While SIGs, or special interest groups, have been serving professionals in a host of different fields for decades, in Northern California this type of non-profit organization is most closely associated with the high-tech community, offering productive opportunities for networking and cooperative problem-solving.
The challenge for East Bay workers and residents has been that many of the area's SIGs are based in Silicon Valley or in San Francisco, destinations that can be discouraging at the end of a long workday. Realizing this drawback to East Bay living - a minor shortcoming in comparison to the region's top-notch quality of life, they are quick to point out - the founders of the East Bay Innovation Group, or eBig, stepped in to fill the gap.
As Executive Director Rebekah Hilger explains, eBig's dynamic community taps into the local resources and knowledge of area businesses, city and local governments, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, technically skilled employees, and other industry experts, all of whom benefit from the shared involvement. Meeting monthly in Oakland, Berkeley, Dublin, and Pleasanton, some of the non-profit's four different SIGs have been addressing the needs of a user base consisting predominantly of IT (Information Technology) professionals and entrepreneurs for the past seven years.
The organization's current SIG roster includes Software Development Best Practices, Java, Project Management, and Start Ups/VCs. One SIG, Bug Development/Web 2.0, needs a new chair and location, reports Hilger, who, like all board members, staff, and interest group chairs, serves as a volunteer. "I'd love for Bug Development to be based in Pleasanton," she comments, noting that meeting locations are determined by the respective interest group chairs.
Another item on Hilger's wish list is a networking group for women in technology. "It could perhaps be a breakfast meeting, either purely networking, or with special speakers," she suggests.
One of eBig's more popular SIGs is devoted to Startups/VCs. Not surprisingly, this topic has a following large enough to support meetings in both Berkeley and Pleasanton. Focusing on "the high-tech entrepreneur's journey," the Pleasanton group is led by two high-tech veterans, Dr. Ralph Patterson, who has provided business assistance to a range of high-tech clients, from startups to members of the Fortune 500; and Kevin Martin, a Bay Area attorney practicing intellectual property, business, and real estate law.
Held on the second Monday of every month, the Pleasanton meetings offer panel discussions, educational presentations, and networking designed to advise the targeted audience on several critical issues-company structure, team-building, business plans, securing funding, marketing and selling, and avoiding legal risks. Attendance can hit can close to 100 when a hot topic or visiting venture capitalists are on the schedule.
A networking event in Pleasanton, with booths of East Bay technology-based businesses promoting their products and services, is on tap for May, but the date has yet to be fixed. For more information, visit www.ebig.org . Hilger can be reached at (925) 826-3863 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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