Navigating the event scene in New York can be a daunting task. On any given night, there are scores of events to choose from. However, there are only so many places you can be at once and you must become discerning to effectively manage your limited time, or you can risk becoming a “conference ho,” as Mark Suster outlined in his recent blog post, living a life of “faking it until you make it.” Only to see years pass and you are still faking it.
Charlie O’Donnell, through his weekly email newsletter, and Gary’s Guide do an excellent job of listing the events in New York. AlleyWatch has its own New York-based event calendar located here. However, due to the sheer number of events, even these helpful resources may still leave you wondering how to spend your time effectively.
As the founder of New York Startup Lab, a firm that works exclusively with early stage entrepreneurs, I have made it a point to be as active as possible in the tech scene by attending several events a week across a breadth of verticals. I never go to any of these events with the purpose of business development but rather to gauge what is happening in the digital ecosystem.
The barriers to entry for event organizers are very low – anyone with $72 and 6 months can create a Meetup group and because of the size of the population in New York, a group can grow quickly to a couple hundred or even thousands of members. Looking back at my calendar over the last year, I realized that I have attended over 200 tech-related events and offer some general observations that might help you to sift through the noise:
- Stay away from demo events that are held at bars. The environment is not conducive to demos and I listed this as one of my pet peeves in Ten Things That I Wish Didn’t Happen in the Alley.
- Consider the venue hosting the event. Quality events tend to be held at quality venues. I have noticed that most events held at Microsoft, Hearst, law firms, the New York Times, and NYU tend to be worthwhile.
- If you want a night of drinking, there are thousands of bars and restaurants in Manhattan alone. If you want to network, pick up actionable information and make solid contacts, go to a real networking event catered to entrepreneurs. The two are rarely able to effectively co-exist. Exception: when the event is held in a private room at the bar or restaurant.
- Events that have nominal fees tend to create a more professional environment, as they attract a serious crowd that, through that fee, has committed some “buy in” to their professional development.
- Don’t rely on the number of members in a group as an indicator of quality.
Over the course of attending events. I have come up with a list of groups and organizations whose events I have personally found to be quite informative and worthwhile on a consistent basis:
Techseri.es – “TechSeri.es is a platform to showcase the latest tech and people changing traditional industries such as publishing, music, fashion, food and more. It is done by bringing together startups, industry leaders and consumers for a comprehensive 360 review of the ecosystem that tech has disrupted.”
Their quarterly panel discussions always offer quality content and are usually broken up by industry focus. There is an upcoming panel entitled “FASHION DISRUPTED: How Tech Is Changing The Way Consumers Shop” on Wednesday, March 27th. The team at Techser.ies recently prepared an introductory video that can be found here.
Third Wave Fashion – Liza Kindred and her team at Third Wave Fashion, a strategy consulting firm focused on FashionTech, consistently put on excellent events related to the fashion technology space. The events are usually panel discussions with thought leaders in the space and have been held at quality venues like the Fashion Center and the theater at Hearst Media in the past. The settings tend to be intimate, so there is always ample opportunity to network with fellow attendees, the panelists, and the Third Wave team.
If you are interested in the FashionTech space, consider Third Wave Fashion events high on the list to attend. The Third Wave Fashion Meetup group can be found here.
Ultra Light Startups – Graham Lawlor and his ULS team offer an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their startups in front of a panel of reputable investors. The format consists of timed pitches, questions from both the investors and the audience, and highly valuable feedback from the panel. Even if you are not interested in pitching, there is value in attending, as you get a very good idea of what the pitch process is like in front of New York City based investors. Some past investment firms represented on the panel include BH Ventures, Lehrer Ventures, BOLDstart Ventures, and Bain Capital. You can learn more about pitching or attending Ultra Light Startups events here.
212 NYC – “212 is New York’s leading organization for the digital advertising industry, comprised of a membership of over 5,000 digital media, marketing and advertising professionals. The mission of 212 is to create a forum for members to make connections, share insights and support the digital advertising community through education, programming and philanthropy.”
While the membership group is catered to advertising professionals, some of the events offer value to anyone in the technology or startup space. Learn more here.
This list is by no means all encompassing and I would love to hear feedback on groups/events that you have found to be relevant. Let me know about your experiences on the event scene in the comments below…
Editors note: Reza nor AlleyWatch have any interest in any of these groups and this information is being provided solely for informational purposes. Events are also curated in AlleyWatch Editor-in-Chief Bonnie Halper’s StartupOneStop newsletter.