TL;DR: We took a trip to NYC to participate in the NYTM audience and see how things work. We want to bring something similar to Cincinnati, so checking out the original group was a great introduction. If it’s the first time you’ve heard of it, go check out some old meetups.
We help organize QCMerge here in Cincinnati. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out. We want to encourage more interaction between smaller groups, like designers and developers. This year, Erin Kidwell helped organize the event. She’s been involved in Girl Develop It here in Cincinnati, which frequently took her to NYC. She’s also the reason we were able to get tickets – thanks for that, Erin!
Erin also helped with speaker selection. One of the speakers she suggested was Nate Westheimer, who’s currently the Executive Director of NYTM and a Cincinnati native. You can check out his entire talk right here:
Basically, Nate gave his take on how to cultivate a vibrant tech community in our city. It’s something I’m also passionate about, so hearing the talk motivated me to continue working here in Cincinnati. I want to grow our entire tech community – not just the startup community, so it’s important to note the difference.
Last week, Mitch and I took a quick trip to NYC to check out the New York Tech Meetup (NYTM). NYTM was started in 2004 by one of the founders of Meetup.com for the purpose of letting budding companies, entrepreneurs and hackers demo new projects, sites, apps and other things.
The format is pretty simple: three five minute demos by three different individuals or organizations followed by five minutes of question and answers for the whole group. It gets repeated a few times (I think we saw three sets of demos) during the event. There’s also a “Hack of the Month”, where someone demos something interesting they’ve been working on, too.
There are a couple of rules, though. First, no pitches or slides. Only working projects. Second, you’re not allowed to ask: “What’s your business model?”
I like these rules. They encourage tinkering and discovery. It’s important for technologists and artists to play with an idea that might not necessarily have a “business purpose”. It’s more about learning and less about revenue.
What’s different about NYTM is that there is a working demo. The presenters have figured out a way to get beyond the asking stage and are well in to the building stage. As a developer, this is exciting to me. I learned to code on my own, so I’m excited about getting others interested.
I believe that startups are a part of a larger community. They’re fledgling businesses. Usually, we’re referring to the tech sector. There’s a lot of emphasis and excitement on them right now, which is good. It’s also important to note that they’re normally still in the idea phase, though.
A plant needs soil, water and sunlight to grow. Startups do too. Startups benefit from a diverse and available technology ecosystem. The more developers, designers, user experience experts and chief technology officers available, the better the whole ecosystem is for everyone.
We’ve done a poor job positioning Gaslight in the local startup community. For a while, we thought we could do billable work with local startups. I’ve since left that idea behind. We’ve found great clients who understand the ups and downs of software development, which is exciting. We’ve also learned more about our role in this local community. We’re not here to do billable work. We’re here to teach and train. We’re here to offer our space, our knowledge and expertise. We’re here to guide and counsel. We’re in it for the long haul, not short term gains.
Now that we realize that, we’re in a great place to mentor and guide startups to a sustainable existence.