In 2006, Brian Jepson and his friend Jack Templin, who had just moved to Providence, were looking to put together some events to help innovators in Rhode Island better connect.
The two had heard about some other cities doing something similar called “nerd dinners,” but they thought they could come up with something better.
Twelve years later, Providence Geeks is a household name in Rhode Island’s startup community and convenes meetups once a month. They feature speakers, instructional sessions such as coding nights and networking.
The organization also maintains an active social media presence, has a Slack group and recently launched a website.
“We are not so much an organization, but an informal collection of people that like to get together once a month,” Jepson, who now runs the organization with Joel Evans after Templin stepped down, told Rhode Island Inno.
The events typically take place at AS220, a three-building community on Empire Street that for 25 years has been helping artists of all types and ages harness their creative ability and maximize their potential.
All of the events are conveniently scheduled for when AS220’s bar opens.
Past companies that have spoke at the organization’s events include ShapeUp, before Virgin Pulse acquired the company, and Lullabot, among many others.
But the organization has also been branching out as of late, holding a recent event at the Sons of Liberty Whiskey Company, which drew about 80 people.
Jepson said turnout at events has been consistent for awhile, with most drawing about 50 to 100 people, sometimes a little more or less depending on the event and weather.
“We are not so much an organization, but an informal collection of people that like to get together once a month.”
“We are not afraid of growth, but we want to keep the meetups manageable for people who come,” said Jepson. “Once you get over 120 people, it becomes tough to navigate a room… The secret of our success has been reaching a sustainable size very rapidly in the first few months and holding there without getting too gigantic.”
Rather, said Jepson, Providence Geeks wants to use its website as a platform to support other meetups, be more accessible in between events and act as a “force multiplier” by creating connectivity between various organizations.
For example, Providence Geeks will partner with with the Rhode Island Virtual Reality group for an event on April 18.
Events held by the organization have been great for networking, with people meeting and then fostering relationships through other events held by the organization.
“Conversations start out there and then move on,” said Jepson. “It’s a mixed bag, but collaboration is generally what happens, with some people launching companies, finding jobs, simply getting inspired and even to some extent, getting more confidence.”