Tag: high tech happy hour

Forward Technology Festival 2011

I’m excited to be working with Matt Younkle and Bryan Chan again this year to help put on Forward Technology Festival for the second year in a row.  Last year was a huge success, and I’m really excited for this years version, which runs from August 18th-27th.  The Forward Technology Festival is a ten day long series of events that showcases Madison’s entrepreneurship and creative community.  It starts with the 10th anniversary of High Tech Happy Hour and includes Madison Ruby Conference, Barcamp, a Capital Entrepreneurs meeting, an open networking event at Sector67, business pitches from Spreenkler Talent Labs seed accelerator participants and is headlined by the 2nd annual Forward Technology Conference (register here).

I’m most excited for the Forward Technology Conference, which is slated for August 26th at the Memorial Union.  Last year’s inaugural conference had more than 125 attendees and Fred Foster’s keynote was the highlight of the festival and I can’t wait for the 2011 version.  We’ll kick off the day with breakfast at 9am, followed by Madison Failcon, a session dedicated to lessons that founders learned when their businesses did not actually succeed.  I love this session, especially since I see the fear of failure as one of the biggest obstacles to Madison’s success as an entrepreneurial center.

Next, three successful Madison entrepreneurs will share their experiences starting and running a startup in Madison.  Justin Beck will talk about how he started and grew PerBlue and the lessons he learned doing it.  Greg Tracy of Asthmapolis will share his story as well.  I love hearing founders tell their stories, so it should be a great session.  After a lunch break, five up and coming Madison startups will share what they’ve been up to and ask the community for feedback and ideas on how to improve their business.  Last year’s pitch your biz participant Heidi Allstop of Student Spill ended up in Techstars and has since been featured in hundreds of publications, so this is your chance to hear about up and coming businesses before they make it big.

In the afternoon, Silicon Valley expert Brant Cooper will talk about customer development and the lean startup method and how startups can use it get started more quickly, while spending less money.  The customer development method is one of the hottest topics in the startup world right now and Madison hasn’t seen any of the top experts until now, so Cooper’s session is a can’t miss.

Laurie Benson will give our FTC 2011 keynote address, during which she’ll tell her story about how she started technology services business Inacom and grew it to one of the largest companies in her industry, leading to its acquisition.  Laurie has been extremely active in mentoring young founders and served on my MERLIN Mentor team with Entrustet (she’s awesome!).  She’s got a great story and I can’t wait to hear here tell it at the conference.  After the keynote, we’ll have a reception above the Union Terrace with snacks and drinks.

I’m really looking forward to the entire week of events and it’s been great to see Madison’s tech community come together to make the Festival a success.  If you’d like more information on any of the events, visit the Forward Technology Festival website or the Forward Technology Conference registration page.  While most of the events are free, the conference costs $50, but we have 50% off discounted tickets available until August 1st.  These events really showcase Madison as an up and coming technology and innovation center in the Midwest and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Introducing Forward Technology Conference

Ever since South By Southwest, I wanted to put on a smaller version in Madison.  SXSW was such an amazing experience because it was a place I could learn, meet awesome people and then relax with a happy hour and entertainment at night.  I pitched Matt Younkle on the idea few months back and we decided we wanted to make something happen in Madison.

After some work, we settled on the Forward Technology Festival, headlined by Forward Technology Conference, Barcamp, High Tech Happy Hour, Capital Entrepreneurs and other entrepreneurship, startup and technology events in Madison.

We’ve partnered with the founders of the Forward Music Festival and have an eye toward unifying the dates for the music and tech festival in the future.

This year’s Forward Tech Conference will have some great sessions, including:

10:05 am – Startups 101: A panel discussion with Madison-area entrepreneurs with businesses at different stages of development. Hear what’s working and what’s not in today’s market. Your questions and participation are encouraged.

11:00 am – All About LLCs: Finally learn about the in’s and out’s of Limited Liability Companies. We’ll have an attorney and a CPA on the stage together to set the record straight, and you won’t have to worry about any hourly billing.

1:00 pm – Unconference: Here is where the attendees become the presenters! Come with topics to discuss and ideas to share. We’ll poll you and the other attendees for hot topics, and split off into four or five groups based on interest.

2:00 pm – Branding and Identity Panel: Learn about what to look for in choosing a good graphic designer, hear about relevant design trends, and learn about different identity philosophies from some of the area’s top design minds.

3:15 pm – Pitch Your Biz: Here’s your chance to pitch your new biz or big idea in front of your peers for some no-holds-barred feedback. Biz-pitchers will have exactly 5 minutes to sell the audience on their concept. After that, the floor is opened for feedback, compliments, and criticisms. Contact us if you’d like to be a Biz-pitcher

All of the session will have high quality speakers and presenters, but I’m most excited for the Pitch Your Biz session.  5 entrepreneurs will get 5 minutes each to pitch their idea, business plan or even full fledged business and then the audience will have 10 minutes per company to provide feedback to try to improve the business.  I haven’t seen anything like it and I think we’re going to have some really strong presenters that should make the session really interesting.

After the panels, we’ve reserved the top level of the deck overlooking the Memorial Union where we’ll host a networking happy hour, with 2 drinks included in your registration fee.  There will also be a live band on the terrace, which should be awesome.

I’m also excited that people in Madison are getting excited about technology, entrepreneurship and startups.  I’ve already started to hear some buzz surrounding FTC2010 and think that Madison has the chance to really showcase its entrepreneurship credentials.  After being featured in TechCrunch last week, people outside of the state are starting to figure out what’s going on in Madison.  I’m hoping that Forward Technology Festival, Forward Music Festival and the rest of the Forward Movement can help bring the Madison community together around new, interesting ideas and the culture that’s needed to help the city grow.

If you’re interested in attending FTC2010 or want to get involved, you can sign up here, or you can contact me for more info.

What do you think?  Are you excited for FTC2010?  What panel are you most looking forward to?