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.