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Romanian IT in San Francisco 2016 – 2018 retrospective (overdue) and some personal notes on events and community management

Ok, so I wrote about the great year we had and it got me thinking. Why not go all the way back in time and document the entire Romania IT in San Francisco history. It’s only been 3 years or so since it started, so it should be pretty easy.

Also, there’s power in retrospectives and I’ll write about that in a separate blog post.

Some background: I arrived in San Francisco in July 2016, took a few months to get a job, adjust and meet people before I got involved with the Romanian IT movement. Before that I ran the Romanian Entrepreneurs in UK group in London for about 2 years with Razvan and Mircea, but that’s a story for another post, too. I was also very focused on numbers and attendee counts at the beginning, and felt pressure to deliver. I don’t anymore and it’s become second nature. Funny to think about how, when I was a kid in 2nd grade (i think), I tried to organize my birthday party and no one showed up because I was too afraid to invite them, and now I’ve been organizing community events for a little more than 6 years.

Enough backstories, here it goes.

July 2016 – December 2016

I wrote my first official blog post in December 2016, as part of the greater Romanian IT community. We were planning to launch in multiple cities in Europe and US, and San Francisco was one of them. I was fresh off the plane and full of energy to start building the community here.

I also hosted the first AI & ML webinar, a 101 session with Ruben and Cosmin, We talked about my work at DigitalGenius, Ruben’s Microsoft experience and Cosmin’s ML engineering knowledge at Clusterr.io. I predicted AI would take off in 2017 and wrote a takeaways blog here pointing to the Medium post linked above. This was our first event in the Facebook group, too.

January 2017

This month was focused more on virtual events, with people attending Open Talk 2.0, an internal Romanian IT call, and two Startup feedback sessions, one for retargeting.biz and another one for pixteller.com.

February 2017

We met for the first time, at Natoma Cabana, with a very interesting, official crowd, more details in the dedicated blog post. Back then, we thought that this would be the format, some speaking/intros and then networking. It was also the first event Mihai and I organized together. See my official attire 🙂

During February, we promoted a Startup feedback session for CoinFlux and another Romanian IT webinar, this time about network security. We also promoted a Repatriot dinner in San Francisco, and a Romanian entrepreneurs and investors tour of Silicon Valley, both organized by Dea Wilson.

Nothing happened in March 2019, I was traveling a lot for work and didn’t get to organize an event until April. We promoted a few Romanian startup exits and recommender systems webinar.

April 2017

It was time for the second meetup for Romanian IT in San Francisco, and we chose another downtown location for our get-together – Thirsty Bear. It was a pretty good turnout and people said that this format would work better for them. I was also fundraising for Hospice of Hope’s Copaceni Tech House, as I was preparing for my marathon run in LA later in the year.

We continued to promote the webinar on recommender systems and a Romanian Investors from Fribourg Capital, Liberty Technology Park and the Principals of KPMG meetup organized by George Roth and his RABN group.

Thanks to Liana from Memo.ai, community members got discounted access to SuperBot 2017, an AI conference in San Francisco.

May – December 2017

In May, we only promoted one Startup feedback session, with Anda, a friend of mine, and her company, Colorimetrix. We also started promoting Spherik’s mentorship program, which I eventually ended up taking part in.

In June, we promoted an Ethereum Deep Dive in Berkeley, two Startup feedback sessions, one with Planable, run by Xenia, another friend, where I was a panelist, and another one with Baro.io.

In July, we met at another RABN meetup, at the JW Marriott in San Francisco, and in August we helped Repatriot promote their survey about Romanians abroad.

In October, we met again in San Francisco, at Thirsty Bear. Great turnout, no pics this time. We also promoted the Repatriot Summit, that took place in Romania, that October.

Towards the end of 2017, as crypto was taking off, I discovered El Rio, the place that was soon to be our home for the next few years. A few Romanians got together there, too, for a Bitcoin meetup, and that’s where Mihai and I got the idea to move our meetups to El Rio.

January – February 2018

It took another Thirsty Bear meetup in February to get us to move to El Rio in March. No pics this time, either, but we had a theme again – Blockchain and AI, two of the hottest topics that year. We also promoted a $200 discount that Dea was offering to our community for the StartupGrind conference.

March 2018

March was a pretty busy month, and we met up again, this time at El Rio. We realized that people didn’t want topics or too much of a structure for these meetups, so we ditched that part and evolved into what the group is today. Took us longer that I want to admit, but hey, we got there.

We also promoted a Romanian IT survey this month and Diaspora Invest, an event for people who wanted to return to Romania after living in San Francisco for a while.

April – June 2018

In April, we focused on promoting the Romanian IT global mentorship program, at its second edition. In May, we promoted the RABN get-together at their annual picnic in the South Bay. We also helped Code for Romania organize their event in June.

July – August 2018

That summer we got involved in an anti graft campaign in Romania, helped promote their signature gathering campaign. We also started recruiting for the 3rd mentorship program through Romanian IT. This is when we held our summer mixer at El Rio, great turnout for July.

September – October 2018

We had our Autumn mixer in September, I was still thinking about the right cadence for these meetups to get maximum attendance. After a great meetup in September, we hiked to Alamere Falls that October, albeit we had quite the drought and didn’t see much water. It was fun nevertheless.

October is summer in SF, so we tried a new venue, Zeitgeist, in one of the sunny Fridays. It was fun, but not for casual chats. We kept El Rio as our primary venue.

We also started promoting Code for Kids in October, for their November event in San Francisco.

November 2018

In November, we helped promote the Code for Kids in San Francisco event, where a few of us showed up to find out what they have been working on. Impressive stuff. In Berkeley, there were more Romanian films being screened, so we helped people learn more about those, too.

We did one more hike before the rainy season – this time in Purisima Creek. Great turnout, 7.6mi range. Last but not least, we organized a little Cards Against Humanity game at my place mid month. Lots of fun!

December 2018

We ended the year with a Romania 100 year old celebration and later that month the final official meetup at El Rio.

Overall, we did 22 events, both virtual and in-person. Lots of people, lots of learning, and lots of gratitude for everyone who is part of our community.

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