Interview with Matt Genovese, Door64

Almost everyone we run into in the Austin area talks about the regular Door64 ( networking events, and about founder Matt Genovese, and how helpful Matt's events are in connecting with others here. We thought that--for the few who haven't attended the events or heard of Door64--that it would be worth sitting down with Matt to learn more about how he's trying to pull the Austin technology community together.

Tell us a bit about Door64?

Matt Genovese: I started Door64 about five years ago, in 2007. I started it, because my background is in engineering. I was an engineer in the semiconductor industry for 13 years here, at Motorola and Freescale in Austin. I found that most of my colleagues and peers were not networking, and didn't make it a priority to network with their peers. I didn't see any organization promoting it, so I decided to start Door64 as a means to help coalesce the high tech community here in Austin. By that, I mean anyone working in a high tech company, plus high tech companies. It's not only individuals, but we also promote networking among companies. We're trying to highlight local companies working in tech, to help them get exposure in the area.

My personal feeling is that exposure will breed opportunity, even if you don't always know where that opportunity comes from. Typically, if you have enough exposure, good things happen. We are helping individuals, as well as companies to get exposure. We're helping companies to find employees, partners, vendors, leads for sales, whatever. We're trying to help highlight them. We now have around 25,000 people in the area, technology professionals, focused on networking and serving the technology community here in Austin.

How do you make an event successful?

Matt Genovese: What I try to do, is aim for a win-win scenario for any knd of event we do. For example, with the Door 64 Happy Hours, we are now holding them twice a month, where they used to be once a month in 2011 and before. We're now doing these twice a month, in North and Downtown Austin. Those have been successful helping individuals grow their network, and helping companies to get exposure, especially when they're hiring. From a company standpoint, they find success because they're gettin in front of technology professionals, especially about hiring opportunities. For individuals, they get to learn about a company. Even if they're not interested in working for a company, they can learn more about them, and chances are you might know someone looking who is looking, or you'll know more about them in the future if you want to make a job change. I've found many individuals who have found jobs through people they met through our sponsoring companies, and companies who have found new business and business leads through our events.

What I am trying to do is bring the right people into the right room. The analogy that I use, is a petri dish, where you can grow a culture in that dish, and if you get the lighting just right, the temperature and pressure correct, good things happen. You don't know what will happen or what, but good things do once you have all the parameters set correctly.

What's the biggest area of promise you see for Austin technology companies?

Matt Genovese: As an interesting lead in, I've been conducting a hiring survey to decide where the needs are, and where the biggest needs are in terms of priorities for hiring for exciting tech companies. Right now, I see lots of hiring for software developers with certain skill sets, as well as the semiconductor industry. Despite what you might think, our technology industry on the semiconductor side is not dead, and there seems to be hiring in droves for certain types of chip designers. We are certainly growing in the Austin area there. Mobile development is also very exciting, and we're seeing lots of growth in that area. I think that's particularly true here in Austin, because everyone is very well connected, and everyone has either an iPhone or Android phone. That means that people are well educated and thinking about what to do next in mobile.

Any special projects you are working on now?

Matt Genovese: There's a couple of things we do to find ways to better serve the community. One of those things, is based on surveying the community. One of my most successful events was in 2008, when we ran a career fair, surveying people to find out their needs. We held a career fair that specifically served the hiring needs and drew out the people interested in speaking with those companies. We've just finished a hiring survey, pulling the results in now, and holding a focused job fair at the end of June. Instead of a wide event where everyone can come--where it's harder for companies to weed through the crowd--we're going to find the right people for them, turning it around and making it very focused on certain disciplines. We think that will be more fruitful, a matchmaking event coming out of a survey of our own community. In many ways, we're very feedback driven. That hiring survey will be published in the coming week or so, and the June event will be based on those results.

You mentioned earlier that too many engineers and others don't network. Why is networking important?

Matt Genovese: I always talk about networking, and it's something I'm promoting every tie you see me. With any individual, it's so important. About7 out of every 10 jobs will be found by networking with someone you meet. That's staggering, if you think that most jobs seekers and technology folks in the area looking for a job are only spending time on jobs boards, which represent only 30 percent of the job market out there. Once I bring them out to an event, they get it. One time, a few months ago, someone came to a Happy Hour of ours. I could tell they were a little anxious, and didn't know what to do. That's how many people are when they come in the door, they're flat out nervous or scared, particularly when it's their first time doing anything like that. That's why I stand at the door for all of the events, to shake people's hand--at let them at least get to know someone at the event. Anyway, I introduced this gentleman to some people, and got him talking. By the end of the night, he specifically waited to talk to me, and thank me for doing the event. He told me--I totally get it now--why this is important--and can't wait to do it again.

That's why I think we've grown with all these high tech professionals, entirely through word of mouth. We recently send out our first press release, the very first one. The people we've grown on Door64 is completely through other people telling each other, and there are now about 50 people a day joining our site. One thing we do, is we restrict our members. We don't let just any people in, only technology professionals. You don't see realtors, bankers, insurance salesmen on our site, because we know they will solicit people. It's only people working in software, hardware, and semiconductors. Once they come to one of our events, they figure it out, see it's not too bad, buy a drink, and we provide the free food. They don't have to pay to attend the event, the barriers to entry are really low, and they just need to make the decision to come out to the event. I find that through networking, it's a great way to find the other 70 percent of the job market.