Jun 18 2013

What to Expect at Techweek Chicago 2013

The tech conference that started with 2,000-plus attendees in 2011 is back and bigger than ever.

"Started from the bottom, now we’re here
Started from the bottom, now the whole team’s here"

A contemporary anthem for underdogs the world over, Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” is perhaps an equally appropriate anthem for many startups across the country.

The grind and struggle of building a business from scratch, especially in industries with heavyweight incumbents, is an experience that entrepreneurs both relish and respect.

When asked to describe his experience as a startup entrepreneur, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO Elon Musk responded, “Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.”

Clearly, that hasn’t deterred him. He is, after all, the founder and current CEO of two companies (Tesla Motors and SpaceX). Daunting though the entrepreneurial experience may be, it’s also spellbinding.

The Startup Engine Starts in Chicago

Chicago in particular has been a hotbed of startup activity in recent years and increasingly has been drawing big-name technologists and companies to the Second City’s emerging startup scene.

This interest in grooming Chicago’s startup ecosystem led to the first Techweek back in 2011, which drew 2,487 attendees and featured 220 speakers. The organizers say that their mission is to “enable the innovation ecosystem in Chicago’s emerging tech scene by bringing in entrepreneurs, tech visionaries, and thought leaders from around the world for one week.”

At the inaugural conference, Aneesh Chopra, then CTO of the United States, said, “We’re going to cultivate innovation ecosystems throughout the country, and you’ve got a great one right here in Chicago.”

By 2012, the conference had grown to 5,627 attendees and 312 speakers. This year, Techweek Chicago organizers are expecting 8,000 attendees.

If excitement around Techweek is a sign of the health of Chicago’s startup ecosystem, then it’s on track for continued growth and development.

Who’s Talking at Techweek?

This year’s Techweek will include an impressive number of speakers, from startup mavericks to major-company captains.

Some of the more noteworthy speakers scheduled include Kim Dotcom, founder of Mega. He founded and led Megaupload until New Zealand’s Special Tactics Group dramatically apprehended him for charges of online piracy on behalf of the FBI. Although he’s a controversial figure in the eyes of the U.S. government, he’s a hero in the eyes of many a tech geek, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Rachid Alameh, a technology leader for Motorola Mobility, is scheduled to speak as well. According to Alameh’s bio, his work led to the iconic Motorola RAZR cell phone that many of us loved and coveted in the early 2000s.

Robin Chase, a co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, also will be speaking. She’s currently heading up operations at Buzzcar, a car-sharing company. Seems she’s determined to lick this transportation market once and for all.

Check out Techweek’s official site for more information about the scheduled speakers.

What’s There to Do at Techweek?

If sitting in an auditorium and listening to famous tech people speak isn’t your thing, there will be plenty of sessions and workshops to attend. Conference planners wisely divided the event into summits, each with its own focus.

There’s the Dev Summit for software/web developers, the Fashion Tech Summit for the nexus between fashion and technology, the Finance 2.0 Summit for tech geeks ready to crunch numbers, and many more.

In addition to the summits, there will also be a hiring fair for job seekers hoping to land a gig at a startup company. Techweek Launch, a showcase and demo hall for startups looking to hawk their products and services, is also worth checking out. Oh, and don’t forget about the parties.

Are you attending Techweek this year? What are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the Comments section.