New York City Really Needs a Community Space for Tech Events

On Wednesday, we held our third annual MongoNYC conference, hosting over 900 attendees. I would consider the event a major success, with lots of new content from 10gen engineers, the MongoDB ecosystem, and community users. While I was very pleased with the turn out and the content, the venue was pretty horrible, and didn’t reflect well on 10gen or New York City.

More than any other city, we have struggled to find large, affordable venues in New York City that are easily accesible via public transportation. (This is coming from someone who has personally organized dozens of events all over the world.) I’ve felt the pain the past three years as MongoNYC has grown. It was challenging to find space for MongoNYC when it was 200 people in 2010, 500 people in 2011, and 900 in 2012. I’m at a loss for next year, where we anticipate 1500+. So far it looks like our options are limited to expensive hotels or the Javits Center.

New York City is increasingly becoming a hub for technological innovation, and the growth of MongoNYC reflects that trend:

As the startup and technology community grows in New York, it’s becoming increasingly important that the infrastructure is in place to support that community. This includes things like more reliable high speed internet, more engineering and product talent, and successful startups — all brilliantly outlined in Chris Dixon’s post about what the NYC startup world needs on his blog. In addition to those items, New York City needs better venues for developer events and conferences. A conference center would be extremely beneficial both for bringing the local community together and drawing tech talent from other parts of the world to New York City.

Major developer conferences like PyCon, JavaOne, RailsConf, etc. just don’t happen in New York City (Fred Wilson recently lamented this fact on AVC). To be viewed as a center of innovation, New York City needs to be seen as an option for these events. (In contrast, between the Santa Clara Convention Center, Moscone Center, Bently Reserve, Hilton San Francisco, the Mission Bay Conference Center, and the San Jose Conference Center, there is no shortage of meeting spaces in the Bay Area. And Boston has a great community venue in the Microsoft NERD Center, where lots of free events are held.)

Many people travelled from around the country to attend MongoNYC. This could be the perfect opportunity to show them that New York City is a viable alternative to Silicon Valley if you want to work at or found a startup. I hope that those that came to MongoNYC realized that from the quality of the attendees and presentations. They certainly didn’t get that impression from the venue!

More people talking about tech is a good thing for raising the profile of NYC as a tech hub. Perhaps the NYC economic development organizations could subsidize such events. Or, one of the non-profits focused on technology in NYC (NYTM, Startup Foundation, etc.) could make community events and space a core part of their mission. I’d love to hear your ideas for addressing this issue.

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