Networking events in NYC and the conversations haven't really given me what I was looking for. In the spirit of doing, I decided to try and create a new event which would be a better fit for what I want to attend.
The idea in my mind was something along the lines of:
In person Product Hunt or Show HN without a focus on impressing VCs
The rules were simple
- We curate 5 companies who will demo their products for 5 minutes each
- Presenters should focus on demoing with a focus on getting new users or enticing people to join a company based on the product itself
- Attendees are required to provide feedback to those doing the demos. Don't provide feedback? You don't get invited back
Thanks for all the help
Before diving in further, I want to call out the people who helped make this a reality. My co-host James Steinberg, Morgan Barrett for showing the value of a well organized breakfast meetup, the VCs and founders at PitchAndRun including Kevin Weatherman and John Gannon who helped me find presenters, Geri Kirilova for also helping me find presenters, Mark Birch for literally writing the book on how to organize events like these, and my partner for putting up with my nonsense as I dove headfirst into organizing my first event.
Building the event stack
The cool kids in NYC use Lu.ma for organizing events so we used that. Lu.ma, and most everything else we used was free or near there.
We put up the event page and started iterating. This all kicked off around the same time as generative AI entered the twittersphere. I wanted to try and create imagery for the event and was able to come up with the current header quickly using Playground.AI by feeding it different prompts and screenshots of Apple keynotes. You can see that process in the header image of this post (starts bottom right, and ends top left).
To promote the event, we reached out to our personal networks, shared the event in the Saturday app, via relevant event newsletters and listing websites here in NYC, and on social media. It was very amateurish, but it worked and we ended up with more than 160RSVPs before we closed sign ups entirely.
We wanted to make signing up for the event easy so we only asked for a few fields of information, but this made it hard to curate the attendees. To solve this, we used Phantombuster to enrich their submissions with their LinkedIn profile information. We could then prioritize attendees based on how we thought we could create the highest amount of community benefit.
The downside of all of these tools if they don't tie together well. There was lots of manual copy pasting and gluing stuff together in spreadsheets. Hopefully as the community grows and we get some budget, we can get better tools that make all of this a bit easier.
Planning meta game
A lot of the choices made in planning the first event were actually based on us wanting to make sure we could have a successful second event.
- Hiring a videographer and video editor out of pocket to help create content which we can use to get presenters, sponsors, and venue hosts in the future.
- Getting a venue sponsor whose brand brought legitimacy to the event to help build trust with attendees.
- Ensuring we were the best possible guests of our venue in terms of planning, coordination, and general preparedness.
- Encouraging presenters and attendees to continue signing up even when we knew they may not be a fit yet, or we may not have enough room for them in this event. We didn't trick people, we were up front about constraints, but encouraged them to sign up anyways. This allows us to have a larger communication base for the next event making things a little bit easier on us as organizers.
Our first event went surprisingly well. We had more than 50% of approved RSVPs show up which was in line with our expectations and capacity. Presenters did an excellent job and multiple attendees came up to me after the fact asking where we had managed to find such great presenters. Two Sigma Ventures (our event sponsor) did an amazing job of setting up the space and provided delicious food and drinks.
Here's our quick recap video:
Our 5 presenters were:
- Dorothee Grant from Kaveat
- Ben Colman from Reality Defender
- Tomer Molovinsky from Per Diem
- Samir Housri from Mednet
- Diana Hsieh from Correlated
We had a number of small issues, but everything was manageable. I will share a few so if you plan to organize an event, you can feel better when you find your own stumbling blocks:
- We set up a bunch of tech to record presenters and their demos, but forgot to enable audio recording
- We sent out duplicate event feedback requests after the fact
We collected 145 pieces of feedback shared with our presenters, of which 68 had attendees agreeing to share their emails with the presenter for hiring purposes.
We're operationalizing everything we did into a handbook and processes to help ensure that future events run even better.
Want to be involved in a future event?
- Apply to sponsor the venue at https://tally.so/r/mJ1vPX
- Apply to sponsor us with money at https://tally.so/r/nGeAMe
Sponsoring with money will help us buy software to make the organization work less manual, and maybe some equipment for stuff like video and audio recording.
If you're looking to attend a future event sign up with your email at https://lu.ma/borisberenberg