Founded in 2004 by meetup.com founder Scott Heiferman and co-founded by Dawn Barber, NY Tech Meetup (NYTM) began its life in the back room of meetup.com’s offices with only four attendees. Now led by Executive Director Jessica Lawrence, NYTM has evolved into the largest meetup group in the world and non-profit membership organization that represents professionals from all parts of the New York technology community.
NYTM builds programs and partnerships to support the growth and diversification of the city’s technology industry while continuing to host its monthly demo nights, which routinely sell out NYU’s 850-seat Skirball Auditorium, giving members a place to watch emerging companies demo new ideas, hear leading-edge thinking on technology topics, and build their networks to develop their businesses. NYTM has been integral in the growth of New York’s technology sector, with nearly every notable new company, including Foursquare and Tumblr, making their debut at a NYTM demo.
NY Tech Meetup officially became a non-profit organization in 2010 and Lawrence joined NYTM in 2011 as its first full-time employee, growing the organization from 15,000 members to its current status as the world’s largest meetup group. She was also instrumental in securing recurring sponsorships from major firms Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Tumblr, MLB Advanced Media, American Express, Thomson Reuters, Morgan Stanley, The Flatiron School, and Facebook.
In 2011, NYTM launched its “Made in NYC” program, recognizing technology companies which have at least 50% of their code base written in New York City, later joining with the NYC Mayor’s Office to launch the “We Are Made in NY” initiative, which promotes the city’s tech sector and makes it easier for entrepreneurs and startups to access the resources they need to thrive.
NYTM teamed with Gust in 2012 to expand beyond the boundaries of New York City for the first time, launching the NY Tech Meetup: Austin event at SXSW in Austin, TX. Each year, the event showcases some of New York’s most promising up-and-coming tech companies while providing plentiful opportunities for networking and highlighting everything that makes New York a great place to live, work, and launch a company.
Also in 2012, NYTM entered the political arena by organizing an 1,800-strong protest in front of the offices of New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), which many argued would lead to rampant censorship on the internet. The event proved to be a success, contributing to the bills’ eventual defeat. NYTM also stepped up when Hurricane Sandy struck the city later that year, rallying over 900 volunteers to help restore access to networks, databases, websites, and other critical technology for federal, state, and city agencies as well as small businesses, not for profits, schools, and more.
The organization also established itself as a key voice in the 2013 NYC Mayoral Election, bringing in several of the major candidates for recorded Q&As with a live audience made up of members of the NYTM board of directors and members of the tech community active in policy and advocacy work. The results were posted on the NYTM website.
NYTM also continues to advocate for women in technology, teaming with Control Group and Girl Develop It to launch Women in Tech NYC in 2013. The group provides opportunities for women to engage and lead in the tech industry through education, networking, mentorship, and career development.
In 2014, NYTM led the creation of the NYC Tech Ecosystem study, which was conducted by HR&A Advisors and commissioned by NYTM, The Association for a Better New York, Citi, and Google. For the first time, the report quantifies the importance of the New York tech community on the city’s overall economy, with 541,000 jobs, $125 billion in annual spending, and $5.6 billion in tax revenues all attributable to the tech industry. The study provides concrete evidence that the tech ecosystem is a major force in the New York economy, accounting for 12.6% of the city’s total workforce. This, in turn, provides incentive for government officials to continue nurturing the city’s technology community while encouraging new companies to set up their headquarters in New York, allowing for even faster growth.