I recently attended TechWeek in Chicago (@TechweekCHI) June 22-28. I was very interested to see how this multi-faceted tech event could pull off encompassing a trade show, exchange forum, job fair, tech community networking event and opportunity for vendors to spend their marketing dollars to ply both the newbies as well as the savvy tech veterans.
The events were held at the venerable Merchandise Mart on the banks of the Chicago River. At one point the Mart was the largest office building in the world, but times have changed. Now it is the home to Chicago’s hottest tech incubator, 1871, and all the supporting groups that help make it the home to Chicago’s Silicon Prairie.
The cramped spaces were well occupied and there was a continuous flow of technology and business sessions. The common threads were all present: the cloud, big data, disruptive technologies and XaaS. X=Everything.
The financial tech seminars were quite interesting. They brought together both technology vendors and users sharing anecdotes and best practices. One of the timeliest speakers was from the CME Group, which runs the global options exchanges based here in Chicago. It’s so committed to technology that it just converted the exchange floor to a trader-less system. All trades now happen via computer, and the hundreds of screaming and jestering traders are now off the floor and logged in elsewhere.
Competition and entertainment ranged from the Launch, the Techweek 100 and hack-a-thons to food truck wars, sponsored hospitality sessions and open bars in the events halls. There were also several offsite, invitation-only events that included pitches, food, bands and bars.
An interesting variety of small booths and tabletops ran the gamut from well-established vendors and services providers to the one-person shops looking for bootstrap funding to get their product or service to prototype. There was a preponderance of people trying to solve the same or similar problems with their own unique spins while trying to make it look like it could be easily monetized with just a little help.
One of the more interesting startups was BeyApps, LLC. The founder was looking for seed money to get to prototype. It’s developed an algorithm that helps scanning recognition on tablets for grading tests at the high-school level. Several teachers were interested in it, but would need to be able to demonstrate its value to get full funding. Anyone with a few thousand lying around and a passion for improving education should check it out.
Techweek gives us a venue for CEOs of single-person startups to rub shoulders and break bread with CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies. It appears to be a great leveling event that provides both access and hope to those who are willing to take on the challenge.
The most notable observation from a Janeiro Digital perspective was that all of these new companies appear to want to be what we are: an innovative, disruptive, RADD and world-class solutions provider. If that’s an indication of where the market is headed, then it looks like we’re at the right place at the right time. I guess we’re already being disruptive.
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