I Went To TechWeek: The Take from Orbit Media's Andy Crestodina
Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina describes the city’s flourishing tech community in action
On the 7th floor, in a building from the 1920’s, the Chicago tech community got together. It was TechWeek, and if you missed it, here is what you would have witnessed:
A relaxed atmosphere. Plenty of places to sit, charge a device or pound out a few tweets. It was simply overwhelming and there was just no way to take in all the people and businesses at once. As the first 1,600 attendees began arriving, even the registration system briefly overloaded.
There were locals pros on small panels and then there were all the A-listers and technology superstars dropping in (and out) for keynotes. There was an incredible candor behind the podiums. The speakers were keeping it real. Then there was the small exhibit hall with product demos and hungry entrepreneurs testing out their best pitches.
There were all kinds of people in all kind of moods: grumbling bloggers, excited finalists, investors who flew in from the coasts, and even the Governor stopped by. There were first impressions, re-connections and faces put to names. Everywhere, people were meeting and discussing ideas. Volunteers drank coffee in small groups. Batteries charged in the press room.
Cameras were everywhere; long lenses, tripods and tiny video cameras. The media (and social media) was there including the women of Chicago’s social media elite all checking in and tweeting. In a flurry of smiles and laughs, some of that online influence even met face-to-face. Speaking of influence, Ron May was there, collecting cards and stirring things up.
In the bars and at the parties, there were people, young and old, representing hundreds of newborn companies. They drank draft beer, tried their pitches on each other, and listened to direct feedback. Marketers promised to follow up. Technical co-founders forgot their business cards.
In a refreshing way, TechWeek was nothing new. Chicago has been doing this a long time and the tech community is an experienced crowd, many of whom have seen the boom and bust (and more booms and more busts) and lived to tell about it. This week, that’s what they did. The seasoned veterans gave the next generation practical advice. Ideas were measured carefully. Resourcefulness was mandatory.
The energy level was high, especially so because of SPARK, the turbo start-up incubator. Competition was intense and three new companies were born from six short days of work. This is part of Seth Kravitz’s seemingly selfless quest to grow the local tech landscape. There was also big support from the big local groups. I saw Fred Hoch of the ITA, Kevin Willer of the CEC, and Linda Dao of the Chamber.
Some of the TechWeek sessions were things that were happening here already. Events like Entrepreneurs Unplugged, Technori Unwind, and Bootstrappers Breakfast were already part of the ongoing Chicago tech community. They blended right in, but it’s a reminder that TechWeek really isn’t just a week. It’s just a concentration of the ongoing dynamic here in town.
So that was TechWeek. Even if you missed it, you probably felt the effects. You just had to glance at your phone. Inboxes and feeds are still lit up with Chicago tech start-up activity. So a big thank you to MidVentures and to all the sponsors. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to see you next year.
Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media Studios, a Chicago web design and video production company.