This episode is a clip from my conversation with Jessica Millstone, a leader in the NYC EdTech community, an early-stage tech investor, and co-organizer of the NYEdTech Meetup.
Gerard Dawson: I’m curious just about basically lessons that you’ve learned from your work with running the meetup.
Jessica Millstone: I can say absolutely the meetup would not be the same without Mike Kleba and Sharia Huda. They have made it, very much what it is today. So the New York EdTech Meetup is a volunteer member organization. We, as I said, at the top, we have almost 9,000 members now.
We grew over a thousand members this year alone. It’s the country’s biggest EdTech Meetup, and you know, we host events. We have an email list. We do a lot of networking between our members sort of on-demand. And then we’ve also hosted mentoring sessions, panel discussions, marketing workshops.
We’ve done a lot of things. We tried a lot of different formats for our events. We have some really big plans for this year too. Even step up our membership value a little bit more, developing some freemium content just for specific members of the meetup, who want to engage with each other a little bit outside of the events.
And we’re really excited. We’ve, we have a really close relationship with the South by Southwest EDU festival, and actually our next meetup is February 11th here in New York, and it will be co-hosted by South by Southwest EDU. So some of the programming teams will come from Austin and, get to interact with our New York community a little bit.
And then in March, we’ll be going to Austin to the festival and doing an event there. So we have a really nice, like back and forth relationship with them. And, essentially the three of us are equal co-organizers. We try to balance the needs of our audience who are educators, entrepreneurs, and investors in the EdTech space. So we just try to be really responsive to our membership community and, I think we’ve cultivated a nice group of regulars, but also new people each time. The people are real, the community is so welcoming and bringing in new people and, really helping people transition between those roles that I mentioned. What we see really our role being is a way to help people move between entrepreneur, investor, educator, and be able to meet all the people operating in those spaces and be inspired by them and model themselves a little bit, and find their mentors and their mentees in those spaces.
So, both Sharia and Mike have teaching backgrounds as well, so they’re amazing in person, and they’re so engaged with the community in person, and online, and have really helped us step up our events and our presence in the community. So no, it would not be the same without them for sure. I would not be able to keep it going just to myself.
Gerard Dawson: The point that resonates with me is how it’s a group of people with interests in education, technology, business, and are free to move between those roles in a unique way.
Jessica Millstone: Well, one thing that we do at every meetup that has become not just our centerpiece, but really the way that we structure almost any event that we do, even outside of New York, is this idea of like, what do you have to offer the community? What do you need from the community? So we call it like, “I needa, I gotta” and this is a really wonderful way to kind of introduce yourself to a big group of people at a networking event. But it also gives that aura of like, well, we’re kind of all in this together and what can I do for you? What can you do for me?
Not in the transactional sense, but like, who are we as people? And you know, what can we contribute to each other? and the community has just really picked up on that and kind of run with it and when we, it works just as well when we bring in other groups like South by Southwest or StartEd, and Village Capital came a couple of weeks, a couple of months ago.
We’ve really been able to bring in very different communities to collaborate with us and then do the same, with the same technique, been able to integrate people all together very quickly. Because I think essentially people do want to introduce themselves and say who they are and what they can contribute and also be open to what somebody else might offer them.
I love, I love that feature of the meetups because it drops. Much of the, it’s very honest, it drops some of the pretenses that some other business socializing might have where you say, I’m going to pretend as if you’d just be friendly and then later try to work in my pitch. And this is, you know, it’s very, it’s very honest.
Want to listen to another episode with someone from the NYC EdTech Meetup Community? Listen to my conversation with Jordan Levy of CapSource.