If one word could describe TechWeek in Chicago, it would be electric.
“Something big is happening in Chicago,” said venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker. “Chicagoans have a pragmatic approach to innovation, focused on getting things done,” Pritzker said, according to Aaron Silvers.
The Float team was unable to make it to the Second City for the TechWeek conference. But by searching the #techwk hashtag and following the news on their site, we were able to glean much information. The scheduled TechWeek tracks included Advertising / Media, Creative / Design and Social / Gaming / Mobile, with the common thread among all of the tracks being tech innovation.
The Chicago Sun-Times noted how both Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, and Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, implored Chicagoans to use accessible data to create solutions for the military, health care system and other charitable endeavors. Developers have already produced tools to help citizens figure out whether their car has been towed or where others have filed rat reports. Newmark even made sure to mention the event on Twitter. “[F]olks at #techwk, thanks for the kind words,” he tweeted. “[I]mpressed by the Chicago tech renaissance.”
Chicago’s Merchandise Mart was full of ideas and commentary from conference attendees. One session, Entrepreneurs Unpluggd featured a panel of speakers offering advice to business folks with startups. “Keep going, because as an entrepreneur, you have to just wake up and get things done,” said Penelope Trunk (via Katy Lynch). The session, however, was not without controversy. One speaker apparently told attendees, “if you are responsible for children, don’t have a startup.” Richard Fawal, public affairs consultant-turned-entrepreneur, showed his disagreement along with others. “Sigh,” Fawal tweeted. “More agism in startups.” Aaron Silvers sided with Fawal, but for a different reason. “You’ll need your family behind you,” he tweeted. “You’ll be going at 120 mph.”
Business aside, Simon Kissler tweeted his advice on how to treat employees. “Be 100 percent honest to your employees in startup,” he said. “Make them passionate about your idea and don’t lie to them. They will see it and leave.” In general, Susannah Breslin had this to say about startups (via Adam Keats): be different. “If you try to package yourself into what every else packages themselves into, then you’re an idiot.”
Others touted Chicago’s tech community, making a push for it to become a thriving area for innovation.
“Silicon venture capitalists are no longer flying over Chicago, they are flying to Chicago,” Pritzker said in his Friday keynote (via Erin Wasson).
As if startups and entrepreneurship weren’t enough, TechWeek also featured much talk on mobile and user experience. Caleb Elston, among many others, insisted developers need to ask themselves what they want the user to do. “Now,” he said (via Joe Kiefer), “make that very simple to do and be very good at it.” Kelly Schwedland echoed this sentiment: “(Small business apps) make the product drop-dead simple early on and beautiful.” The founder of 37Signals, Jason Fried, said that the simpler the product, the bigger the market, according to Mana Ionescu. Schwedland passed on a message from Sam Altman, who said mobile works when it is social, structured, easy and relevant. Aaron Silvers, who actively debated some statements made at the conference, seemingly took issue with the idea that this year was the year of mobile commerce. “Look,” Silvers said, somewhat prophetically, “EVERY year is going to be the year of mobile commerce. More and more is shifting to mobile… until it isn’t.”
From one startup to another, we think Penelope Trunk’s advice is fitting for anybody looking to open up their own business. “Entrepreneurs,” she said, according to Kelly Schwedland, “wake up and get to work. No one does it but you.”
If you were at TechWeek, let us know what sessions you attended and what your ideas are now that you’ve had a few days to let them sink in. We’d love to hear them.
Chicago Sun-Times: Quinn signs bills to boost Illinois technology sector
Venture investments leap in Chicago, via Sandbox Industries
America’s CTO says Startup Visa is critical to the American economy, via TechWeek
Life in a Startup Incubator – Monday, July 25, 2011
TechWeek on LiveStream
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