My contention is the smaller and more curated the event is, the more value it generates. Participants with similar backgrounds and interests will draw more concentrated value from their interactions. Larger events, such as Tech Days, bring together a lot of people but the value of the interactions is questionable.
Recently I attended a tech day, perhaps the tech day, in New York. As one of the nation's largest, it reputedly brought together 35'000 founders, investors and media folk. However, I left less than convinced that those who strayed from the office to attend had spent their time well.
The typical large scale tech event site will trumpet the potential connections, media exposure and investment capital on offer. Enticing prospects for sure, but I'm sceptical (if admittedly short on hard evidence) as to the ability of large scale events to deliver on these things efficiently.
At the tech event, as promised, there were VCs aplenty weaving through a deluge of company stalls. But it seemed founders strained to be heard above the noise in the vast converted warehouse that played host. Does this seemingly shapeless clamour really resolve into professional collaboration? It's unclear; perhaps the organizers of such events would be reluctant to qualify this. Nothing gets in the way of enjoyable industry hubris like an underlying inconvenient truth.
But I suspect founder and investor alike are better served frequenting more modestly sized but highly curated events. Like with like must surely spawn more collaboration. Conversation is less likely to regresses to general blather about the big topics of the moment rather than pointed discussion of the things most relevant to those in the room. A curated gathering is surely a more worthwhile exercise.
For example, each Friday evening in the space I work out of there is a well attended gathering of committed blockchain technologists and investors. It's always a vibrant room; a free exchange for ideas, a forum for debate and a connection lightning rod. According to its organizers, they find attendance is paradoxically boosted by restricting those who should come. This way anyone with a genuine interest knows it's a worthwhile gathering. Regulars are willing to go out of their way to engage and they make the most of each session.
Of course, this is all not to dismiss large gatherings out of hand. As expos and forums major tech events have value and certainly they bolster the public facing aspect of the industry.
But curated events mean talks and Q&A sessions which both automatically have the interest of and command input from the room. They mean investors and entrepreneurs accessing the people they really want to talk to.
This piece was authored with Stephen Mulvey.