Creating an Awesome Conference: Brooklyn Beta

You probably didn’t hear about Brooklyn Beta before Fred wrote about it:

“This is my kind of conference. There was one other VC in the room, Charlie O'Donnell, who makes it a practice to be everywhere something is interesting happening. The rest of the room was filled with designers, coders, and especially designers who code. That last group is a special breed and the heart and soul of many of our best companies.

It was a great group, in a cool space, talking about building web and mobile web services. I saw Kevin Cheng (@k) talk about product managing the creation of#newtwitter. I saw Marco Arment talk about building Instapaper on the side while he was CTO of our portfolio company Tumblr. And I saw a bunch of demos of beta services spliced in between the talks.”

You didn’t hear about it, that is, unless you followed some of the most innovative designers and developers in Brooklyn.  That’s kind of the point.  You see, the crowd here was part of the event—and while sure, there isn’t a single entrepreneur who wouldn’t like to hear about the birth of Instapaper or #newtwitter, if you actually put everyone in the room who would have wanted to be there, you’d have the New York Tech Meetup.  That’s kind of a different animal—a completely different vibe.  The diverse perspectives of the technical and creative class of NYC created a great experience for all who were lucky enough sit huddled close together in a chilly Brooklyn warehouse, nearly on top of the speakers.

While I’m a big advocate of open access, I think there’s something to be said for scarcity and hurdles to discoverability.  Anyone could have signed up for this conference, but since it spread through word of mouth from the most excellent organizers Cameron and Chris, you probably wouldn’t have found it in time if you weren’t in the designer and developer ecosystem.  With this kind of social self-preselection, the result is the kind of crowd you’re not going to get at startup events broadcasted far and wide. 

I hope next year’s event is the same size, with most of the same folks.  It doesn’t need to grow. 

The New York ecosystem needs these events for the most innovative practitioners just as much as it needs open, educational events for newbies.  These are the crowds, when brought together in a critical mass, push the envelope of awesomeness, creativity, and style, carrying the reputation of the whole community on their shoulders.  That’s going to get dulled if half the crowd is made up of idea people looking for technical co-founders or VCs who think every person they meet is only worth the number of deals they can source from them.  There are places for that, and this wasn’t it.

What the NYC innovation community needs is more smaller, targeted opportunities for like-minded, and similarly experienced locals can get very specific about solving their needs in an in-person collaborative setting.  There are tons of opportunities for taking the lead on these kinds of activities.  No one asked Cameron and Chris to put this all together—they just wanted to see it happen and they made it. 

So, before you complain about other people’s events not having the right mix of people, not enough capacity, or not covering what you want, realize that it is absolutely within your power to create the kind of community you want to live and work in.  It just needs some hard work, vision, and execution.