“How does it feel knowing OpenLate SF just surpassed 1,000 people?”
“Well, it feels 10 times better than 100.”
In typically understated and clinical engineer fashion, Philip Thomas, founder of OpenLate, shared his thoughts on the event’s wildly successful first year.
For the uninitiated, OpenLate SF is a Bay Area tech meetup that focuses on sharing new and interesting technology in the technical community, and provides a place for like-minded developers to collaborate, network, and even hunt for jobs.
“It’s community-driven and community-led,” Thomas said. “On any given night, we have Apple developers, Stanford professors, PG&E analysts, Arduino enthusiasts, open source engineers—we don’t want to limit the scope of this event to any one topic. It’s about what’s interesting to our technical community right now and what they want to learn about.”
The event, which had humble beginnings as a coder’s cafe in the basement of the OpenDNS office, has experienced tremendous growth over the past twelve months, surpassing 100 attendees by the 8th meeting.
According to Thomas, “Our first big night was when Zed Shaw came in to talk about Python. After that, we realized the meetup had grown to the point of being its own sustaining community—we didn’t have to do as much cross-promotion.”
The attendee count keeps on climbing, with audience records being broken “every 3rd meetup or so” now. In addition, a sister event has sprung up at the OpenDNS office in Vancouver, which will start hosting meetups in February.
“It’s a mini startup inside a startup,” Thomas adds. “It began as a place where like-minded people could just hang out, and it turned out to be much more than that. It’s really become a place for the community to come together and learn something new.”
Much of the success of OpenLate can be attributed to the stellar lineup of speakers the event attracts. In the past, featured speakers have included Ryan Lackey, Jeff Atwood, Alex Liu, and more; keeping the quality and timing of the meetup consistent has been a key factor for growth. In Thomas’ opinion: “Having a schedule, having great speakers, and not having too many meetings seems to be the right strategy—and copious amounts of food and beer help too, of course.”
But success also comes from within—Thomas is quick to point out that each meetup is the result of collaboration between a dedicated team of OpenDNS employees. “We have multiple organizers; our office support staff, engineers, marketers, and more working hard to make sure that each event is a success. OpenLate is essentially the embodiment of OpenDNS engineering culture. We are all passionate about learning and building new things, and this meetup is really just us exploring our interests and sharing it with the technology community. “
2015 promises to be another great year for the bi-weekly event, with Thomas hinting at recorded talks, more exciting speakers, a day-long conference, and a slew of other surprises in store for attendees. Oh, and in case you’re wondering…”don’t eat beforehand, we always have too much pizza!”