New York is a social town. Truth be told, you could go to a tech-related event every night of the week, if you really wanted to – without even trying. In fact, we did an experiment. We wondered if we literally could attend a tech-related event every night of the workweek, every week for a month, and not have to pay (besides the usually nominal price of admission, when applicable) for drinks and/or food.
Full disclosure: you’d better be damned fond of pizza which – along with beer and wine that no one would dare serve friends – seems to be the tech staple.
Because in the thriving NYC tech scene, you could literally go to an event every night of the week, how does one decide which ones are worth it, what do they potentially offer, what will you most likely get out of it, and are you better off just picking up a slice on your way home and calling it a day? Or heading back to the office.
At AlleyWatch we’ve had the pleasure of reporting on the event scene, we’ve gotten pretty good at separating the wheat from the chaff. So, we’ve assembled a list of events that may well be worth your time, separated by category/potential interests, and might we also add that, no matter where you go, it’s pretty safe to drink the water. It’s usually either bottled or drawn from New York’s Finest. Costs are listed, where they’re known, or won’t otherwise cause sticker shock.
Monthly Panel Discussions/Pitching Events/Fireside Chats
These are the places to go to get feedback from investors, practice your pitch or simply get on an investor or two’s radar. We’re frequently there, too, so who knows? You, too, may make it into AlleyWatch.
Peter Crysdale, CEO and Founder of of StrategyHack, runs the New York chapter of Startup Grind and not only does a great job interviewing his guests: he always has a top quality speaker in the hot seat.
He also always manages to get good stories out of them and has a talent for getting them to talk about their successes and their challenges, warts and all.
$20 includes pizza, soda, wine and beer. (Leave it to a marketing strategy guy like Crysdale to knows how to please an audience. Well done!). See past coverage on AlleyWatch of “Startup Grind NYC”
Curated by Murat Aktihanoglu (‘Murat’ will do) and always free to attend. The format is simple: A different investor is invited each month. The investor talks about his or her background and the fund, followed by a Q & A with the audience. Next, five companies take center stage to present their pitches – one at a time – and get constructive feedback from the investor. There are those times when the investor will even invite the entrepreneur to come in and present to the fund at large. It has happened. Many, many times. There are even company’s who’ve pitched, who were later accepted into Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, of which Murat is managing partner. Cups, for one. If there’s time left over, other entrepreneurs present may be invited to give their elevator pitch. That’s 30 seconds. Practice before you go. Go!
No food or drink, but there’s always an opportunity to introduce yourself to the investor. Everyone usually heads to a nearby watering hole afterwards, with the investor (usually) in tow. And what better way to get to know him or her than over drinks… See past coverage on AlleyWatch of “Entrepreneurs Roundtable”
This time, it’s a panel of four investors, and eight startups get to pitch at Ultralight Startups. Again, one at a time. Graham Lawlor’s been doing this since the Web 1.0 days, so it’s a well-oiled machine. $20-$30 to attend, but pizza and soda are included, and despite the fact that they’re plentiful, they don’t last long. Don’t be shy.
At the end of the pitches, the audience votes for Best Startup and Best Investor. Winners (for the best startups) are announced and prizes are awarded to the top three. Grand Prize includes an automatic first-round interview for the next class of Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator or DreamIt Ventures, two of New York’s top accelerator programs, and more.
Again, there’s always time to chat with the investors afterwards, and at the end of the evening, everyone repairs to a nearby bar for more networking and imbibing, this time with the real thing.
Meet the Innovators
Kelly Hoey moderates this free monthly series at the Apple store in Soho. It may be a panel one month – and Brad Feld, making a rare New York appearance the next. No food and iPads not included, seating is on a first-come, first serve basis, and it’s always standing room only. Arrive early. See past coverage on AlleyWatch of “Meet the Innovators”
About once a month, Pando Daily’s Sarah Lacy makes her way to New York for her PandoMonthly Fireside Chat with…a technology luminary. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, Linkedin CEO Jeff Wiener and Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet have all been face to face with Lacy. Be it an entrepreneur or investor, it’s always someone with something to say, and that you’ll want to hear, in a one-on-one with stellar interviewer Lacy. It’s the kind of stuff you’d have to pay thousands of dollar for to hear at one of the larger tech conferences. She does her homework – and she knows her stuff. The event always takes place at Projective Space. Put it on your calendar. $20.
The theme changes every month, and it’s always a good one at Disruptive Technologists. Sometimes it’s a topic you’d expect, and sometimes it’s something from left field. From the people who are changing the game to the people working on it. It’s a panel discussion with anywhere from three to five speakers. And pizza, of course. $16
Startup Weekend NYC
Want a crash course in how to start a company? That’s what this is, and it’ll just take 54 hours of your time at Startup Weekend. It’s time well spent, and meals included (and guess which dish is always on at least one of the menus?)! You learn what it takes to build a product, the functions and contributions of the various team members, and how to get along. It’s collaborative, it’s constructive, it’s intense, it’s judgment-free (except for the part where the judging comes in) – it’s awesome. It’s the perfect way to literally immerse yourself in the startup world. And who knows? At the end of the day – literally – you might launch your next venture.
There are meetups every night of the week, of course, to cater to every interest. Not all of these are Meetups, and we can’t mention every tech-related Meetup in NYC. We’re including a few on the list, but for the full tilt, well, that’s why the Powers that Be and Scott Heifferman created Meetup.com.
New York Tech Meetup
Founded by Meetup founder Scott Heifferman, the New York Tech Meetup is the granddaddy of all meetups and the largest one in the system, with its 40,000 members. NYU’s Skirball Center, where the event is held each month, accommodates around 800. That’s why you make sure to get tickets early. Or head down to New Work City, where it’s livestreamed (pizza and beer included). Or watch it livestreamed from the comfort of your own home, but you’ll have to buy your own pizza. 10 companies present each month, Hack of the Month’s Brandon Diamond tells a geeky joke midway through (I always laugh), and the evening wraps up with cocktails (not included in the price of admission). $10
Hardwired NYC is a community at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, exploring the Internet of things, 3d printing, hardware, and more. Yes, there are presentations and of course, there’s always time for discussions and networking. Free
NYC Internet of Things Meetup
There are a few of them, and Mitch Golner organizes NYC Internet of Things Meetup. This is a group for startups, entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, designers, developers, software & hardware people who are interested in advancing the Internet of Things (IoT). They’re about robotics, electronics, new tech, hardware, embedded systems and open source hardware.
Internet of Things Meetup / Gotham
Internet of Things Meetup / Gotham is organized by Kay Anar, who is a developer himself, and this meetup is dedicated to the design practices, technologies, insights and opportunities around the next frontier information access – the Internet of Things (IoT). They’re about device management, M2M devices, sensors, the web of things, remote monitoring of sensors, wireless sensor networks, smart sensors, new technology and security. Oh, they do provide pizza and beer as well. Free
Wearable Wednesday NY was founded by Paul Farkas, with a focus the blending of technology, art and humanity in the Wearable Technology and Internet of Things ecosystem. The goal is to provide a platform for industry innovators, entrepreneurs, builders and investors to connect with like-minded, motivated people with the knowledge, vision and partnerships that will move the Internet of Wearable Things ecosystem forward. Group Meetups include both technical and market-oriented sessions. There’s a panel each month, with a varying number of speakers, depending on the particular topic, and the content is always worthwhile. There’s always food. $15
Open Source Fashion
Founder (and Awesome New Yorker)Pavan Bahl has built a global community through Open Source Fashion, a platform that brings together a community of helpful innovators working within fashion, retail, and technology. In addition to regular, always informative events that always bring in innovators in fashiontech, OSFashion hosts a unique Freestyle Conference twice a year that brings in the luminaries from all over the fashion tech world to New York City, arguably the fashion + tech capital of the world. Prices vary.
Third Wave Fashion
Yes, there’s a TWF meetup as well. This is a group for the founders and leaders of fashion technology startups, to connect established and up-and-coming leaders. This is not a group for fashion bloggers or plain e-commerce companies, but for #fashiontech startups that leverage disruptive new business models and emerging technologies to sell the beautiful fashion that we all love. TWF also hosts an annual conference. Prices vary
Decoded Fashion connects decision-makers in Fashion, Beauty and Retail with emerging and established technology companies. The monthly Decoded Fashion meetup features discussions and demos centered around different topics and challenges facing the Fashion & Retail industries. They invite a highly-curated group of Fashion Tech startup founders, retail executives, investors and influencers to share their stories (we always love a good story), advice and opinions with our with engaged community of entrepreneurial and forward-thinking leaders. They also host summits around the globe and in New York, too, of course! Meetup: $20
NY Enterprise Technology Meetup
Organized by the awesome Jonathan Lehr, NY Enterprise Technology Meetup was the first Meetup group in NYC focused exclusively on enterprise technology company presentations. The NYETM fosters innovation in the NY enterprise technology ecosystem through promoting early stage technology companies, supporting entrepreneurs, educating companies on how to work with enterprises, and creating an environment where entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses can all network and learn from one another. There are startup pitches each month, and the speakers are always worth going to hear as well. (Investors always show up as well.) $15
Data Driven NYC
Data Driven NYC is a community of tech enthusiasts who are passionate about Big Data, data technologies and data-driven products and businesses, in New York and beyond. The community meets monthly at three hour events that include both company presentations and informal networking.
The monthly events focus on the business aspects of the data revolution: startup opportunities, new products, business models, funding trends, emerging players, and ways for existing startups to leverage their data. Technical aspects will also occasionally be discussed, but a tech background is not required. Free
The Product Group
Don’t quote us on this but Jeremy Horn (The Product Guy), who has been hosting The Product Group since 2009 – and we vaguely remember it starting as a Facebook group. In any event, here’s an opportunity for Product Managers, Strategists, etc., to come together to meet, interact, and exchange ideas and network. Horn always brings in an interesting speaker, and there’s always pizza on hand. And it disappears fairly quickly, as the events are always very well-attended. Free
Digital Flash is Laura Mignott and Sarah Walker-Santana (whose husband, Nick, is always there as well, dispensing wine, beer and Swedish fish), who host more or less monthly panels, heavily attended by the adtech and marketing tech crowd. The speakers are always top drawer – and Mignott and Walker-Santana not only ask good (pointed) questions: they don’t shy away from putting a speaker on the spot, when warranted. But in a nice way. $20
212NYC is a membership-based organization for the digital advertising industry, comprised 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. 212 is a non-profit, volunteer organization and membership is open to all advertising professionals in the New York area. The group hosts monthly panels discussions, and a summer beach party that’s a must-attend.
ad:tech is an interactive advertising and technology conference and exhibition – a marketplace for buying and selling, a community for networking, a forum for exchanging ideas and an opportunity for contributing to industry trends and initiatives. It comes to New York city each year, and it’s big. The exhibit hall is usually free, or open to anyone for a fairly nominal fee, and that’s where you find the new and cool advertising technologies. There’s a conference portion as well (keynotes may be free), but to partake of the sessions in general cost you.
New York is a destination city, especially for startups. Each month, Brian Frumberg hosts Venture Out featuring startups from one country or other (Brazil, Britain, France, Italy, Israel, Amsterdam, etc) and brings them to our fair city, where they present to a panel of investors, who offer their feedback. It’s always interesting to see what entrepreneurs from other parts of the world are up to, n’est pas? After all, the Next Big Thing can come from anywhere. $20
Global Innovators is another monthly event that hosts startups from all over the world that come in to pitch to a panel of VCs who offer feedback. A reporter from one of the large news media entities usually moderates – and the networking is always amazing. The event draws a veritable who’s who of NY’s tech and venture community – investors, corporate executives and relevant partners. The food is always good, too, but you’re more tempted to mix and mingle.
Ok, so every event is potentially a networking event, but there are those where people show up for the free beer (and/or pizza), and still others that purport to be networking events, but are pick-up scenes posing as networking events (they’re always held at a bar, and not in the private room in a bar, mind you. There’s your dead giveaway).
Digital Media MBA
Jeremy Kagan hosts these more-or-less monthly events, and while the venue is usually a downtown bar, the event itself always takes place in a separate area or private room. Everyone within the confines is there to network, they’re all involved in our industry in some capacity, and while they’re primarily digital media MBAs, it’s open to one and all. And free, but you pay for whatever you’re drinking. There’s often a speaker as well, but they only hold court for a few minutes. It’s all very informal and Kagan is a superb connector. Free
The New York City Business Networking Group
Ilana Eberson is president of The NYC Business Networking Group (NYCBNG), and Winner of Top 100 Small Business Influencers Award in Leadership for her contribution to small business since 2007, through her high quality monthly networking events. The events attract people of every stripe, and not just people in technology, so she always gets an interesting mix, the crowd is always friendly and approachable – and Eberson is the consummate host/yenta, who spends the evening mingling and making introductions. $10
The Money Shots
Most of us are bootstrapping. So, how do these guys come to ask us to plunk down thousands of dollars to spend a day or three sitting and listening to panelists talking about their success, and yes, trials and tribulations, but mostly successes. You’re asking for a lot of dosh, when we know that we should be heads down at the office in the first place.
The more expensive networking events tend to draw the Big Names – and the investors and the press. Wouldn’t it be nice to just casually bump into, say (insert name of investor whose radar you’ve been trying to get on) during a session break? Is it worth the price of admission? Tough one that only you can answer. But remember: these conferences tend to draw top quality speakers. One of them might just say something that sets off that a-ha moment for you and it may well be something that could be a game-changer for your company.
It’s expensive Then again, it’s TechCrunch Disrupt, and it’s one of the most anticipated tech conferences of the year. It comes to NYC in May, and if you participate in the Hackathon, you get a free ticket to the conference. Everyone is there, from both coasts – the investors, the founders, even the unicorns.
(don’t you know an interns/volunteers who can get you a ticket? The place is crawling with them, or have your intern volunteer for a few days and get a pass that way. Or you might want to volunteer yourself).
This is the one conference that focuses on the visual web and how digital imaging and video technologies are empowering people, businesses and creating disruption. Odd, considering how communications is becoming more and more visual all the time – and the extent to which visual communications is impacting our lives. Good on you, Evan Nisselson, who organizes the event. The first one was earlier this year (sold out), and it looks like they’re planning another one for next year. Outstanding panelists and subject material. There was also a competition for entrepreneurs and startups. Well done! Looking forward to the next one.
Pivot’s focus is the social web, and trust us, it’s still early days in that field. Since the company also does ongoing research, you’re sure to hear something that you’ve never heard before – and points you hadn’t considered. Again, they bring together the best and brightest in the field, and the newest in the tech and platforms that are powering it.
Joe Rubin has sat on both sides of the table and has been organizing FundingPost events for 13 years, bringing entrepreneurs together with leading investors worldwide. The events vary. Sometimes there’s a theme (Food, Real Estate, etc). Sometimes it’s entrepreneurs pitching to a panel of top investors. Besides the events, it’s also a platform for introducing entrepreneurs to investors. You might want to check it out. Or at the very least, attend one of the events targeted at your company’s sweet spot.
You’ll rarely see these events posted or publicized but you definitely hear about them. They’re invite only, which they either state upfront, or the address is shown only to invitees, or the invite is password protected. Think you belong in the room? Can’t hurt to pitch the organizer or host. The worse that could happen is that he/she says no.