What NY Tech Meetup and #nytech are all about.

October 24, 2012

Wednesday night I attended VentureBeat's NYC launch party, which coincided with them honoring a few folks they felt have been influential in making NY tech what it's become.

As I was one of the folks on their list, they asked me to come and say a few word about NY Tech Meetup and the NY tech community.

The venue was full and I knew people wanted to get back to the open bar, so I make my remarks as fast as possible. But before the event I had prepared some thoughts to share, and so since I didn't get to share the full version at the event, I figured I should share the full version below:

Thanks Matt and Devindra. Matt Marshall was one of the first West Coast journalists to recognize this tech renaissance going on in NYC and I'm excited for their team and the New York tech community that VentureBeat is increasing their presence in the city.
I want to talk a bit about NY Tech Meetup and what receiving this honor means to me within the lens of our group's history.
As many of you know, the NY Tech Meetup was founded in 2004 as a way for Scott Heiferman to get people in a room together to show off the cool things they'd been working on. There wasn't talk of funding, or IPO trends. The NY Tech Meetup was founded purely from the joy of seeing and sharing new and interesting things, and celebrating everyone's work, no matter the commercial prospects or eventual "success" they might enjoy.
When I attended my first NY Tech Meetup, in January of 2007, instead of 10 people in the Meetup.com conference room, I found 200 people in an auditorium at Cooper Union, but the very same ethos was in play. Cool things were being shown off and everyone was just tickled to death that they lived in a city where other interesting people were working on interesting things and willing to share.
At the end of those early meetups, there was one more thing: Scott and Dawn let anyone -- seriously, anyone -- get up at the front of the stage and announce whatever: events, initiatives, open positions, stuff on the same night as the next Tech Meetup, whatever. The platform was for the community, and one day, in 2006, Charlie O'Donnell used that platform to announce a new group called nextNY.
I bring up Charlie and nextNY because, for several critically important years in the formation of the modern "NY Tech" ecosystem, nextNY was the hub of great discussions about what NY Tech was and what it would become. It was an unparalleled forum where founders and hackers could ask each other for advice and share lessons learned.
Without reservations, I can say NY Tech wouldn't be what it is today without those key years of a vibrant nextNY, and nextNY wouldn't have been what it was if Scott and Dawn hadn't operated the NY Tech Meetup in a way that always promoted the community, and never itself.
Fast forward to now and the NY Tech Meetup's has changed a bit. Today we have over 28,000 members and are operated by one of the best non profit executives in the Country, Jessica Lawrence, and best Board Chairs, Andrew Rasiej.
But while things have changed on the surface, we've worked extraordinarily hard at preserving that ethos that Scott and Dawn instilled in the organization from its earliest days: the idea that NY Tech Meetup, as an organization and as organizers, should be not be the center of ny tech, rather that leadership in this community needed to grow everywhere, and the NYTM should be a launchpad for new leadership, not a way to promote existing leaders.
So I think that NY Tech Meetup has successfully influenced the evolution of our ecosystem but most of all when we celebrate of the successes and ambitions of others. That's why we opened the stage to Charlie and nextNY in 2006, and what helped kick off Social Media Week and Internet Week in 2009, and started handing the stage to Camp Interactive in 2010, and what gave HackNY a place to launch and grow starting in 2011 and what brought dozens of organizations together for our successful protest of SOPA and PIPA in 2012.
And so, while I accept and appreciate the recognition here tonight, at the same time I want to remind ourselves and sing the praises of a community that cares less about the public recognition of "influencers" and more about a community that elevates new people and ideas with a vision that a rising tide lifts all boats.
That's the vision that has driven the NY Tech Meetup to its scale, that's the ethos that's driven the NY tech community to its vibrancy and unique culture, and that's the ethos that will keep NY tech growing and changing and remaining the best place on the planet to invent, share and celebrate new technology.
So thanks so much for the recognition. Now lets get back to celebrating everybody and every thing NY tech is all about.