On Thursday, February 26th, the St. Louis Board Game Meetup will get together at local hobby shop Game Nite for an evening of games. The Meetup heads to Game Nite every Thursday after work for games and conversation, but this Thursday is different—this is their ten year anniversary. The St. Louis Board Game Meetup is made up of over 2,000 members who get together more than fifteen times a month to play games. Today, it’s one of the most active communities in St. Louis, but organizer Timothy remembers scheduling their first Meetup, exactly ten years ago.
Timothy is a self-described avid gamer. “Gaming is in my blood,” he says. “I’ve been a gamer all my life, pretty much. My father had been interested in board games since before I was born, and our family summer vacations would always include the new game that dad had bought and kept secret until our arrival.” When Timothy moved from the U.K. to Saint Louis in December 2000, he quickly set out to find local gamers. He connected with a handful of locals online, but was discouraged to find that the group rarely got together. In 2005, Timothy resolved to give it another shot and RSVPed for a Meetup with the St. Louis Board Gamers. “I went,” he recalls, “and brought a small box of games with me so I could easily be identified. But no one but me turned up.” Shortly thereafter, the organizer stepped down, leaving the Meetup leaderless. “I decided that I could make it work,” says Timothy. On January 29, 2005 he stepped up as organizer, and scheduled his first Meetup. “I was more excited than anything.”
Eugene Coneglan joined Wellington, New Zealand’s Adventure Wellington Meetup on July 4, 2011. Since then, the group has held a whopping 3,900 Meetups, activities ranging from climbing, to swimming, to laser tag—anything, according to their motto, that “gets your body moving”. Of those 3,900 Meetups, Eugene has attended over 1,000. On average, Eugene attends fifteen Meetups with Adventure Wellington each week, more often than not hosting them himself. Talking to Eugene, it’s hard to imagine a time when the Meetup group didn’t dominate his social life—but he remembers his first Meetup like it was yesterday.
Shortly after coming across Adventure Wellington through a Google search, Eugene RSVPed for his first Meetup, a monthly get together at a local pub. “I remember quite vividly walking up to the venue, all guns blazing, thinking: ‘I’m going to make a multitude of friends,’” he recalls with a laugh. When he arrived to find over 100 members already in attendance, however, his confidence plummeted. “They were intermingling with each other like they’d known each other all their lives. I thought, ‘there’s no way I can go in there. Nobody will want to talk to me.’ Somehow though, I mustered up the courage to walk in.” He was greeted warmly by the host for the evening, who introduced him to a handful of members. “The rest is history,” he reports. “I think I might have been the last one to leave that night.”
When you think about tech in America, two cities tend to come to mind: San Francisco and New York. No doubt these cities boast thriving tech communities, but lately, tech Meetups have started changing the game—popping up like crazy in places you might not expect. Fort Collins, Colorado, for example, experienced a 500% increase in tech Meetups between 2013 and 2014. In Boise, Idaho today, you’ll find 14 distinct tech Meetups (compared to just 3 last year).
These Meetups are playing important roles in the cities that build them, cities where access to tech may otherwise be limited. Tech Meetups have the power to open big doors—to help people learn new skills, find potential colleagues, and unlock new career paths.
Tech Meetups across America, 2015
- There are over 22,000 tech Meetups around the world—that’s 12% of Meetups everywhere.
- In the U.S. alone, there are more than 10,600 tech Meetups, with over 3 million members—31% more than last year.
- 1,100 towns and cities in the U.S. have at least one tech Meetup.
- And 130 U.S. cities have more than ten tech Meetups.
- Towns including Spokane, Washington, Vienna, Virginia, Provo, Utah, and Charleston, South Carolina experienced an increase of over 200% in tech Meetups between 2013 and 2014.
An RJ Metrics report from April 2014 posits tech Meetups as the currency with which to measure the human capital of a city: “Meetups are where people in tech get together to network, talk shop, and learn from each other. Meetups are human capital factories. If you want to measure the human capital of a startup city, you measure its meetup activity.” We couldn’t agree more—and we can’t wait to see what these factories dream up next.