Think it's tough getting a reservation for The French Laundry? Try snagging one for the Silicon Valley New Technology (SVNewTech) monthly meetup. It's currently booked all the way to January.
Is it the free pizza, beer and wine that does it? Those are always nice, but that's not the secret sauce, according to nearly 200 attendee reviews of SVNewTech meet ups. Jeanne Hsu, one of the attendees, noted in an April post:
I definitely enjoyed this meetup and plan to be a regular attendee. It's a great way to be exposed to new technologies and network with other entrepreneurs who are on the leading edge of disruptive technologies! The demo participants also receive direct honest feedback from the Q&A: "What's your business model to make money?" "What's your price (what level are you willing to sell out)?" "Have you considered raising your price? I would pay $X more to use your service." Plus, there is plenty of time afterwards for networking and connecting with the demo participants. People are friendly and open. Great group!
SVNewTech's format calls for live demos in the first hour, followed by an hour of networking with fellow attendees and presenters. Entrepreneurs typically account for 60 to 70 percent of the attendees, with the remainder largely engineers and developers who want to see the latest ideas bubbling up in Silicon Valley. Less than a handful of folks are venture capitalists or angel investors.
During the demo hour, four companies conduct five-minute live presentations without Power Point slides, or some other form of vaporware, and then follow it up with five minutes of Q&A.
Baby, Make Me a Star
In the past six years since its founding, some notable companies have presented at SVNewTech. One was ThePoint.com in 2007, which later became Groupon. Another was Meebo in 2006, which was acquired by Google this year.
"I won't say we discovered these companies, but we did have companies demo that later went on to become big," says Joe Robinson, an SVNewTech co-organizer.
And even big companies have presented at the meetup, such as when Google showed off Chromebooks.
"About 90 percent of the companies that present, however, are small companies that are Series A or earlier [in funding]," Robinson says.
Making It Happen
Each month, the organizers cull through roughly 40 applications of companies that want to present and narrow it down to four. Selection of these consumer tech companies is based on how innovative and exciting they appear. Companies in the mobile or software-hardware integration area like smartphones are often selected. On the day of the meet-up, the four companies to present are announced to members.
"We capture trends that are happening in Silicon Valley," Robinson says.
It All Began
The idea for SVNewTech originated with founder and co-organizer Vinnie Lauria in January 2006. He had moved to Silicon Valley from New York, where he previously worked at IBM and attended the NY NewTech meetup that was organized by Meetup.com's founder, according to SVNewTech's website. Lauria explains the reasoning behind starting SVNewTech:
In Silicon Valley, things were just starting to pick up from the lull of the dotcom crash, and at the end of 2005 there were no big monthly tech events, so I figured I would start one and meet other tech entrepreneurs.
I’m a big fan of Meetup.com and what it’s doing to create localized communities. I had hosted other meetups on different topics before, so I felt comfortable starting a new meetup group in a new city.
Indeed. SVNewTech's membership now exceeds 9,600.
Meanwhile, co-organizer Robinson kicked off a slightly different version of the popular meetup in San Francisco called Designers + Geeks. Currently, there's no waiting list for the Nov. 29 Designers + Geeks—at least not yet.
If your Silicon Valley IT meetup draws more than 100 members each month, drop me a line and we may profile your organization.