Last summer, I spent a few months in London and once happened to go along to a small event for techies called the "Hacker Meetup".
It was hosted by Ian Hogarth from Songkick (a London based startup) at their office. A bunch of tech startups and freelance developers came along and chatted, demo'd their projects and then we went for dinner. While this sounds very simple, I was amazed at how productive this time was – I made some really good connections and found everyone around me doing the same. The atmosphere was relaxed, people found themselves to be related through their work and could discuss the topics that interested them. I found myself comparing this to the entrepreneurial events I have attended: finger food, napkins, name badges and how you in the name of pudding you can achieve the viral marketing that your company's life depends on. They are filled with people who have ideas and opinions but very few people who know how to implement and build them. I rarely met a hacker at one of these.
So I came back to Edinburgh and we founded The Tech Meetup. No name badges, no interrogation about business models, just the growth of our eco-system and the advance of our tech – be it web apps, software, mobile apps, hardware, games - anything involving technology. There's always an overlap across many of these and it's always interesting to hear what people are hacking together, know about or have worked on in the past. We took it upon ourselves to give Yadster a break for a few hours a month and organise something that the tech community could enjoy and benefit from.
We have now organised three meetups of this kind, and the response has been overwhelming. The third Tech Meetup was a few days ago and it seems to be really helping people out, so we're delighted to continue. So far, we've had a variety of people present at the Tech Meetups – while we all eat pizza and drink beer, we've listened to Yann Seznec make electronic music with his Wii Loop Machine, Gordon Guthrie explain to us why we should all be exploring the power of Erlang, and Dan Shearer discuss how we can time travel using Virtualisation, which I'm still thinking about.
This is an evening where we can hear about all the newest projects around us, find out what people are working on, and find cool new projects to join. This is the purpose of building an eco-system, which appears to be painfully absent in this country and even Europe. The time will inevitably come where our community will want more – exploring the design and front end of the core tech, really what a business model is, what makes sense for each startup, and how to virally market something. This we hope to introduce further down the line, but not by just inviting everyone and merging into a big messy audience but by creating new events where we can do so. If you're a techie and you want to know what's new and what's happening around you, come along and meet everyone. Think garage style meetups for techies, with 40" screens to play with.
We quickly and surprisingly stumbled across scaling issues with this meetup, and it became quite obvious that in order to maximise the benefit from this community, we needed a pretty comprehensive website to do so. This is underway, kindly supported by the community, and we have a quick sample up right now at www.techmeetup.co.uk
so that we could get some feedback from people at the last Tech Meetup. This site will be developed over the coming months and will offer all the functionality you guys want to really benefit from the wealth of tech talent around us. If you don't believe we can achieve that, it's built on the open source Elgg platform so you can build your own features if you wish!
So come along and let's brew something really good.