TechDay, the original tech expo, was held last week at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan.
It is a testament to the growth of the New York technology ecosystem that the expo moved from its previous location at Pier 94 to the largest conference venue in the city. While there are many tech-related conferences in New York on a weekly basis and a variety of demo days, meetups, and happy hours, TechDay has been the only event experience so far to successfully gather the large and silo-ed New York tech community.
A part of its allure has been its continuous accessibility to the public and maintaining its expo format as opposed to the many highly priced tech conferences popular these days.
Since its founding, TechDay has expanded to other major cities with rapidly growing tech ecosystems such as Los Angeles and internationally to London. Walter Charnizon, President of TechDay, suggests that “TechDay is democratic in nature; the vision of the expo is to engage all members of the New York Community, from first time founders to seasoned investors, as well as corporate organizations who want to connect with the vibrant ecosystem.”
We’ll likely see the TechDay brand expand to other cities as countries across the globe look to build their own ecosystems to stimulate economic development. Community is an important part of building an ecosystem, and conferences and events are playing an increasingly important role. Additionally, by organizing the expo in locations across the globe TechDay is building its brand and name recognition.
TechDay brings to the community the accessibility, low cost, and experience of attending a trade show or expo. Tech conferences these days can be quite pricey, and it is refreshing that one can attend this kind of event and not feel pressure to get an immediate ROI — which always comes across as being transactional. The format is like any large trade show, with rows of booths and the common denominator being the local tech community. Aside from the companies that paid for booth space there was also an area sponsored by Amazon AWS with TED-style presentations.
In terms of representation, startups naturally made up the bulk of organizations with booths. And rightly so; if a startup exhibiting at TechDay meets one client or has interest from one investor it was worth the price of admission. There were service providers, ecosystem partners and local accelerators such as XRC Labs and Strata Ventures.
Local educational institutions such as Columbia University also had a sponsored presence and lent further credibility to the expo. What was most striking was how international the conference was, reflecting the global nature of New York’s tech scene. There were entrepreneurs from around the world, and interestingly even an official presence from an economic development office from Japan.
As Anastasia Lykova, Head of Program at Strata Ventures, a program that works with Eastern European-based startups states “We’ve been participating for several years now and every time I leave with 10-20 must follow-ups that then develop into amazing partnerships. TechDay brings us all closer together and helps strengthen the ecosystem.”
Serendipity… NYC style
If you have a product or service to sell, it’s not in good taste to pitch those exhibiting. They came to pitch their services and are not usually in the state of mind to hear another sales pitch.
The real value of TechDay is walking the show floor, running into people you may have not seen in some time from the New York tech scene, and getting a chance to catch up. As Woody Allen famously stated “80% of success is just showing up” and while showing up and being open to serendipity may not be a typical New York trait, it’s one that pays in spades.
It helps to think of the number of thoughtful conversations one might have as opposed to just the number of business cards collected. As Ruben Uzan, a trade show performance and profitability trainer from Paris who helps organizations optimize their conference attending experience said about his experience: “[Techday] is much more localized than international fairs like CES or Vivatech, but definitely a great place to take the pulse of the digital Big Apple.”
Even if you didn’t run into people you wanted to see, the experience of attending TechDay is worthwhile. The organizers seem thoughtful and constantly focused on improving the experience, such as new speakers lecturing on several tech related topics. The expo was a refreshing break from high cost and high expectation tech conferences so popular these days, but like all things, the right mindset is key when looking for opportunities.
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