There's a thread going on Twitter about doing a BarCamp in NYC again. I started with a tweet from Jeff Namnum about how he joined the tech community...
It touched off a whole discussion about putting on a BarCamp here again--a collaborative, open "unconference" where people could come together to share and learn about a wide variety of topics. We haven't done one in NYC in a while, but moreover it feels like the sense of a common community we used to have in the early days of the tech community has been replaced by scale and a lot of heads down work. Where there used to be the same crews of people attending the NY Tech Meetup every month, there is now 5 tech oriented Meetups a night on specific things like cryptocurrencies, ecommerce conversion best practices, and Clojure. Sure, it's great that NYC has scaled into the second largest tech community in the world, with layers upon layers of knowledge and experience, successful growing companies, etc., it feels a bit like we've lost a little something about how we used to convene in smaller, more consistent and intimate groups.
I've been thinking about why this has happened and I can point to a few things:
1) My peer group of twentyish somethings grew up a bit, became super successful, coupled up, procreated, moved out to Brooklyn, etc., and just doesn't have the social flexibility they once did. Or, they just got a big fatigued with running around doing events they weren't getting paid for all the time.
2) The larger companies outgrew the community. Holiday season used to mean getting invites to holiday parties at companies like Squarespace and Foursquare. Back then, they were in offices that were yet unfilled, and opening up to the community still meant a manageable number of people. Today, their own companies are communities unto themselves--and marketing and recruiting has gotten a bit more mature than just e-mailing a lot of people to consume egg nog.
3) In some cases, it was a reflection of what was big at the time. There were no better spokespeople for their own products than Dennis at Foursquare, David at Tumblr, Jacob at Vimeo, Kortina at Venmo, etc, etc... Participating in the community was almost part of the job. In today's NYC, you wouldn't market Warby, Datadog, MongoDB or Casper with photos from last night. No one is coming up to you at a bar anymore trying to get you to try their social app (RIP Hot Potato.)
4) Space doesn't seem to be as easy to come by these days. Remember when Sun used to host events at 101 Park? How many events did Jack open CRESA's doors for us? These days, there's much more competition for space to hold events and a lot of the spaces have professionalized, charging because they're now in the business of space.
Whatever the case, it's hard to figure out where to tell someone to go in NYC's tech and startup community if they want to meet up with awesome people doing cool stuff. You can't just swing by Tom and Jerry's anymore.
That's one of my 2018 goals--is to help make NYC tech feel smaller again, and more connected. I'm starting with building up some cohorts of new seed-funded companies. Raising a first round of capital is as good a proxy for "Someone vouched for you and you're a legit founder doing cool stuff with actual resources to give it a shot." I'm trying to bring together every single founder in NYC who raised their first $500k or more of capital in 2017. (If that's you, check out the group signup here and we'll invite you to the first meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) night on the 12th).
We'll do a 2018 cohort and so on... and more water cooler style events that bring NYC's community together. Check out our dinners and Stackup talks as well. NYC can be a huge platform for anyone to make an impact on the world, but it would be great if it could still feel like a neighborhood you grew up in as well.