Brett Greene likens his current position as CEO of a popular, tech meet-up group to his first job as a DJ at a Las Vegas radio station during the height of the punk rock scene.
“The startup scene to me is similar to the punk rock scene in the late '80s, where it was: 'If it hasn’t been created, let’s figure out how to do it ourselves,'” said the founder of New Tech Northwest. “That was my first career, but the way they tie together is they’re both about building communities.”
New Tech produces monthly events for about 27,000 members in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue. A group started by a friend in Portland is an affiliate, Greene said. Membership is free and events are $10 per person. Recruiters and business developers pay $25 and sponsors more, depending on their level of support.
What do you get for that, besides appetizers and a no-host bar? For starters, an hour of networking, which is followed by “the show,” 90 minutes of presentations by companies of varying size, beginning with smaller firms and ending with big names like Amazon, Moz, and Zuliy.
Veronica Davis, a marketing executive with the Bellevue-based IT staffing firm eXcell, said her company has been a New Tech sponsor for the past few months to gain exposure after a recent rebranding, and to connect with potential employees in a very competitive tech hiring market.
“If you’re going to pick one event to go to every month, I would pick New Tech because of the number of people who attend,” she said. Seattle events average 200 to 400 attendees, while Bellevue brings in about 150 people and Tacoma between 40 and 80.
Davis said Greene’s enthusiasm and “ability to bring people together,” as well as the organization’s emphasis on new technologies keeps the meet-ups from being dull. “Also, Brett is very focused on diversity,” she said. “You don’t ever once question, 'Should I go to this? Am I going to be the only whatever?'”
When Greene moved to Seattle in 2012, he wanted to create a tech meet-up similar to what he had experienced in his former community of Boulder, Colo. He was introduced to Red Russak, who founded StartupSeattle, which he sold to the city of Seattle in 2013. Together they launched what was then Seattle Tech Meetup, which became New Tech Northwest. The first event was in Feb. 2013.
The partners envisioned events that embraced the community at large, as well as the tech sector. “If you come to our event for the first time, you’re going to feel like you’re the new neighbor on the block and you came to a neighborhood barbecue,” Greene said. “The phrase we use is, ‘What are you up to and how can I help?’ It’s not, 'How many cards can I collect and how many deals can I make?'”
It’s this community spirit that keeps Noel Nishi coming back for more.
“I’m an avid attendee,” said the business performance advisor with Insperity, Inc., a company that provides human resources services to small- and medium-sized firms. “There, it’s people who want to meet new people, and Brett and Red make it fun.”
Nishi also appreciates New Tech’s encouragement for members to give back to the community. Every month, the group recruits a vanload of people to work with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission in serving the homeless. Additionally, New Tech works with the Geeks Give Back program to raise funds for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.
“When I came to Seattle, I wanted to give,” said Greene. “I didn’t want to just get a job. My favorite thing in life is to connect people and help people.”