Posted in May 2012

800 Swag Bags for MongoNYC

This is me after spending all day stuffing swag bags for MongoNYC:

We’ve become pretty efficient at putting these bags together. One of these days I will write a blog post about it :)

New York City Really Needs a Community Space for Tech Events

On Wednesday, we held our third annual MongoNYC conference, hosting over 900 attendees. I would consider the event a major success, with lots of new content from 10gen engineers, the MongoDB ecosystem, and community users. While I was very pleased with the turn out and the content, the venue was pretty horrible, and didn’t reflect well on 10gen or New York City.

More than any other city, we have struggled to find large, affordable venues in New York City that are easily accesible via public transportation. (This is coming from someone who has personally organized dozens of events all over the world.) I’ve felt the pain the past three years as MongoNYC has grown. It was challenging to find space for MongoNYC when it was 200 people in 2010, 500 people in 2011, and 900 in 2012. I’m at a loss for next year, where we anticipate 1500+. So far it looks like our options are limited to expensive hotels or the Javits Center.

New York City is increasingly becoming a hub for technological innovation, and the growth of MongoNYC reflects that trend:

As the startup and technology community grows in New York, it’s becoming increasingly important that the infrastructure is in place to support that community. This includes things like more reliable high speed internet, more engineering and product talent, and successful startups — all brilliantly outlined in Chris Dixon’s post about what the NYC startup world needs on his blog. In addition to those items, New York City needs better venues for developer events and conferences. A conference center would be extremely beneficial both for bringing the local community together and drawing tech talent from other parts of the world to New York City.

Major developer conferences like PyCon, JavaOne, RailsConf, etc. just don’t happen in New York City (Fred Wilson recently lamented this fact on AVC). To be viewed as a center of innovation, New York City needs to be seen as an option for these events. (In contrast, between the Santa Clara Convention Center, Moscone Center, Bently Reserve, Hilton San Francisco, the Mission Bay Conference Center, and the San Jose Conference Center, there is no shortage of meeting spaces in the Bay Area. And Boston has a great community venue in the Microsoft NERD Center, where lots of free events are held.)

Many people travelled from around the country to attend MongoNYC. This could be the perfect opportunity to show them that New York City is a viable alternative to Silicon Valley if you want to work at or found a startup. I hope that those that came to MongoNYC realized that from the quality of the attendees and presentations. They certainly didn’t get that impression from the venue!

More people talking about tech is a good thing for raising the profile of NYC as a tech hub. Perhaps the NYC economic development organizations could subsidize such events. Or, one of the non-profits focused on technology in NYC (NYTM, Startup Foundation, etc.) could make community events and space a core part of their mission. I’d love to hear your ideas for addressing this issue.

Reflections on MongoSF 2012

Last Friday was the third MongoSF, our annual MongoDB user conference in San Francisco. This event means a lot to me, since I organized the first MongoSF in April 2010. We’ve really come a long way since then.

Two years ago at MongoSF, we were thrilled to have over 200 people at the event. There were three tracks of speakers. We had 2 or 3 sponsors. Eliot demoed sharding and Dwight talked about replica sets, both of which were in development at the time. There were probably about a dozen people working at 10gen at the time.

Fast forward two years later, and we welcomed over a 1,000 people to MongoSF. There were 7 tracks, including an entire track dedicated to the MongoDB ecosystem and related technologies. We had an expo hall full of sponsors and partners. Many MongoDB users presented on how they are using replica sets and sharding in production. We had demoes of the newest features coming in 2.2, such as the aggregation framework. The 10gen team has grown to over 100 employees (several of which we were recruiting at the first MongoSF!).

While I was excited to welcome so many new people to the MongoDB community, I enjoyed seeing many familiar faces at the conference. Seeing that people love the event and come back for more is very gratifying.

On a personal note, I faced my personal anxiety over public speaking by introducing Dwight at the beginning of the conference!
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Usually these events are extremely crazy for me, and I’m exhausted from running from room to room. I recently purchased a FitBit (it’s basically a fancy pedometer) to measure my activity. Studies show that taking 10,000 steps per day — about 5 miles — is key to a healthy lifestyle. On the day of MongoSF, I took over 17,000 steps and climbed 52 flights of stairs!

Thanks again to everyone who came out to the event. I’m looking forward to MongoNYC. I wonder how many steps I will take!

7 tips for getting started with developer marketing

I’ve been talking to more and more developer-focused businesses about how to get started with marketing to developers. In most cases, these companies were founded by engineers who are unsure how to take the first steps, and have limited bandwidth to do so. I wanted to highlight a few easy tips for getting started with developer marketing.

1. Make your service easy to use

In many presentations and posts, I’ve cited ease of installation, officially supported language drivers, and document-based model as key drivers for adoption of MongoDB. Similarly, I admire Twilio for their ability to give a 5-minute demo showing how dead simple it is to use their service. Engineers have limited time to experiment with new technologies, so getting started must be frictionless.

2. Focus on support

With limited bandwidth to market your product, you have to rely on word of mouth from your existing users. Giving your users a great support experience is one of the best ways to win them over and get them excited about your product and community. At 10gen we like to say that giving users a “good” support experience in our free forums isn’t good enough. If we give people a great experience, they’ll love MongoDB and tell all of their friends.

3. Blog about industry topics

Early on, when your brand name is probably not yet recognizable, you should spend some time blogging about industry topics to demonstrate your expertise. Apigee, for example, has an excellent blog that covers general topics around API best practices. Similarly, at 10gen, our CEO wrote a multi-part blog series on distributed consistency. These types of posts establish you as a thought leader and drive interest in your products.
If you’re struggling to find the time to write detailed technical posts, keep your blog up to date with a weekly or monthly round-up of community posts on relevant topics, or announcements about new features and events. Another easy way to generate content is to do short interviews with users, and get them to talk about how your product is great (see this post on AppHarbor for example). The key with blogging is consistency, so set a target (at a minimum, once a month) and stick to it. A short post is better than nothing at all!

4. Showcase your users

New adopters will always ask “Who is using your product?” The earlier you can start a public listing of users to which you can send people, the better. On MongoDB.org, we have a Production Deployments page that lists the logos of users and a short blurb on how they are using MongoDB. If there are more in-depth blog posts or case studies, we link out from that page. Getting this started should be fairly easy, and many of your users should be eager to get listed as a form of co-marketing.

5. Set up a newsletter

Adoption isn’t only about getting new users; it’s also crucial to keep existing users engaged and interested in your product. As you are collecting sign ups for your service, a newsletter is a great way for your community to get to know you. You can re-use blog content, highlight upcoming events that you’re participating in, announce new features, and link to community blog posts.

6. Participate in Community Events

Local meetups and user groups are always looking for speakers, sponsors, and hosts. Make an effort to get your team to attend a certain number of local meetups every month to meet the community face to face, and offer to speak at these groups. (You can re-use the content from a blog post and turn it into a presentation!) If you are traveling to visit a customer or for an industry event, try to add on a visit to the local user group in the area.

7. Start looking for marketing talent

Finding someone who understands developer marketing isn’t easy, so keep an eye out early on. The person that you hire could be someone internally who grows into the role, or an enthusiast from your community.

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