My friend Mark Long recently asked me about networking in Los Angeles. Mark is a CTO, see, and his company, PortBlue, was recently acquired (congrats, Mark!). After transitioning to the new team, Mark was left to wonder, what now? Where do I need to go to meet the people that I will “build the next big thing for”?
This past couple years, I have been doing a ton of networking. Rather than write something just for Mark, I thought I would let everybody else know what the good, tech-oriented networking events are in Los Angeles.
For the tech-oriented networker, there is one primary thing to keep in mind: Know the target audience for each event that you are interested in. Early in my networking days, it was easy to find a tech event — there weren’t any. As a result, I went to many “Internet” related events that really were not technical at all. It took me a little while to figure out the difference between entertainment meetups, advertising events, marketing conferences, and even fashion shows (did I mention that I am a Technologist?). There is a difference between these events, and it pays to know. With the onset of many more tech events in LA, it is in your best interest to attend the non-technical events. How are you going to find work otherwise?
Here are the technical events in LA that I enjoy. They range from over-the-top nerdfests to C-level shindigs at fancy-shmancy hotels. All of them are great events for different reasons. I will start with the highest level and work my down to the nitty-gritty of the tech trade.
For Business, Strategic, and C-level events, I strongly recommend these two events:
- LA CTO Forum – This is a private community of CTOs in the southern California area. I love this group – what a fantastic resource! Only alpha nerds can get into this community.
- Dealmaker Media – My first DealMaker Media event was Startonomics (a fantastic event). I would attend every Dealmaker event if I didn’t have to pay so much to attend them. Pick your topic wisely, if cost is a concern to you. You will meet great people at these events.
For meeting interesting People, Companies, and Startups, I recommend the following events:
- Digital Family Reunion – DFR is a descendant of the VIC (Venice Interactive Community), LA’s first Internet networking group. If any event has the old school “movers and shakers” of the LA scene, it’s this one. DFR is the perfect blend of people from all walks of (Internet) life. There is a DFR event this month, September 2009.
- Startups Uncensored – Follow Jason Nazar’s ramblings on his blog to stay up to date on what is probably the most popular (free) networking event in LA. The show kicks off with a great presentation (different every month) and then heads over to Docstoc‘s headquarters for even more, intense networking.
- Social Media Club, LA – SMC events have a nice mix of people ranging from entrepreneurs and marketers to developers and community managers. At the first event that I went to, the first person that I met became our first client. Social Media is big in LA, and SMCLA is at the center of the storm.
- Twiistup – Twiistup is kind of like LA’s answer to the TechCrunch50. Companies enter and vie for the grand prize. This event can be hit or miss. It’s either really, really good or downright awful.
- Mindshare LA – Mindshare is where Art meets Science. I have never been to one of these events, but it’s first on my list for new events. It sounds really cool
And now…the nerds!! Here is where the nerds are in LA (in order of my preference):
- Builders and Doers – First a little BSP (Blatant Self Promotion), I started my own high-end, nerd meetup called BaD. It has the highest signal to noise ratio of any pure-tech group that I am in. You should start a small tech meetup of your own!
- LA Hadoop Meetup – My good friend Mark Jeffrey’s company, Mahalo, typically hosts these events. They are *super* nerdy. This is the nerdiest meetup that I have ever been to in LA.
- Dorkbot – This is where the hardware and software DIY nerds go to play. It’s in Silverlake, so it’s a bit of a haul, but the events are fun. And who doesn’t like getting tasty beer through a hole in the floor? (trust me…just go)
- Geek Dinners – I first went to a geek dinner about 2 years ago. That’s when the light finally clicked: “AT LAST! There is tech networking in Los Angeles!”. It’s a good mix of people.
Finally, here are some tech-specific events that I have not yet had the pleasure of attending. I can’t speak to their quality, but all three of them come highly regarded by my peers. I will be attending all of these events in the very near future.
- LA Cloud Computing – This is a new meetup. I’m not sure how good it is, but I am certainly going toCloudCamp LA 2009.
- LA Web Application Developers – I have not been to this event yet, but all the top techs that I know speak very highly of it. It’s only a matter of time before I attend.
- LA PHP Developers – Again, I haven’t been yet, but it’s a very big group and has been recommended to me several times. The group’s size has me concerned about the quality of discussion, but I’ll learn that for myself firsthand.
Mark, I hope this helps. I have a few more goodies up my sleeve, but this is your basic blueprint to tech networking in the LA area. Enjoy…and let me know when you get your schmooze on!