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No One Wants To Play With Me

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

I remember walking into my first NY Tech Meetup almost two years ago. I looked around and didn’t know anyone in the 120-person crowd.  After watching the demos a safe two seats away from the closest attendee, I approached someone and introduced myself.  They didn’t seem interested in talking to me and walked away a few minutes later.  After standing around for a few more minutes acting like I was looking for someone, I just walked out.  Ouch.

Two years later, that’s all changed.  I’m now a member of the tech community.  Don’t get me wrong, I get left out of all sorts of tech events (a painful experience of seeing the event get announced on Plancast weeks before and then getting reminded the day of, courtesy of Foursquare checkins).  But, more often then not, I make the cut and, when I go, I’m greeted by many friendly faces. I even get emails from people wanting advice on how to break into the NY tech community which is why I’m publishing this post.

Here’s what I did (like everything else in my life, it’s a logical series of steps):

1.  I realized it’s really important. I didn’t think it was till I had a couple of lunches where people completely changed how I was approaching my work (both on the product side and the entrepreneurial side).  I also read this crazy but brilliant book: Never Eat Alone.

2.  I set up social media profiles. LinkedIn is good and easy but Twitter is the really important one.  After meeting with people, Twitter was a great way to keep the connection alive as most people (including me) are thrilled and flattered whenever anyone responds to their tweets.  The other thing to do is set up a blog.  If you can do it, that’s awesome and it will be really helpful.  I never was able to keep up with it till more recently.

3.  I reached out to my existing network. I found all my existing friends who were in tech and met up with them.  I also asked them to introduce me to other people they knew.  This got the ball rolling.

4. I cold emailed / got intros to prominent young members of the community.  I met with community organizers (Charlie O’Donnell with nextny and Nate Westheimer with the Tech Meetup).  I also met with anyone who was seriously working on a startup.  Out of every five meetings, one will go nowhere, three will be good and one will be amazing.  I had amazing meetings with: Tobin Schwaiger-Hastanan, Fraser Kelton, Jonathan Wegener, Jon Steinberg, Jason Schwartz, Andrew Kortina, Nathan Folkman, Mark Davis, Eric Friedman, Bryan BirsicDave AmbroseJustin TsangGreg Galant and a bunch more I know I’m forgetting).  They gave me advice that would have a profound impact on what I was working on.

5. I went to tech events.  The NY Tech Meetup is a great way to support your community and meet new people; but, if you’re not good at going up to people, you’re going to struggle.  I had more success at the smaller meetups like the NYC Lean Startup Meetup.  You should try to form a quick connection with someone and email them afterwards to set up a breakfast or lunch.

6.  I helped organize an event for founders.  This may have been the most helpful of all.  Jim Moran, my co-founder at Yipit, and I organized an “Entrepreneur’s Brown Bag” with DFJ Gotham.  Every month, 12 different entrepreneurs would get together at DFJ Gotham’s offices for a pizza lunch and we would talk about our challenges.  We no longer do it but, over a seven month period, we met so many awesome founders that turned into great friends.

7.  I joined Soccer 2.0.  I played a ton of soccer growing up and I found out about a tech team that played soccer (you wouldn’t think that’s the best way to put together a sports team but we actually ended up winning our division). Whatever your non-tech related hobby is, I’m sure there are other members of tech community who share it.

8.  I didn’t keep score. My goal with everyone I meet with is to be more helpful to them than they are to me.  I try to spend more of the meeting talking about their stuff than mine.  I try to give them advice / ideas and come up with introductions that might be helpful to them.  Trust me, it all comes back and way more than you would expect.  After I met with Chris Dixon, who was obviously way more helpful to me than I could be to him, I got back to my office and spent four hours going through his site Hunch and sent him a hundred points of feedback.

While it took a serious commitment, becoming a member of the tech community has been crucial for me.  I can honestly say that much of the success that we’ve had at Yipit (funding, product improvement, PR) can be attributed to someone in the tech community who was kind enough to help us out.

(Photo courtesy of Larry)

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

Small Business Community Organizer – New York Tech Meetup

January 9, 2009 | Comments Off on Small Business Community Organizer – New York Tech Meetup | new york city

The new organizer of the New York Tech Meetup, Nate Westheimer, had the idea of launching a “Community Committee” which will be “dedicated to connecting information and resources within the NY tech community”.  Immediately, I thought of a niche community that I am personally very involved with, New York’s small and medium-sized businesses.  The SMB community is in dire need for technology help as it struggles to compete with sophisticated nationwide businesses and online-only retailers.  At the same time, the SMB community is in a position to help the New York community as potential clients and providers of meeting spaces.   The SMB community should definitely be represented in the “Community Committee” and I would like to volunteer my time to make that happen.

The following is a vision of how the New York tech and small business communities could be working together.  The relationship, as laid out below, allows for both communities to efficiently benefit from a stronger relationship.

NY Tech and Small Business

How do we reach out to the SMB community?

The New York small business community is large (over 50K in New York) and hard to reach.  I have setup a new meetup called the New York Small Business Tech Meetup.  The meetup will bring together members of the New York tech community to demonstrate popular and emerging technologies to small businesses.  In order to populate the meetup with small businesses, we can

  • Contact chambers of commerce, business improvement districts and trade organizations in New York

  • Encourage NY Tech Meetup members to mention this new meetup to their favorite small businesses

  • Through Yipit, I am in constant contact with thousands of small businesses in New York, and will encourage them to join

I am excited to see what a united New York tech and small business community could accomplish together.  Please let me know if you any additional thoughts as a comment below or email me at vin at yipit dot com.

Step-up On Behalf of Your Niche Community

If you think you are in a position to represent a “niche” New York community, I would urge you to volunteer.  You can do so on by leaving a message on the NY Tech Meetup message board.  Nate is looking for volunteers to step up on behalf of all communities that interact with technology including politics, design, video, university, women, VC, government and all other niche communities.

You Decide Who Presents at the Next NY Tech Meetup

October 9, 2008 | Comments Off on You Decide Who Presents at the Next NY Tech Meetup | new york city

Allen Stern, from CenterNetworks, wrote an excellent blog post about how the selection process for the NY Tech Meetup doesn’t seem fair.  Well, how about we let the NY Tech Meetup Community decide who gets to demo?

As a quick solution, I have put the companies that have requested to demo below.  NY Tech Meetup Members can vote through the comment section of this blog for the demos they would like to see.  Please identify yourself so that I can confirm you are a member of the NY Tech Meetup.  I’ll update the vote counts as the comments come in.

Update:  Some of you have requested to vote but offline, that works.  Just email me at vin at yipit dot com

If you would like to be included in this blog, email me at vin at yipit dot com and I’ll update the blog post to reflect your demo.

If we get enough participation, can the NY Tech Meetup really ignore us?

The companies requesting to demo are:

SaneBull | 2 Votes
Presenter:  Felix
SaneBull is an AJAX-powered financial platform which provides live stock market quotes, live news, financial widgets and more.  We have recently overhauled our entire website with a new look and dozens of new features. We’d love to showcase these new features to the Tech Meetup audience.

FreshmanFund | 2 Votes
Presenter: Jeff Frese
A registry for college savings that helps parents save for college even during tough economic times such as these.

RTP | 2 Votes
Presenter:  Dario Meyer
RTP (Right Time & Place) is a location based platform for all GPS enabled cell phones that allows users to obtain and share real estate listings, social events/activities and sales/promotion. My idea is unique due to the fact that it offers the user more features than what is out in the market, most LBS programs remind me of a yellow book with a GPS attached to it.

TurnTo | 3 Votes
Presenter:  George Eberstadt
TurnTo enables visitors to e-commerce sites to see what friends have bought there. This makes it easy for shoppers to get advice they can really trust — without ever leaving the site they are shopping on. TurnTo brings together social networks and e-commerce in a new way that’s better for users and better for businesses.  In a word, it’s what Beacon should have been.

HabitatMap | 1 Vote
Presenter:  Michael Heimbinder
HabitatMap, a Brooklyn based environmental health justice non-profit, builds online tools to support grassroots organizing for livable cities and healthy communities. Below, I’ve included links to a few of the collaborative maps we’ve put together with our partners in the last few months. HabitatMap is a wiki so feel free to contribute to an existing marker or add your own.

Sosauce | 2 Votes
Presenter:  Jamie Lin
We’d love to demo Sosauce at the coming (November) meetup. Our demo’s focus will be on Sosauce Mesa, the leading web-based 3D virtual world. Mesa is the only web VW that runs in all browsers and on both Macs and PCs. We’d like to take the opportunity to unveil several awesome new features as well as announce the grand opening of a new virtual tourist destination — Ross Island. For the first time, people will get to explore this mysterious Antarctic island, which is off limits to the general public in real life. A video introduction to Sosauce Mesa can be found here.

Wee Web | 1 Vote
Presenter:  Matt Meeker
Wee Web is a service for new & expecting parents to easily share photos, videos, and quick twitter-style updates about their newborns with close family & friends in a private environment.

Shake Shack Without the Wait

September 9, 2008 | Comments Off on Shake Shack Without the Wait | data analysis, new york city

For those not in the know, new yorkers have been relaying shake shack line lengths using Twitter through a shake shack account a.k.a Shake Shack Flash Mob.  I decided to take the data created over the last four months and try to answer the question:  When should we try to grab lunch at Shake Shack? After all, no one wants to be in a 60-minute or “third tree” line behind 50 tourists.

Shake Shack Lunch Time

As a quick disclaimer:  While the mob is active, the sample size is too small to time it down to the minute, but the data does seem to point towards the following conclusions:

  • Pre-noon lunch:  Hit-or-miss.  You’d think by scrambling down there before noon you’d be okay, but there’s no guarantee.  Make sure to check the shake shack webcam
  • Post-noon lunch:  Not much data collected but not surprising.  The flash mob knows better than to insult the Shake Shack gods by irreverently trying to grab lunch during lunch-hour
  • Post-3 pm lunch:  This is the ticket. Either starve yourself till then or get a job that allows you to wake up at 11 am
  • General tip:  If it’s raining, cold or really hot, the line will be shorter than usual but don’t be surprised to still find people braving the elements
  • Funniest shake shack tweet goes to ceonyc:  “line very short….swarm! Swarm!”

Who’s graciously tweeting away line lengths?

Here’s the full list of shake shack tweeters:

Shake Shack Twitter Contribution

Update: Eater reblogged this post and pitched the shake shack flash mob.  Nice.

Update2: Thrillist reblogged the post referencing the shake shack flash mob as “vigilante nerds”