VOL. 129 | NO. 206 | Wednesday, October 22, 2014
New Tech Group Formed to Expand Community
By Andy Meek
This year’s TechCamp Memphis event, which happens Nov. 1, will represent more than just a one-day conference for design, development and marketing professionals in the Memphis area.
The event, now in its third year, also marks the first official event from the Memphis Technology Foundation, a new nonprofit put together by leaders in the city’s technology community to help that community grow. The group plans to do so by helping the city’s designers, developers, makers and technology aficionados find new ways to band together, learn from each other and network.
To do all that, the foundation – which has a board of six, including community members who lead a variety of technology groups around the city – plans to offer technology groups and events in the area a variety of resources like mentorship, speakers, content, venue contacts and financial sponsorships. Already, the foundation has gotten up and running with a seed investment from HACKmemphis, a nonprofit that works to provide open-ended programming designed by developers for developers.
And the foundation has set its sights first on facilitating and sponsoring the coming TechCamp Memphis event, which happens Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Southwest Tennessee Community College and will feature speakers from across the metropolitan area.
“Our goal is to facilitate technology events and technology groups in the Memphis area,” said foundation board member Joe Ferguson, also an organizer of the Memphis PHP User Group. “There’s a large number of these groups out there, and a lot of them have similar needs, whether for a sponsor to pay for a dinner, they need a sponsor for a venue or need speakers.
“I’ve been running the PHP User Group for the past three years, and I know these struggles first hand. It’s been a slow movement of creating this foundation, but we see these problem sets out there and we want to help solve a lot of these problems.”
Ferguson says the foundation’s target demographic is anyone from technologists to professionals to anyone interested in technology. The group wants to span those silos and work with them in a comprehensive way, partly to shine a spotlight on the city’s tech community.
Foundation co-chair Brian Swanson said the group stemmed from a desire to see what the community could do if it pooled its resources.
“We want to reach out and say, ‘Hey, look, here’s this awesome tech community that’s been here for a really long time,’ but we’re trying to help organize it to where more people know about it and more people can come together and experience these events,” Ferguson said.
Besides Swanson and Ferguson, other Memphis Technology Foundation board members include Brad Montgomery, co-organizer of the Memphis Python User Group; Daniel Lissner, organizer of the Memphis Java User Group; Claudio Donndelinger, board member for Mid-South Makers; and Bryan Robinson, co-organizer for the Memphis Web Workers.
“This is not just about user groups,” Robinson said. “And we’re definitely not trying to own the community that’s going on here. This is more about we see the community growing, and we want to help it and help get rid of the growing pains we see on occasion. And we’re really going to be focused closely on listening to what the community is actually looking for.”