Around midnight on Dec. 12, just a few minutes after being elected leader of one of the most influential tech groups in New York City, Nate Westheimer was winding down in his Lower East Side apartment with some Wii Bowling. Earlier that night, Mr. Westheimer, 25, had a few beers with various blogger types, recently laid-off Radar writers and other 20-something tech scenesters, like Tumblr founder David Karp, at Sweet & Vicious, the Nolita dot-com drinking and dating hole where Gawker videographer Richard Blakeley was hosting the last of his infamous Media Meshing parties. Mr. Blakely decided to shut down the monthly networking event, since, well, there isn’t much networking to do in the job-hemorrhaging media business these days.
As some media types drank away a final fuck-you to their industry, congratulatory text messages and Twitter posts rattled Mr. Westheimer’s phone and in-box. At 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 11, the online poll closed in the election for a new organizer of the New York Tech Meetup, the 7,500-strong, monthly must-do meeting of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and miscellaneous geeks at Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp building in Chelsea. Mr. Westheimer was up against eight other candidates, one of whom would be charged with reinventing the organization; Mr. Westheimer won by 48 percent of the vote of NYTM members (though only about 600 members voted).
“It was probably good for me to be drinking a few beers with Huffington Post writers and other media people last night,” he said the following morning, sitting in a conference room at his Flatiron office on 23rd Street. Who wouldn’t want a drink before contemplating the task at hand: organizing a United Nations of tech communities in New York.
Mr. Westheimer is broad-shouldered with scruffy brown hair and steady brown eyes. He was dressed in jeans, Converse sneakers and a rumpled T-shirt with a Shepard Fairey–inspired graphic of President-elect Barack Obama on the front, his typical uniform as entrepreneur in residence for Rose Tech Ventures, an early-stage venture investment firm. Since closing shop on his start-up, an online publishing platform called BricaBox, in June, Mr. Westheimer has been building an incubator, a co-working space for budding tech companies at Rose Tech’s headquarters. But he plays, too. Mr. Westheimer can be spotted at most of the tech media parties, Meetups and panels on the industry. Just about everyone in the community knows his name.
David Rose, CEO of Rose Tech Ventures and prominent angel investor as chairman of the New York Angels, saw the potential in this young tech guru to help organize the disparate tech industry in New York. “He’s a very low-ego, high-energy, popular, connecting guy,” Mr. Rose told The Observer Monday morning by phone. “He has demonstrated, certainly over the last year, that he is really committed to helping entrepreneurs. And he’s not just a community organizer, quote, unquote. Although BricaBox, the company itself, didn’t succeed, he’s still the kind of person you want to see. You want to see somebody who isn’t just a community pimp per se. He’s also a hard worker and knows what he’s doing in business.”
But Mr. Westheimer has big sneakers to fill in his new position. As the new NYTM organizer, he will take on a role previously held by Scott Heiferman, the CEO of Meetup.com, who founded the group four years ago and has been the event’s charismatic MC ever since.
In an unexpected announcement, Mr. Heiferman stepped down from the position in November, noting it was time for the monthly meeting to become something more than just an hour-long infomercial for several city-based start-ups. Rather, he said, the NYTM should help people get jobs, connect and change the city. He said a new organizer would be voted in by members after the next Meetup. “There’s so much passion out there and there’s so much energy that needs to be corralled and harnessed, and I don’t have the time for it,” he said after announcing his resignation. “New York City can’t count on Madison Avenue, we can’t count on Wall Street, we can’t count on media. We [the tech community] have to save New York.”
On Dec. 1, Mr. Westheimer wrote out his ideas for the new NYTM before announcing his candidacy on his blog at Innonate.com. “We don’t need more great ideas or new great investors — we need more coordination!” he wrote.