One year of the Simulcast, and addressing the NYTM’s biggest challenge

Tonight will mark the anniversary of New Work City partnering with the NY Tech Meetup to host an official simulcast of the monthly event. It’s been a lot of fun, especially with the fantastic crew of volunteers who help to make it happen every month.

More importantly, it’s allowed about 1,000 people to experience the monthly event in a way that wasn’t previously possible. For an event whose tickets are harder to get than tickets to a major concert, giving people a way to have a great NYTM experience outside of the limited capacity of the Skirball Center is important.

But it still only goes so far in solving the problem.

The problem we face is simple: when anyone, anywhere, asks someone here how to get connected in the NY tech scene, the first thing that comes to mind is inevitably: “Go to the Tech Meetup!”

The Simulcast, which has been great, is still thought of by many as the backup, the failsafe, the overflow. It does only so much to address the bottleneck.

What needs to happen is a shift in perception– one which directs some of that “go to the tech meetup!” energy to something that scales more gracefully.

Because the problem will only continue to get worse. Last week we passed 30,000 members. What will it look like when the group has 50,000? Or 100,000?

Shifting that perception won’t be fast or easy, but it’s the only way to solve the problem.

I’ve got some ideas, as do some others. The board is on the case.

In the meantime, the simulcast continues to get better. I hope this year we’ll see a significant expansion of the simulcasts, so even more people can participate. It may not solve the ticketing problem completely, but it can do a lot to help lighten the load.

If you’ve never been to a simulcast, what are you waiting for? As of this writing, there are a few spots left for tonight’s event if you want to check it out!

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Help me make the NY Tech Meetup the organization we all know it can be! Vote @tonybgoode in this week’s board election!

* In case you’re new here, my name is Tony Bacigalupo. I’m running for a seat on the board of the NY Tech Meetup. Learn more about me here

* The polls have opened! Vote here right now and spread the word! Perhaps you’d like to toss me a reteweet of support?

* Earlier, I wrote a post about why the NYTM elections are important. Check that here!

What does the NYTM stand for, anyway?

It means something different to everyone, but it’s safe to say that everyone involved shares a not just a fascination with the possibilities of the incredible advancements of the last few decades, but a desire to actively participate in making those possibilities into realities. We seek to either build new technologies ourselves, or, in many cases, we seek to apply these new technologies to solve problems in ways never before possible. Either way, we’re united by our shared interests.

Just how big a deal could this be?

New York City is the greatest city in the world. All eyes are on us. When we do something here, the world sees it, and learns from it. The example we set affects not just our own local community, but the leaders of communities in cities all around the world as well.

The NYTM has managed to attract nearly 30,000 people to join its ranks, without even trying. How many more out there might join if we decided to reach out to those we might not yet have reached? Could the NYTM have 100,000 members? More?

The person who gets elected to the board this year will complete a process that began four years ago to establish a governing body around the organization. With this 13th member in place, there will finally be a complete board. This person represents a crucial vote among a small group of people who collectively are charged with representing the interests of the greater community as a whole.

With a complete leadership structure in place, a few years of development and growing pains under our belts, and a growing membership, the NY Tech Meetup is in a position to facilitate a tremendous impact, locally and around the world.

What would I focus on improving?

The NYTM could go in a lot of directions. I’d work with the board to help the organization in a few key ways:

Activating greater participation: Aside from attending the monthly event, the vast majority of the members of the NYTM community has been largely dormant. Every time something more is asked of the community, however, the response is incredible. When our own interests were challenged, we rallied in protest of SOPA and PIPA with a force that could not be ignored. When the city at large was in need of our help, we stepped up and continue to step up to help our fellow citizens.

We’re still just beginning to scratch the surface of what we can accomplish as a community and as a constituency. I intend to apply my experience building communities to the membership of the NY Tech Meetup, so there will be more opportunities for people to participate and get more involved.

There are a lot of ways to be more active. In particular, I want to focus on: 

Fostering job creation: While gathering to demo new tech is fun, it’s also serious business. There’s nearly universal agreement that the opportunities created by recent technological advances hold the answers to how we’re going to dig ourselves out of the economic slump we’ve been in. These answers aren’t just going to shop up themselves; we have to seize upon these opportunities together if we want to make real progress. The NY tech community is in a position to play an active role in facilitating the creation of new jobs as a result of these opportunities.

To accomplish these things, we must engage people in a way that empowers the community to participate in what’s happening. To that end, in my work with the Board, I’ll commit to practicing:

Opening up the organization: I’ll let you know when a board meeting is coming up. I’ll ask for you to voice your opinions and concerns, and I’ll report back on how things went. Hold your elected board members accountable!

Why should I be on the board?

I hate tooting my own horn, but if you’re considering voting for me, then this is what you need to know: I’ll apply my experience building communities to the organization. When I’m not running New Work City, I am working with my friends Alex and Adam, the people behind the legendary coworking space IndyHall, on the Community Builder Masterclass. When we built the course, we developed a methodology for organizing and leading communities that’s been successfully applied many times over. As a board member, I’ll apply this approach to the organization itself. I have solid relationships with many members of the board already. They’re good people whom I can get to work with right away. Knowing I’d be on a board with people I share understanding and trust with goes a long way in making me confident that I can be an effective board member. I’m already in the business of making NYC better. As the cofounder and Mayor of New Work City, I’m already committed to working for the best interests of my community and my city. While I will continue to do so regardless of the election results, being elected to the Board will help to better unify my ongoing efforts with those of the NYTM moving forward.

My relationship with the NYTM

In early 2007, I was working from home, living with my parents, saving up some bucks out on Long Island. I had zero friends in NYC.

That all changed when I discovered Meetup.com, and in a particular the NY Tech Meetup. Before I knew it, I knew hundreds of people in the city, and was quickly becoming an active organizer of coworking communities, events, and even a Meetup group of my own.

Nearly six years, two coworking spaces, hundreds of events, a bunch of BarCamps, a couple of TEDx’s, some hackathons, a fake startup and a turntable dance party later, I find myself completely transformed by a world that welcomed me with open arms.

Since then, I’ve been a part of the NYTM’s Community Committee, an active organizer of NY Tech Responds, and acted as the unofficial afterparty organizer for several years before making it official, and then handing it off to the organization to run. I’ve attended dozens of Tech Meetups and have stepped up to play a more active role in Tech Meetup-related efforts at every possible opportunity. New Work City has also been a steadfast host of the official NYTM Simulcast event since its inception nearly one year ago, allowing an extra 100 people to participate in the monthly event every month.

The NY Tech Meetup changed my life forever. I know I’m far from the only one, which is why I care so much about the future of the organization. There are countless others out there whose lives are waiting to be changed forever, and I want to see this community help as many of them as possible– just as it helped me.

If you’d like, you can help me out with a tweet or similar social media broadcast. If you know other members of the Tech Meetup personally, it would be awesome if you pointed them here and asked what they thought. If you’re eligible, you should vote. And if you’d like to vote for me, I’d be very grateful. I can promise you your vote will be in good hands. Cheers!

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The #NYTM board election is this week. Why should you care?

* Note: Check out the official Meet the Candidates event taking place this Monday, 12/17! 

* Update: I wrote a post with thoughts on my candidacy here. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!

* Update: The polls have opened! Vote here right now and spread the word! Perhaps you’d like to toss me a reteweet of support?

Tonight, the NY Tech Meetup will open voting for the 13th and final seat on its Board of Directors. When this final board member is elected, it will complete a four year transition set in motion by Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman when he stepped down as the organizer in 2008. According to the New York Observer, 590 votes were cast for 17 candidates in the first board vote in 2010. In 2011, 471 votes were cast for 20 candidates. This year, we have only six candidates in the running.

Why has participation been so relatively low among the members of an organization that’s so popular? The easy answer is that, for a long time, people had little reason to think of the NY Tech Meetup as much more than a really great monthly event. If you can manage to snag a ticket, you’re sure to see some really great new tech and meet some awesome new people in the crowd, but that’s about it. Why should people care about who’s behind it? When the topic of the election comes up, you can see people switching off. You can almost hear people shouting  “get to the demo”!

Since the last election in late 2011, a few things have changed. The still very young nonprofit organization that’s been formed behind the monthly event has started to assert itself in a more meaningful way, and in a relatively short time it’s not only demonstrated its potential, it’s had a huge impact on the city and potentially the nation.

The first big win was in the wake of rising opposition to SOPA and PIPA. If there were ever an opportunity for the NYTM to assert itself, this was it. In a matter of days, the NYTM organized a rally outside the offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, who were both supporters of the bill– at least, until over a thousand of us showed up to tell them why they should reconsider.

They heard us. Literally. Defeating those bills was hugely important to the future of a lot of things, and the NYTM played a non-trivial part in rallying its community to action.

More recently, the organization stepped up in the wake of Sandy, rallying nearly 1,000 people to volunteer and acting as the de facto technology switchboard for Sandy relief efforts throughout the city. Having had the opportunity to help make this effort happen, I was able to witness firsthand just how much impact an organization like the NY Tech Meetup could have not just in a crisis, but in many contexts where the non-tech world and the tech world might find themselves with common interests.

The Tech Meetup’s role in defeating SOPA/PIPA and in aiding Sandy relief efforts demonstrated just how important its role can be in the city and in society at large. These happened to be two crises thrust upon us by circumstance, but in both cases an otherwise dormant community was brought to life, and the results were remarkable.

As the NY Tech Meetup moves forward, it has an opportunity to establish itself not just as the representative body of in increasingly important constituency of technology makers in the country’s greatest city, but also as a critical link between that constituency and the rest of the city.

That’s always been the case, but this year we saw two very real examples of why that’s important.

The solutions to our economic woes and the path to our future is undoubtedly centered on the actions of the people building new technology and those who are using those technologies in new ways. The people who lead the NY Tech Meetup will have not just an opportunity but a responsibility to guide those actions.

Holding public elections for four of the 13 board seats is an experiment in engaging and involving the public in this discussion. If people haven’t understood why voting was important before, it should be clear now.

A meet and greet with the candidates is scheduled for Monday, December 17 at 6:00pm at Projective Space LES. Get more details and RSVP here. Shortly after that, the polls will open, and campaigning will take place until the polls close on Saturday, December 22.

I’ll be one of the candidates you’ll see there Monday night. You’ll also meet the other candidates, who are all good people who have done great things for the community.

Everything I’ve discussed above only scratches the surface of why I believe the Tech Meetup and this election are important. I’ll dig more into that over the course of the next week, but before we can do that, we must first agree that this election and this organization’s future are important, worth talking about, and worth participating in shaping.

Why does the NY Tech Meetup election matter to you?

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Three Key Roadblocks to the Growth of Tech in NYC (and Why the NYTM is in a Unique Position to Remove Them)

Originally posted here.

The New York Tech Meetup is holding an election to choose two board members for its newly formed nonprofit organization. I am running for one of these seats. My platform is below, and focuses on the some of the critical things the NYTM can influence to make NYC a more technology-friendly place to be.

Before we get started, I should note that I refer many times in this post to things like the “NY tech community” or something similar. What I am referring to is an amorphous and ill-defined group of people who, in some way, are interested in or involved in the development of new technology in NYC. There is a lengthy and ongoing discussion about the proper definition of this group, which I won’t address beyond this point, aside from saying that the NYTM is in a position to help address this ambiguity in the future.

With over 16,000 members, the NY Tech Meetup has been the de facto hub for people building new technology in NYC. Founded by Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman in 2004, the monthly event has been selling out increasingly large venues for over six years running. Outside of the NY Tech Meetup, no other group is better poised to represent the tech community’s interests as a collective group.

Roadblock #1: Awareness

Why the hell didn’t I know about this until now?

That was the first question that popped into my head when I walked into my first NY Tech Meetup nearly four years ago. If you live in NYC and are involved in some way with developing new technology, odds are you’ve asked yourself the same question at least a few times.

NYC, in case you didn’t know, is the greatest city in the world. When it comes to tech, however, the common perception is that NYC isn’t the best place to be. ITAC, in 2007, released a report entitled “Buried Treasure: New York’s Hidden Technology Sector,” (PDF) and three years later, the headline still largely holds true, despite the city’s expansive and growing array of people, organizations, departments, services, mentors, investors, and more.

The result is that too many people who might have started their businesses in NYC are doing so elsewhere. That sucks for them, and for us.

The NYTM has been growing, along with Meetup, into increasingly diverse and mainstream markets. The event has attracted tons of press and word of mouth, and as such is the first entry point into NY’s tech scene. As it grows, the NYTM will be crucial in shaping public perception.

To this end, I’d like to see the NYTM focus on efforts to increase the visibility of all the great things happening in NYC that the general public might not be aware of. This means outreach to media, universities, and other local and national organizations, something its already begun to do and should continue to do in a more deliberate capacity.

When something important happens in the tech scene, somebody should be making sure that the people and the press know about it. The NYTM has both resources and connections to do this more effectively than anyone.

Roadblock #2: Internal Connections

The room for improvement on visibility isn’t just external; it’s internal as well. Within the loosely-defined NY tech scene, there are dozens of events, bloggers, city departments, workspaces, and communities just waiting to help people develop their kickass new technologies.

One of NYC’s advantages (being big) is also a weakness. Two amazing groups, whose members should be talking to each other, could be meeting in adjacent buildings at the same time and have no idea the other exists.

It is here that the NYTM is also in a position to help. As a central gathering point for people from a wide variety of backgrounds, the NYTM can raise awareness about what else is out there.

This is a wise direction to go, as the NYTM’s monthly event can only grow so large. At 850 seats per month, the event still sells out almost immediately, with a black market threatening to form around selling extra tickets.

The solution to this isn’t necessarily to get a bigger venue. As it is, some people regard the current NYTM as something too big to be considered a single cohesive community unto itself, so plans for growth should take this into account.

Instead, the NYTM can channel this huge level of interest into other events that are produced by either the NYTM itself or by others in the community. It has already started, with an exciting and successful program for college students. These sorts of efforts should be encouraged and expanded, giving more other groups and resources the chance to get in front of the masses.

We’re working towards similar goals at NWC with NWCU, our new community-powered education program.

Hey, this is an election right? I’m supposed to promote myself, I think.

Roadblock #3: Advocacy

Simply put: no organization is better poised to represent the collective interests of the NY tech community than the NYTM.

As a sector of increasing importance to both the city and state of New York, and to the country, NY’s tech sector increasingly needs representation on larger stages. As a 501(C)(6), the NY Tech Meetup’s nonprofit organization will have the ability to lobby members of government. There’s huge potential for this to be useful in shaping local and national government policy, starting with an obvious target: the LLC publishing requirement in New York State.

Former Community Committee member Steve Masur wrote in 2008 about why that law is bad for people building new businesses in NY, as part of an early effort to raise public awareness about a law that’s overdue for a chance in Albany. Now, as a nonprofit with the legal right to lobby, the NYTM can take these concerns to officials and, just maybe, stand a chance of being heard.

This is just a starting point, and government is only one part of the picture. This is an organization that can hire people to work in our collective interests full time, and independent from the restrictions of a more bureaucracy-laden government organization. As such, the NYTM will be able to focus on enacting change that no one else would have the time or resources to tackle.

This is a huge part of what the NYTM must now focus on. Nobody else can represent the people of this community in this capacity.


All of this should be considered with the proper perspective. These are first world problems of the first order, and should be viewed as positive opportunities to make good things better. We’re not curing cancer, or world hunger, or ending war, but as one of the most diverse, driven, versatile, and ambitious cities in the world, we are in a position to build things that no other city’s residents ever could—and who knows, perhaps the things we build together might make a dent in the fight against hunger, cancer, or for world peace.

I just cited world peace, which means it’s time for me to quit my grandstanding. There are a lot of great people running alongside me for board seats of the NY Tech Meetup, enough that I’m confident whoever gets elected will do good things for the NYTM and for all of us.

I’m not going to ask for you to vote for me, but if I do ask for you to do something, please participate. If you’re eligible, vote. If you’re not eyeballs deep working in your startup, maybe write up a little blog post with your thoughts on the future of the NYTM and NY Tech as we know it.

Either way, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. And I’ll keep planning the NYTM afterparty as long as the NYTM folks let me. If this community has voiced one thing in unison, it is that you can never have enough opportunities wear cheesy nametags and meet new people while drinking in a crowded bar.

Speaking of which, see you there?


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