The Ultimate Female Entrepreneur’s Guide To Techweek Chicago 2017

The one thing that startups can relate to is constant change. And that seems to be the case with one of the iconic and debatable tech conferences nationally, and especially in Chicago – Techweek.

The change I am alluding to is both in terms of mission as much as it is in structure.

Female entrepreneurs and women in tech usually ask if Techweek Chicago is worth it?

And, while there’s a blatant answer – go to the women in tech breakfast, which is part of Techweek, where 20 different leading technical women and entrepreneurs will speak, there are other considerations.

So, Windy City Cosmo reached out to the CEO of Techweek, Amanda Signorelli to get your questions answered about what to wear to Techweek, who should attend, and most importantly, what you’re signing up for. Because, as a past attendee (2013 and 2014), Techweek Chicago is not going to be like the Greek parties you’ve read about in 2013, nor have tricks up its sleeves like Microsoft’s act as sponsor in 2014, nor have to squash the sexist commentary and then transition like 2015.

No, this year, Techweek Chicago is going to be different. More serious. More structured. More impactful, maybe. And if you’re intrigued, there’s a discount code at the bottom of the article.

“Techweek was founded in 2011 as a small conference to gather the tech community that began bubbling after the Groupon IPO,” Signorelli shared, “Since 2011, we’ve seen the ecosystem grow and evolve from a nascent market to now a top-tier global tech ecosystem, driven by the growth in B2B software companies.”

Techweek: More Compact

Techweek Chicago is turning into more of a tech day, with just one full day of sessions and then a handful of sponsored events June 19-23, 2017.

At first glance, the conference seems light. I pulled out my calendar to block off sessions, and the substance was less frill and more business – which seems to be the new direction of Techweek. Sessions will touch on high-growth startup strategies and diversity in tech, as well as acquisitions and scaling businesses.

“Techweek this year is all about the content,” Signorelli shared, “Every evening event we have will be anchored with recognizing leaders in the community or sharing knowledge around a specific topic.”

Techweek Speakers:

I moved along to the speakers and familiar players from after work networking events are coming thru to impart their tips and techniques including Mike Rothman, CEO of SMS Assist; Pat Vihtelic, CEO of Home Chef; Amanda Lannert, CEO of Jellyvision; and Justyn Howard CEO of Sprout Social.

Usually, Techweek Chicago emphasizes their interactive sessions, networking opportunities, and their job fair, and launch competition to showcase the Chicago tech scene. And, I’m here to say, that all of those things are still part of the Techweek Chicago 2017 agenda.

Techweek Chicago Conference Highlights:

  • Techweek Chicago Kick-Off Party: Monday, June 19 at 5 p.m. at the MillerCoors rooftop
  • The Capital One Gathering, which will take over three floors and feature 3D printerspace, coding, robot wars and more: Tuesday, June 20 at 5 pm at Capital One
  • Techweek Launch Showcase, a summit featuring top local startups from the Techweek100: Wednesday, June 21 at 5:30 pm at the Bottom Lounge in the West Loop
  • Nerdery Virtual Reality Event, with leading content and interactive activities: Wednesday, June 21 at 7 pm at the Nerdery
  • Women in Tech Breakfast, where female business leaders share their thoughts on tech entrepreneurship, in partnership with Syndio: Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 am at VenueSix10
  • Growth Summit, panel of CEO’s speaking about company growth topics: Thursday, June 22 at 8:30 am at VenueSix10
  • GoGo Air Gathering, featuring the passenger experience in the future: 5:30 pm on Thursday, June 22 at GoGo Air
  • Techweek Gives Event, announcing the most generous company: Wednesday, June 21 (time and location TBD)

Techweek Charity: Give Back to S.T.E.A.M.

Another part of Techweek Chicago that is changing is that it is focusing on giving back. Techweek launched TechweekGives this year as an opportunity for Chicago’s technology community to come together and give money, time and goods to S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and other nonprofits. The goal is to raise $1 million over a 90-day period, and two months in, they are over halfway to their goal with nearly $600K in money, goods and volunteer hours.

Interview with the CEO of Techweek:

Amanda CEO (1)

What innovations are you most excited about in the next five years? 

Signorelli: It’s hard to pick just one source of innovation, but I am personally excited to see the future of driverless cars because I hope that in the next five years, we can make the roads substantially safer for everyone. Yes, autonomous vehicles are cool, but they’ll also save lives. 

Do you find that in the launch competition that there is a focus on one type of technology or business model that resonates with the tech community? Feel free to give an example. 

Signorelli: Chicago is a B2B (Business to Business) tech city. While the B2C companies are certainly the easiest to digest in terms of business model, B2B startups resonate well with the tech community. From our finalists last year, we had strong representation from both models, MailControl, AcesHealth, and Shurpa were B2B and Schlep and Parqex were B2C (Business to Consumer). 

As a woman leading a tech conference, did you have any reservations? Why did you choose this role? 

Signorelli: No, I was fortunate to succeed a great female entrepreneur, Katy Lynch, before I took over and I never felt any reservations joining nor taking on the role. I choose this position because I truly love to learn about tech and early stage companies. I enjoy doing due diligence on interesting companies and seeing how tech trends evolve across markets. 

Are there any female entrepreneurs that you are partnering with this year? 

Signorelli: This year we have our Women in Tech breakfast kicking off the Growth Summit, which will feature 20 different leading technical women and entrepreneurs. Our Growth Summit lineup also includes some fantastic female entrepreneurs such as Nicole Staple, CEO of Brideside and Kristi Zhulke, CEO of Knowledgehound. 

What advice would you give a woman who is interested in tech and wondering how to gain skills in the community?

Signorelli: Build relationships and take notes. There are numerous organizations that offer great classes to teach hard skills and can help build a toolkit needed for a startup. However, what’s equally important is being engaged in the community and meeting the entrepreneurs who have success and listening to them. Take notes, ask questions, and be curious. 

Often times in tech, there are women-only conferences, what value do co-ed conferences bring to women? 

Signorelli: I’ve had this conversation with many fellow female entrepreneurs and there’s no right answer. However, I personally believe it is vital to have co-ed conferences that include dialogue from both genders. I want to celebrate great entrepreneurs for being just that—entrepreneurs—not just because they are female. That doesn’t change what they’ve accomplished. If we truly want to see a state of equity, all parties must share an equal voice.

 Do you think Techweek has helped change the dynamic of a more inclusive (gender, race, education) tech community? How so? 

Signorelli: Techweek is a reflection of the local community, and consequently, is a catalyst for conversation, which provides a chance to push for a more inclusive environment. Last year, in partnership with Capital One, we expanded the focus of diversity to include programs that fostered the development of technical skills for those with disabilities.

Techweek keeps growing, is there a reason someone should choose to attend Techweek Chi in their hometown vs. traveling to Techweek New York or LA?

Signorelli: Every Techweek event, just like our markets, is different. In LA, you’ll hear about fashion, ecommerce and e-gaming startups, while NYC is heavily weighted towards FinTech and media. And separately, Chicago has an emphasis around B2B SAS companies and Big Data. Someone should choose to attend a Techweek depending on their industry interest.

People on social media often ask, is it worth it to attend, so who will be most impacted by the content and people at Techweek? 

Signorelli: Techweek is a thoughtful assembly of events, each with its own purpose and ideal audience. Tech enthusiasts, students and engineers should attend our community festival. Early stage entrepreneurs and angel investors should attend the startup showcase and senior level executives, founders, and Venture Capitalists should attend Growth Summit. We work hard to ensure that there is something for everyone at Techweek.

What should you wear to Techweek – for men and women? 

Signorelli: We have early stage startup employees, bankers, Fortune 500 executives, and students. Everyone should feel comfortable wearing their work attire—with a touch of Techweek red!

Techweek Chicago Discount Tickets:

Tickets are on sale at Techweek.com/Chicago. There are three tickets this year, including a free pass. Plus, we are offering a 15% off Techweek Chicago discount code using: WINDYCITY.

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New Year’s EVE of the EVE Black Tie Fundraiser Gives Children a Better Chicago Education

New Year’s Eve is prom post high school. It’s a time to celebrate all that this year, 2015, was, while also putting our best step forward among friends, soon so be new friends, and our community.

This year start with a precursor to your New Year’s Eve celebrations. Slide into that Vera Wang dress, put on a dab of lipstick and start the new year in style—fashionably and charitably—at EVE of the EVE.

For the 22nd year, join 2,000 urban and young professionals in shutting down Union Station downtown (500 West Jackson Street) on the day BEFORE New Year’s Eve, Wednesday, December 30, 2015, for a night of black ties, premium spirits including Tito’s cocktails, and most importantly, a silent auction for one of Chicago’s non-profit organizations centered-on education, HighSight (315 West Walton Street).

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Eve of the Eve: South of 80 plays for nearly 2,500 guest at Union Station.

HighSight was started with a mission to give exceptional eighth grade students in poorer Chicago neighborhoods a chance to attend some of the best private 4-year high schools in Chicago through a scholarship program.

The program started in 1992 with five graduating students from Cabrini Green, and still has its offices in that Chicago neighborhood, though the program has expanded to numerous children coming from 35 Chicago elementary schools in the southside, westside and even northside.

Qualified students meet income requirements, and also contribute financially to the private school education. For a family of four, the income requirement is under $48,500, for instance.

Becoming a HighSight student also requires additional time commitment both in traveling and additional learning. Students travel between 30 minutes and an hour to attend Chicago private schools, once they are in the program. Then, they travel to the HighSight offices for additional tutoring, which includes Academic Study Sessions Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and Saturday mornings during the school year.

“It takes a special kid to be a HighSight student,”the founding director of HighSight, Mark Duhon, tells me, “95 percent are the first generation going to college.”

Volunteers include past graduates from the HighSight program, who  empower and teach 100 students to graduate Chicago high school and attend 4-year universities on scholarship.

Duhon notes that students receive between $25,000 and $60,000 in scholarships to 4-year colleges. This year, the greatest scholarship was $63,000 to a $61,000 4-year college.

All proceeds from EVE of the EVE will benefit HighSight’s scholarship. It is one of HighSight’s biggest fundraisers of the year.

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EVE of the EVE will start at 8:00 pm and last until 1:00 am at the Great Hall of Union Station on Wednesday, December 30, 2015.

$125 TICKETS

  • Open Bar
  • Heavy Hors d’oeuvres Buffet
  • Silent Auction
  • Cash Raffle
  • Live Music: Verzitile Band
  • DJ: Clik Entertainment
  • Dancing

                                                                                                                         $160 VIP TICKETS

     

  • Exclusive VIP Reception from 7:00 to 8:00 pm
  • Premium Spirits Bar
  • Heavy Hors d’oeuvres Buffet
  • Silent Auction
  • Cash Raffle
  • Live Music: Verzitile Band and Dairy Pill
  • DJ: Clik Enertainment
  • Dancing

Attire:  Black tie optional

The VIP ticket ($160) includes a pre-party at 7:00 pm with  hour d’oeuvres and premium spirits. In addition to the pre-party, VIP guests will enjoy a private balcony bar with continued premium spirits, a VIP hors d’oeuvres, buffet and access to additional restrooms.

Tickets are available for $125 or $160 for VIP in advance and may be purchased online at www.highsight.org.

Ticket prices will increase the day of at the door.

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A group of HighSight supporters, Andrew Landon, James Feeley, Jon Jesse, Kate Fundarek, and Job Landon celebrate at EVE of the EVE.

ShowBiz Shelly VIP Tickets Giveaway:

Chicago entertainment news reporter for B96 Radio (96.3 FM), Showbiz Shelly, is offering a special giveaway for two VIP tickets to EVE of the EVE to benefit HighSight.

Hurry! The last day to enter is Wednesday, December 23, 2015. All of the details for the VIP Ticket EVE of the EVE giveaway are here.

Send a Shout Out on Social Media:

I can’t wait for you to join the New Year’s EVE of the EVE celebration for 2016.  Let me know you are going on Instagram or Twitter.

Tag #EveoftheEve and include HighSight (@HighSightChi) and Windy City Cosmo (@WindyCityCosmo) in your shout outs!

Cheers to another year of parties, good business and philanthropy with great people in a beautiful city, Chicago.

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