New Tech group exploring format change, seeking new venue

BOULDER – A staple of Boulder’s entrepreneurial scene is contemplating an overhaul and is seeking a new venue.

Robert Reich, organizer of the New Tech Meetup group, said in an email to members this week that he’s exploring a change in format for the monthly gathering that routinely draws 200 to 300 people to the University of Colorado law school’s Wittemyer Courtroom. New Tech also canceled its March meeting as it searches for a new venue.

New Tech has experimented with various tweaks over the years. But its core format has remained the same. Startups and entrepreneurs give 5-minute presentations to the crowd, followed by questions from the crowd for the entrepreneurs on everything from details of their technology to whether their business plan is really viable. The events, free to attend, included a social hour that helped them become a networking hub for local entrepreneurs and those new to the local scene.

In addition to the monthly meetings, New Tech, which has about 11,000 members, maintains a job board that Reich said gets 100 new postings per month and features a freelancer search engine with more than 500 people.

Reich said in a phone interview this week that as New Tech has grown, Boulder’s entrepreneurial scene has evolved as well with all kinds of various other gatherings around town fulfilling different niches. That’s led him to wonder if a format change is in order to freshen up New Tech, whose events have been hosted by the CU law school’s Silicon Flatirons Center since 2006.

“Is there something different that New Tech can bring as the community evolves and changes, meaning, is the format and structure the right thing for where we’re currently at,” Reich said.

Reich said the law school also approached him recently about not wanting to host the event anymore, which helped fuel the timing of the possible format change. Reich said the law school was going to allow New Tech to hold the events through May, but he decided to get the ball rolling on a change now.

“They were super-gracious about how they handled it,” Reich said. “It’s been an amazing space. It has the right layout and structure for an event like that. But it’s also artificially constrained our ability to grow the event. … It kind of made sense from a timing standpoint.”

CU’s policies on alcohol at public events played a part in the move. Brad Bernthal, a CU law professor and director of Silicon Flatirons Center’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, said in an email that those policies “generally disfavor alcohol at public events, and this does not jibe well with the informal and drop-in nature of the Meetup that makes it a special place for newcomers to connect with the Front Range startup scene.” Bernthal noted that the law school has also seen increased demand for use of the courtroom.

But Bernthal also noted New Tech’s role in helping the law school build its own entrepreneurial vibe.

“Most importantly, the Meetup paved the way for close connections between CU and the startup community,” Bernthal said. “Hosting the Meetup was part of building the entrepreneurial university we have today, which includes the CU New Venture Challenge, Entrepreneurs Unplugged, the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, and the Silicon Flatirons Crash Course series.”

In addition to the move and possible format change, Reich said he’s looking for someone new to host the Boulder and Denver New Tech meetings to allow him to take a step back and focus just on the organization of the group.

Since starting in Boulder, New Tech has expanded to include Meetup groups in Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, with other people overseeing the Fort Collins and Colorado Springs versions. Reich said those two groups wouldn’t be included in the changes for Boulder’s format unless they decide to on their own at some point.

“I think each city has to align itself to what the community needs plus match the desires to the people hosting it,” Reich said.

Reich said he’s open to any and all format changes – ranging from condensing the Boulder meetings to smaller gatherings at coffee shops to moving into a larger space to going for larger events held every six months. Or it could stay as is, just in a new location.

“This event is not my event,” Reich said. “It’s a community event.”