The Boston area pales in comparison to Silicon Valley when it comes to high-tech networking events. Boston has fewer, and fewer worthwhile, networking events. This needs to change.
I know from my friends in Silicon Valley that networking is a way of life there. Engineers are always mixing it up, both for technical growth and to look for the next company to work for. VCs, who are good networkers everywhere, are more prominent at networking events that have broader audiences. There is a lot of sharing of experiences among entrepreneurs, both at formal networking events as well as informal dinners.
There are a few good networking events that I have been attending in Boston lately, and I am always on the lookout for more. Here's a couple worth checking out.
Web Innovators Group - this group was started by David Beisel (now at Venrock). This is a large event, usually 200-250 people. It includes product demos and lots of networking. It is free of charge and open to anyone. Just go to the Wiki and sign up. One thing that makes this event successful is that it is product/service oriented and draws a lot of engineers. I have to say that I am amazed at how few VCs show up at this event. Maybe most Boston VCs don't like talking to engineers.
OpenCoffee - this is a smaller, less formal event at a coffee house in Cambridge. It's been fun to have conversations about all sorts of things. Again, technical people form the heart of this weekly event. I like the high frequency of this event as you are likely to meet different people each time as most people don't go every week.
While in the registration line at the last Web Innovators Group (yes, it was so crowded there was a line to get in!), I overheard one entrepreneur talking to another about the frequency of networking events in Silicon Valley vs. Boston. He said that he didn't want to go to too many events and was glad that they were infrequent. Although I can understand the need for family time, I think that some professional time, including breakfast and evening, has to be allocated to networking events. These events are great for growing professionally and for fostering entrepreneurship in the region.
In Silicon Valley, you can see plenty of high-tech people at your kid's soccer game. In Boston, the economy is more diversified and people from high-tech are mixed in with financial services, health care, biotech, manufacturing, academia, and much more. I like the diversity in my community, but need more ways of having good networking opportunities with others.
Post about your favorite networking venues in the Comments.