Giving Small Tech Businesses a Helping Hand

IEEE member organizes tech fairs to promote small companies in Austin, Texas

2 August 2010

According to economists, most new jobs are generated by small businesses. To be successful, those companies need exposure to prospective customers, but most small businesses have little time or money to market themselves.

High-tech startups in Austin, Texas, however, have gotten a helping hand from IEEE Member Matt Genovese, who has organized several tech fairs to promote the companies. Genovese is the founder of door64.com, a networking site for area technologists that sponsored the most recent event. More than 700 people came to the 2010 Door64 Tech Fair held on 15 June at the city's AT&T Conference Center. Three dozen companies showcased their technologies in the exhibit hall, and 18 speakers were involved in four panel sessions on topics such as job growth trends, technology's impact on hiring, and issues related to social media. The event was publicized in The Analog, the IEEE Central Texas Section newsletter, and on Facebook, Twitter, and several technology sites and blogs. The sessions were streamed live on door64.com.

"My goal for the fair was to stimulate economic growth in the area by helping these companies, Door64 members, and others learn about each other," Genovese says. "The event provided an opportunity to network, discuss collaborating on projects, and explore the possibility of forming partnerships. From exhibiting at the fair, the companies may end up boosting sales, and that ultimately could lead to new job openings."

Genovese recently joined JobCannon.com, a career resource management software company in Austin that helps professionals organize and conduct job searches. It integrates with LinkedIn, Outlook, and other resources to help them manage and centralize their networking contacts, job interviews, résumé, and cover letters. Before joining JobCannon, Genovese was a verification engineer at Freescale Semiconductor, also in Austin.

GRASSROOTS PUBLICITY
Genovese got the idea for the fair after noticing that many of the 16 000 Door64 members were employed by companies he'd never heard of. (The name Door64 pays homage to Genovese's first computer, the Commodore 64.) Shortly after he earned his master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, in 2007, he launched the site as a way to stay in touch with his former engineering classmates. But it soon became more than that.

"Door64 is a way for technology professionals to meet their colleagues in the industry and to network and promote the local tech scene we have here in Austin," he says.

The website is for tech professionals working in central Texas high-tech industries. It offers online chats, blogs, discussion forums, job postings, career guidance, and a calendar of the area's tech events. It costs nothing to join.

"As the webmaster, I have a unique vantage point because I get to check out everyone's profile when they join," he says. "I noticed they worked for small companies and startups that you won't find by just searching the Web."

Genovese says he believed those people could benefit from networking and talking among themselves about their products and what they were doing.

"It's the companies that get the least exposure that need the most exposure," he says. "The value for Door64 members is that they are helping the companies make connections but at the same time helping themselves become known as a connector among the companies."

HOLD YOUR OWN EVENT
Genovese is passionate about helping Austin's technology community network. Last year he organized several events including an IEEE 125th anniversary celebration that drew more than 900 people to a tech fair. At the fair, sponsored in part by the IEEE Central Texas Section, 37 local tech companies showcased their achievements. Also included were forums during which professionals discussed how to become entrepreneurs and consultants. Door64 also held a career fair and networking night in 2008 that attracted 500 attendees, and 250 people came out for a social mixer this past March. He also holds periodic tech networking events in Austin that draw several hundred people.

Genovese encourages other IEEE members to organize such events: "IEEE members and sections can partner to stimulate the technology economy at the local level. Tech fairs prime the pump in terms of potential partnerships, sales, and hiring and consulting opportunities."

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