a meetup and talk about it, but you'd never just open your laptop, show a stranger some code, and ask for help. Jelly created the idea in NYC that literally opening our homes (or offices) and having other people come work along side us could make us better at what we do and that in turn we could help others do what they do better. We owe the culture of working together to Amit...

AND SO, this brings me to another matter. Recently, Amit was diagnosed with Leukemia.

This Friday, there's a big event in NYC to get people swabbed to see if there's a potential genetic match to donate bone marrow to him. I can't make the event, but I've already followed this link from Seth Godin's blog post on the matter and requested a free home-swab kit.

You see, while chances are slim that I'll be a genetic match for Amit (chances are higher that a South Asian person would be a match) there's absolutely no reason not to get swabbed yourself in honor of Amit, especially given his incredible role in shaping the NY tech community -- a community which supports my career and likely supports yours as well.

So, please, if you're appreciative of what Amit has done for us, do something for him: either attend the swabbing party on Friday or order a kit for yourself today.

It's a super easy way to send a big thanks to Amit for all that he's done and I know you'll feel good doing it.

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