When I moved to New York in 2000, it seemed like everybody creative in their 20s was in a band or working on a movie. It’s my own sample population, weighted by the fact I was making movies and new bands played the best parties. But yesterday, when we presented at New York Tech Meetup, I felt like I was witnessing a personal confirmation of something I’ve experienced since 2010: start-ups are like the new bands. And Tech Meetup, with its raucous audience, obsessive fans, dramatic presentations and potential flameouts reminds me of a CMJ showcase; maybe no 4 am curtains, but definitely with companies that make you feel as charged as seeing '05's Hold Steady, or as optimistically nervous as early Cat Power. And this month’s Meetup, thanks to start-up Instinct, even featured guitar.
We presented last and had 5 minutes to create an eBook and demo some of our new features (coming very soon, promise!). Though we often present, the audience reaction, especially after the Meetup at Sullivan Room, was powerful and different. Everyone wanted to talk about what we were doing, what they were doing, what the other companies were doing. Excitement drove the conversations more than business. In the early 2000s, the people I knew working at Matador and small PR firms were in the industry, but they were also really into the industry. That's what I experienced with Meetup attendees. They just love this stuff.
Something else that stood out last night — the presence of strong women. At least a third of the companies that presented had female founders or co-founders. Before the demo started, I saw one hugging her boyfriend. He looked like a band's quietly cool guitarist. But she was the one on stage, he was the one cheering in the audience. The music scene I knew often felt like a boys' world. In tech, the stage seems open to anyone smart enough to grab it and take control.
I’m cheerleading this culture, but I think I’m finally old enough to recognize that something is actually happening while it’s actually happening. With bands that used to mean they were probably old news, with New York tech I think it means it’s just the beginning.
Maybe not all the companies that get on stage at a Meetup are going to be around forever, but like the Velvet Underground, you get the feeling that everyone who sees them demo is going to start their own.comments powered by Disqus