*UPDATE: OC Tech Happy Hour Has New Leadership and Is Seeking NonProfit Status
With more than 7,000 members, the OC Tech Happy Hour is one of the largest meetups in OC.
Like the entrepreneurs it serves, it’s nimble enough to know when to pivot.
It’s currently in the midst of a transition from a for-profit to a nonprofit entity, under the auspices of new leadership.
Hunter Lee Decker, who’s focusing on growth marketing, his artwork and building new communities, founded the OC chapter in 2014.
He was invited to do so by Zach Sekar, the founder of the LA Tech Happy Hour.
Sekar helped Decker promote and execute a VR launch party in OC that summer.
“We both saw an opportunity in Orange County to bring the tech community together, with some Silicon Beach-type spirit,” Decker told OC Startups Now.
The long-term goals from the beginning were to create a “safe-place for entrepreneurs, investors, engineers, designers and professionals to meet each other and feel comfortable discussing business and making real deals happen,” Decker said.
At fist, Decker thought the meetup group would be only doing pitch contests and social mixers.
But then, an educational component coalesced when he began adding speakers and panelists to the events.
“The community needed inspiration from people who had done it,” he said.
“He had such a strong message that people came up to him (and were) asking questions until the venue closed, and then he continued answering questions until after midnight in the parking lot,” Decker said. “A true testament to the spirit of OC Tech Happy Hour.”
Early this year, Decker stepped back, staying on as founder, but passing the organizational duties to Dalip Jaggi and Brian Walsh, both of whom work at Vincit, an international software development and design company with an office in Irvine. See related story on Vincit here.
They had been “very active” community members and sponsors of the group for quite some time, Decker said.
Jaggi also had a lot of experience growing Forge 54 as its co-founder and VP.
Forge 54 is a marketing and advertising firm in Santa Ana that puts on collaborative, weekend-long marketing experiences where advertisers, designers, developers, creatives, professionals and students converge to donate their time and talents to create, inspire, and help great causes.
During each Forge 54 event, the creative teams that are formed adopt a nonprofit and work together to revamp its marketing and branding efforts.
As an entrepreneur himself, Jaggi said he’s always been interested in early-stage concepts and startups.
“It’s been an honor to step-up and shape this organization into a much larger entity and make incremental improvements for the community,” he told OC Startups Now.
The goals this year are to influence content-driven events to help founders and builders “inch closer towards their dreams,” Jaggi said.
Also, the OC Tech Happy Hour plans to have several tracks to shed light on early-stage startups that are building momentum and encourage them to push forward.
The intention is for a startups gala award show, as well as more intimate events (less than 20 people), to focus on relationship building.
The new leadership also plans to create an annual membership, where members are encouraged to help other members.
Jaggi and Walsh have recruited a board of 10 individuals “who share that same passion” for startups, he said.
Walsh is spearheading the effort to turn the meetup into a non-profit.
To that end, the meetup is partnering with the “generous attorneys” at the Loftin Firm, in Carlsbad for guidance, Walsh said.
This firm is the meetup’s exclusive law firm sponsor.
The OC Tech Happy Hour leadership said it’s always on the lookout to partner with other local events and networking groups – to find new and creative ways to participate in co-hosted events, cross-pollinate the members and combine resources.
It’s open to sponsorships and donations for venues.
The meetup is in the process of helping Tech in Motion’s OC Chapter with its March 28 event. This meetup group also has more than 7,000 members. See more about this event here.
Tech in Motion secured the venue but requested that the OC Tech Happy Hour leadership help find judges and participants, Walsh said.
The next OCTHH meetup is on March 19 and will celebrate OC women in tech. See more about the event here.