New York Tech Meetup has named recent SoCal transplant Jessica Lawrence as the group’s first managing director, tasked with coordinating day-to-day “behind the scenes stuff” for the massive organization and supporting executive director Nate Westheimer. Ms. Lawrence’s first day was Friday, but the announcement was delayed until today to avoid any April Fool’s Day confusion.
NYTM is the largest tech organization in New York but it’s often criticized for two nearly opposite problems: members complain it’s too hard to get one of the 800-some tickets and almost impossible to be one of the start-ups that get to demo on stage; the other gripe is that the meetup caters to the lowest common denominator in the tech scene and attracts too many curious fly-bys and so-called “wantrepreneurs.”
Until January 2011, Ms. Lawrence was the CEO of the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council, a non-profit serving 10,000 girls and 5,000 volunteers in Southern California. She’s also a South By Southwest speaker; graduate of FeMBA, Seth Godin’s mini-MBA program for female entrepreneurs; and writer of the column “The Practical Business Radical.”
Perhaps Ms. Lawrence’s biggest task is figuring out how the organization can serve the community now that it’s gotten so large. She’s been working out of New Work City and the Loosecubes office, but she plans to work out of different co-working spaces across the city in order to get to know various corners of the tech scene. “I’m looking at other spaces that I can one day a week float in and out of and get to know a broader cross-section in the tech community,” she said. “I might do Ohours,” she added, referring to Mr. Westheimer’s office hours scheduling app, which is becoming a favorite of some local founders and VCs.
Mr. Westheimer has been overloaded recently between his NYTM duties and Ohours, but will continue to MC the event, at least for now. Ms. Lawrence will speak at the next NYTM event on Wednesday, April 6 at NYU’s Skirball Auditorium; her blog post about the job is here.
Ms. Lawrence also plans to survey members about what they want from the organization between meetups without disrupting what the organization already does well. “I’m not a proponent of change just for change’s sake,” she said. “It’s important to understand and try and get as clear a picture as possible as to what’s working and what’s not before changing too many things.”
NYTM was founded in 2004 by Meetup.com founder and CEO Scott Heiferman and Dawn Barber. The organization reports it has 17,300 members representing professionals from all parts of the New York technology community, and reminds us in a press release that “nearly every notable new company, including Foursquare and Tumblr [made] their debut at a NYTM demo.” NYTM is a not-for-profit.
CORRECTION: This post originally mistakenly said Kickstarter debuted at NYTM; Kickstarter has not presented at NYTM.