PSFK: How Knowledge Curators are Harnessing the Power of Community Growth

Digital DUMBO founder, Andrew Zarick discusses why professionals and businesses need an outlet and group of people to tap into to keep current. Read the PSFK write-up here. Digital DUMBO is one of Brooklyn’s most successful community events platforms; they’re a great resource for anyone looking to identify digital thought leaders in NYC. Their sessions have a mixture of loosely and rigidly structured engagements (e.g. panels, mixers) between NYC’s digital community. We met up with their Founder Andrew Zarick to find out what drives their success and how they’re growth has driven the restructuring of their platform.

Last time we interviewed you was in January 2011. What’s changed in your platform and D.U.M.B.O since then?

Back in January 2011 we were still very much focused on getting the best and brightest digital influencers in a room with one another through our monthly dd:SOCIAL. We were preparing to host our 23rd social gathering and celebrate the 3rd anniversary of Digital DUMBO. At the time our community was around 3,000 members. In the three years since, we’ve grown to nearly 12,000 members. We’re one of the largest digital communities in the United States that organizes events regularly. There are obviously huge conferences that gather annually or bi-annually, but in terms of communities that gather in-person on an on-going basis, we’re one of the largest based on number of members.

We’ve been beneficiaries of the rise of digital as a tool that is changing every industry and the world. The pace of change is only accelerating. Professionals and businesses need an outlet and community to tap into to keep up. For this reason we’ve expanded our initiatives beyond our monthly social gathering (dd:SOCIAL) to include content and conversation (dd:COLLECTIVE), education and skill development (dd:EDUCATE), and a digital meets lifestyle conference (dd:IMPACT).As part of our four year anniversary last week we announced the dd:A-LIST which is a premium membership to Digital DUMBO and includes benefits across all of our initiatives including free and priority access to our social events, discounts to Digital DUMBO events and other industry events, and much more.

What were the primary factors that drove these developments?

We’ve grown so we’ve come to realize the larger responsibility that we have as an organization to serve the professionals and companies that have been attending our social gatherings for the past four years. Our community requested more sessions on emerging companies and trends, new professional introduction opportunities, and executive education. We listened and launched initiatives to satisfy these needs.

New York has one of the strongest digital economies and communities in the world. We’ve been fortunate that many of the leading digital minds in New York have passed through the doors of our events. Our job is to figure out how to best curate this knowledge and create a platform and events that connect this expertise with the people and companies that want to stay ahead of the curve.

Tell us about your partnership strategy and any other ways dd: can enrich a brand’s understanding of culture.

We work with digitally-minded brands, those that want to be digitally-minded, and brands that simply want to connect with the digitally-minded but don’t know where to start. We jointly develop content and events with brands across our initiatives. We also introduce brands to digital influencers and the companies they represent, especially ones that we feel can benefit our members.

We also believe in not only cultivating community locally, but also bidirectionally across cities globally. We’ve started this effort by establishing pipelines with London, Boston, and Valencia. Highly innovative communities can benefit from knowing one another. Innovation happens differently due to varying cultural, political, and geographical influences. Why is Sao Paulo so strong in design? How did music tech and media become big in Ireland? Being able to pinpoint these trends and facilitate a dialogue allows for asking far bigger questions about the influence of digital and technology as tools in the future.

What are the next steps for the dd: community?

This year will be all about taking everything we’ve been doing offline for four years and bringing it online. It’s time that we also become digital! That means a focus on connecting our community members online, capturing and sharing more media from our events, and bringing digital communities globally closer together. We’re currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help make all of this a reality. Backers immediately get to join the dd:A-LIST – premium membership to Digital DUMBO.