Power of Community

I am continuously amazed by the Atlanta tech community giving back to provide opportunity to others. Recently, I attended the first “Kevy Connects” event at Atlanta Tech Village in Buckhead. Kevy is an Atlanta-based software startup that makes it easy to integrate and sync your cloud apps. Kevy is led by entrepreneur David Cummings (@davidcummings) , co-founder of Pardot which is now a Salesforce company.

David is a very busy guy as you might imagine but he took the time to spend the evening away from his family to invest in growing Atlanta’s enterprise software community. These investments in community can pay huge dividends down the road both professionally and personally.

Over 200 people gathered to hear a panel of leaders most of whom were founders, current or former CEOs of Atlanta based software companies who spoke about their choice to found or move their companies to the capital of the South and why. Culture and talent were the big themes and they really resonated with me.

The biggest takeaway for me was that Atlanta needs a big independent platform company to IPO, remain in Atlanta, and seed new companies with talent or investment to supercharge the positive feedback loop in the startup community here. Seems to me that Kevy has a great shot at being such a company.

So what is the meaning of all this? Building a company starts with community and culture and should that not stop being core to the mission of the company after they are successful or are acquired. Sometimes an acquisition by a much larger parent can blunt a company’s culture changing it for the worse (see ISS). Community oriented companies attract passionate customers who magnify your message in a way that your communications team could never do on their own.

Community matters but it doesn’t happen on accident. You need to invest in community and provide real tangible benefits continuously to keep them coming back.

When I co-founded Data Science ATL last year with Dr. Raj B. (@plusbzz) community was the first order of business. We saw first hand the passion from other meetups and we wanted to build off that with a broad and diverse community of people in Atlanta dedicated to life-long learning about data science.

After 17 events we are 800+ members strong with 100+ attendees at each event. While it’s great to have a group that likes what we have to offer the diversity of the group really surprised me.

Through a non-scientific self-identifying survey (n=82) the group’s membership looks something like this: DS ATL - Survey results - Member Categories There are a lot of categories of member’s jobs here and still the “other” categories is one of the biggest! What this means to me is that the diversity of our membership mirrors the diversity of the practice of data science. It’s an indicator that we’re doing something right.

One of the things we do to get new members involved is to host the event at different locations around town and strive to present fresh new topics that really engage the membership. Sometimes we host at co-working facilities like Hypepotamus or Atlanta Tech Village both of which have been a great way to engage the community and find new data science enthusiasts.

But, it’s hard to beat hosting hosting events at company offices. It’s always fun since it’s great for the members to get a sneak peek inside these innovative companies like our event next month at MailChimp. RSVP here.

The best case scenario is when a member gets a job with one of our speaker’s companies after we host an event at their office! It has happened but i’d like to see if happen more.

Being a meetup group based on monthly speakers is fun but it can be tough to get high quality speakers at times. The best speakers are in high demand and have really busy professional and personal lives besides spending their evenings out and about. My experience is that our best source of speakers has come through the networks of the membership.

Now that we are targeting all the chief data scientists in the Metro Atlanta area as speakers it has become critical that we branch out through our members networks to identify and secure commitments from speakers. So far the members have been more than helpful and some have even come to us on their own with great speakers for the meetup. We pride ourselves on providing opportunity for members through education, networking, or employment and hearing the latest in data science from great speakers is a great way to keep current.

We are thinking about hosting a gala event in the Spring to really give back to the data science community with a day of great speakers, networking, and fun! If you would like to speak or sponsor for an event like this please contact me ASAP.


J. Travis Turney (@travturn)

Co-founder Data Science ATL

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