If you're looking to build relationships with VCs, learn from top entrepreneurs or just get deep into the NYC innovation community, I suggest you read a book. I don't mean any particular book about startups--I mean join a book club. Joe Yevoli and Reece Pacheco run a book club of 30 local entrepreneurs that meets monthly. How about riding a bike? Tad Martin of Cross Commerce Media has a bike list of tech and startup folks that heads up to Nyack and points north on 60 mile trips on weekend mornings. That's how I met Michael Bryzek, CTO & Co-Founder at Gilt, who was enormously helpful to one of the new tech leads in our portfolio after I introduced the two of them.
It's no secret that sports are a great way to connect up with me as well. I play on two softball teams in the spring , summer and fall, and two dodgeball teams in the winter. Anyone who ever said VCs weren't accessable has never shown up to sub in at a game for me when I was stuck for players--because they'd know I'd be enternally grateful, even if they're not too good.
I also help run the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse--a free kayaking and rowing program in one of the best new parks in the city. If you live in Brooklyn (or even if you don't and you just like the outdoors), you should come check out our volunteer meetup tonight.
You don't have to be athletic to connect up with investors, though. If you're an audiophile, you've got something to talk about with folks like Fred Wilson, Andy Weissman, Josh Stylman, and Bijan Sabet. Finding great music and going to concerts is a real passion for them.
Food, especially in NYC, makes for a great way to connect with people as well. Dinner parties like the Ted & Amy Supper Club and CityGrit are often stocked with people from the digital world because of where their founders work. Even Grubwithus has been throwing Hacker News meals.
I think the most random of all tech connection hobbies is when Josesphine Dorado got some NY tech folks to go out skydiving. (This blog takes no responsibility.....)
No matter what you're into, there's undoubtedly someone else in the innovation community that is into the same stuff--and building personal connections with people you actually like and share interests with is extremely powerful. You have a much better chance of impressing someone with yourself and who you really are, what you're into, etc. than with your powerpoint, model, or your product chops. At the end of the day, that's who we're betting on as investors. Getting venture money starts with a relationship, and not with a pitch... so whether it's joining up on a ZogSports team, sharing a tune or going for a ride, don't be afraid to spend some time away from the office and apart fromt the wireframes.