My Story of Building Community
My journey of connecting people in New York City.
After two decades of living in four other countries, I moved to New York City. This was exactly two years ago.
Like many others, living in NYC was a longtime dream of mine, and the move from Toronto was an intentional one—one that required an enormous amount of effort and planning.
As an outsider to NYC, my impression of the city was formed from what I saw on TV, movies, magazines, and the few visits I made over the years. Perhaps a cliché, but to me the city stood for creativity, inspiration, and connection.
But coming here, I realized I couldn’t have moved at a stranger time. It was August 2020 and everything had been shut down. There appeared to be a mass exodus from the city, the energy had changed, and the atmosphere was eerier than I remembered.
Yet even at this odd time, I was looking to create the experience I had wished for and live up to my memories of this city used to be.
I had three goals:
To meet as many interesting people as possible
To build a community of kind, like-minded, and driven people
To contribute to the community by creating opportunities for career advancement, business growth, and friendship
And two years later, I’m proud to have:
Hosted 50+ events for 6,000+ people in the tech, business, and media community: 30+ happy hours, 10+ dinners, and 2 rooftop mixers
Helped 15+ individuals land jobs at tech companies
Created a community job board with 100+ candidates
Made 50+ introductions between investors and founders, and employers and job-seekers
Built hobby and passion groups with 300+ people
Some have asked about my story and journey to building this, so here it is:
My tech job offered me the opportunity to move to NYC. But the pivot from traditional industry was not easy as many can tell you. It took months of interview prep and ‘networking’, which manifested itself in the form of 150+ virtual coffee chats over a six month period, sourced from online platforms like Linkedin, Fishbowl, and Reddit.
Many new relationships emerged from these virtual coffee chats, and when I moved to NYC, I immediately reached out to this network. I met two kind strangers from Fishbowl for drinks on my first evening upon arriving and it was great way to start in the city.
Over the next few weeks, I met more and more people and organized small group activities with friendly strangers from Fishbowl and Reddit. The next weekend I organized a picnic for 50 people from Reddit, and from there made a small group of incredible friends that I eventually went traveling and spent a lot of quality time with.
Though I was meeting a mix of both transplants and longtime New Yorkers, I noticed that majority had one thing in common: they all wanted to meet new people and make new friends.
As NYC started to lift COVID restrictions, concerts and shows started to open up. I organized groups of people who shared my love of electronic music to attend concerts together. This group continued to expand, and today we’re a group of 200+ on WhatsApp who attend shows together.
Social and business community startups also started to emerge. There were dozens of them and out of curiosity I joined tried each one—going to 3-4 events weekly for a few months. I did this to expand my circle, but also as a discovery exercise to learn more about what worked (and what didn’t) with community programs.
After consistently attending events in a particular niche, you start to recognize familiar faces, and this was happening quite frequently. It’s a magical feeling to have one of the largest cities in the world feel small and I realized that I wanted to help re-create this feeling for the many New Yorkers who at times, may have felt lonely.
The entire NYC seemed to be on Twitter, so I reactivated my account and along with Linkedin, started reaching out to individuals who seemed interesting. The reach outs were always intentional; I came prepared and consistently took note of the person’s energy, goals, and challenges.
One day, I tweeted about my upcoming event and received 400,000+ impressions (Twitter is nuts!). These meetups were clearly in demand.
At this point, I had built quite a few relationships, and I started hosting small group events—dinners, happy hours, brunches—inviting people that I thought would get along from different pockets of my network. If someone I knew was looking to hire, I’d introduce them to someone seeking a role. If an investor was looking for deal flow, I’d connect them with a founder who could help, and so forth—you get the point
I was getting positive feedback. People were making connections with business partners, investors, recruiters, and of course, friends.
This expanded to 40-60 person events, and I started hosting in sections of restaurants, until eventually I rented out entire bars and lounges for groups of 100-200 people. I never charged anyone to attend.
At the time, the coordination and negotiation process with bars, lounges, and restaurants was my biggest pain point. So I started a more deliberate strategy hospitality leaders to address this, and once I did, I opened up the headspace to start co-hosting with startups and early-stage ventures, which unlocked more opportunities.
I had a few fascinating venues that I really enjoyed working with—one of which was VR World, a VR playground with a fully stocked bar and lounge.
Summer arrived, bringing with it sunny skies, warm weather, and rooftop events. I hosted a few of these events, and they were a success, drawing more than 600 guests to The Williamsburg Hotel on a Tuesday.
And here we are.
To this day, I’m determined to connect good people with other good people. Through living in five large metropolitan cities, I’ve learned the larger the city, the more isolated you may feel.
I’m also working with new venues, sponsors, and partners to create more dynamic and creative experiences. We’ve had rooftops, bars, restaurants, lounges—but I’d like to expand beyond that.
I’m incredibly grateful for those who have supported me on this journey by offering advice, feedback, and especially—attending the events. While I haven’t found the time to meet everyone individually, I’m always just an email response away.
Oh, and I don’t spend a dime on promotion. I rely purely on this email list, social channels, and word-of-mouth, so referrals go a long way. If you’ve enjoyed your experience, please share it with others.