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Group links Tacoma techies

The glowing pink and blue lights gave the room a slightly nightclub feel. But the music was set at a modest volume, and the only dancing was between business cards as the next Steve Jobs introduced himself to the newest Bill Gates.

The Feb. 11 event was the monthly get-together of New Tech Tacoma. In just a few months the meetup group has become the go-to place to see emerging and established companies roll out ideas, hear about leading-edge technology and build business contacts.

A New Tech event mixes techies with entrepreneurs, established tech companies, venture capitalists, government personnel, university staff, students and others.

The scene repeats the second Thursday of every month on the fourth floor of Post Hall, in Tacoma’s old main post office building on A Street.

New Tech had its beginnings in 2004 when Meetup.com co-founder Scott Heiferman created New York Tech Meetup, which describes itself as the largest meetup group in the world on its profile page.

In 2013, Colorado transplant Brett Greene created Seattle Tech Meetup with Red Russak. The name changed to New Tech NW after Greene expanded to Bellevue and, since November, Tacoma.

“We’re the fastest growing event in Meetup.com history,” Greene said of New Tech Seattle.

Greene’s first introduction to a New Tech community event was in Colorado.

“It was great being around supportive and collaborative people who were helping each other go do whatever their dreams were,” Greene said.

Some professions, like the entertainment industry, see a lot of regular mixing both socially and professionally. That’s seldom the situation in high tech, Greene said.

“People are very heads-down and focused on what they are working on,” Greene said. “They see people they work with, and that’s it.”

New Tech aims to get people out of their cube farms and into a setting where they can share ideas and innovations.

“What we do is create a big tent for all those people to come and meet more of those people,” Greene said. “We bring together employers, recruiters, marketers, engineers.”

Despite its name, the event is not exclusively for the tech industry.

“Even if you’re not in tech and just like fun, smart, innovative people, we want you to come meet more of those people,” Greene said.

Eli Moreno, founder of SURGEtacoma, a startup and co-working space, has attended all four New Tech Tacoma events.

“We didn’t have anything like this in Tacoma,” Moreno said.

The monthly gatherings satisfy a craving for people who want to meet like-minded folks, Moreno said, “instead of having to drive all the way up to Seattle.”

Tacoma’s New Tech meetings are smaller than Seattle’s and those on the Eastside, a fact Greene attributes to Tacoma’s smaller footprint in the tech world and that Tacoma’s event is the newest kid on the block.

“Our intent in Tacoma is to bring together the people who really care about Tacoma’s culture and Tacoma’s future,” Greene said. “They might want to be interested in that around tech or they might be interested in business.”

Greene was surprised and impressed by the first turnout for New Tech Tacoma in November.

“It was one of the most diverse crowds we’ve had in three years,” Greene said of the roughly 80 participants. The diversity cut across many demographics: race, age, profession. There were a large number of veterans and students in attendance.

February’s event drew about 50 people.

MEETINGS OFFER INFORMATION, OPPORTUNITY

New Tech follows a regular format. The first hour of the event is a mixer. A no-host bar and free appetizers are included.

“When you come to our event for the first time you should feel like the new neighbor who came to the Saturday afternoon barbecue,” Greene said.

Drea Baines of Sourced Write was at her first New Tech Tacoma event in February. The Tacoma resident and Seattle business owner netted a lucrative contract at a New Tech Seattle event.

But in Tacoma, Baines made a contact with an even bigger contract potential.

Baines’ company provides writing service to the business world, everything from business plans to marketing copy. In a short time she’s become a New Tech fan.

“They are doing a remarkable job of highlighting good things,” Baines said. “The vibe they’ve created has created stronger connections than what I’m used to at these types of events.”

The second hour of New Tech begins with announcements.

“It’s not a time for people to stand up and say ‘we’re hiring’ or ‘our business is cool,’ ” Greene said. Instead it’s meant for announcements that can benefit the community.

Announcements are followed by the main event. Four presenters give five-minute presentations followed by three minutes of Q and A.

Greene said he finds early, mid- and late-stage companies ,as well as enterprise. Recent presenters have included eBay, GoDaddy, Amazon, Nordstrom, Julep, Hulu and Simply Measured.

February’s New Tech Tacoma gathering featured an entertainment-themed social network, health care provider MultiCare, a website hosting company and a Tacoma-based visionary trying to build an elevator to space. (See related story in this section.)

Kevin Hall, CEO and founder of Snackdish, told the group about his social platform built for people who like TV and movies. It was born after he noticed that TV viewing was no longer a communal experience.

“We want to see what we want to see when we want to see it and where we want to see it,” Hall said.

But Hall noticed that people in social settings make a connection over favorite shows.

“When that happens I notice that the excitement levels (go) up. When people realize that they’ve been watching the same show, it’s like a cathartic moment,” Hall said.

The mobile app that launched in January has a low-light option for use in theaters.

New Tech Tacoma members wanted to know about the target customers (mostly female TV fans) and the expiration date for spoilers.

Jason Gowans, co-founder of Web app hosting company Aerobatic, listed the benefits of using his company over competitors.

“We make all the drudgery go away for you,” Gowans said.

Harold Moscho, vice president and chief technical officer of IT at MultiCare, said health care is moving away from fee-for-service (where physicians and facilities bill for each service) and toward shared risk and reimbursement with a larger emphasis on preventive care.

Patients also are increasingly demanding immediate one-on-ones with providers.

“They don’t want to wait for service,” Moscho said.

Technology is aiding that by connecting doctors and patients via Web-based consults. Younger patients are more comfortable with virtual care, Moscho said.

One New Tech Seattle presenter, Bryan Copley of Everyhome.co, checked out Tacoma’s February gathering. He’s been a regular at New Tech Seattle for a year and a half. In March he became a presenter.

“It opened doors that are still being opened,” Copley said of his presentation.

His website allows people to bid on real estate whether it’s on the market or not.

Copley started his business with a domain and products in mind but didn’t know any developers.

“I helped build my business through New Tech Seattle,” he said.

Copley thinks Tacoma isn’t far behind Seattle.

“Tacoma’s got a lot to offer. There’s a lot of resources here. We’ve got UW Tacoma here. There’s a lot of technologists coming out of Tacoma,” he said.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

NEW TECH TACOMA

When: 5-7:15 p.m., second Thursday of every month.

Where: Post Hall, 1102 A St. (4th floor), Tacoma.

More information: newtechnorthwest.com/events/new-tech-tacoma.

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