Technology

Kansas City becomes the sixth city with Techweek conference

A fashion show for wearable technology, like this one from a previous Techweek, will be one item on the Kansas City agenda in September.
A fashion show for wearable technology, like this one from a previous Techweek, will be one item on the Kansas City agenda in September. Techweek

Techweek, a seven-day technology binge, is coming to Kansas City in mid-September, making it only the sixth city nationally to attract the event.

The idea is that the event — a technology conference, festival, exposition, job fair, hackathon, runway show and tour — will bring together and showcase Kansas City’s emergent tech world.

Organizers announced Techweek Kansas City, set for Sept. 14-20, during the Downtown Council’s annual lunch Friday. They planned to tour potential sites for the event afterward.

“To be picked certainly among the first six is a good testament to where we rank in the tech world,” said Ryan Weber, president of KCNext, a trade group for area technology companies.

Weber said Techweek programs are considered premier events in the field and the Chicago company behind the event carefully selects where it gets involved.

The benefit to Kansas City comes partly from Techweek’s ability to spread the word about the area’s entrepreneurial and technology development.

“It legitimizes us,” said Blake Miller of Think Big Partners, who was one of the first in the area to push Techweek to come here. “It puts that spotlight on Kansas City. We’re now in the same conversation as New York, and Miami and LA and Chicago and Detroit.”

Techweek began in Chicago in 2011 and has expanded to the five other cities.

Techweek helps a city bring together a series of free and ticketed events laced with involvement from local technology companies large and small as well as input from national players Techweek helps to attract.

Its crews work with vendors and other “nuts and bolts” aspects, said Sam Kennedy, executive director of the Chicago venture. Its agreement with Kansas City includes a commitment to hold the week-long event for each of the next five years.

“We’re a platform,” Techweek executive chairman Iain Shovlin told about 1,000 people who attended the lunch. “You guys build Techweek. We want great partners from Kansas City. We want to see those great startups.”

Kennedy said the first year tends to cement local participation. The second and third years expand the event with more outside participation from the region or the rest of the nation.

“We’ve succeeded if we bring industry and outsiders to see what’s going on in Kansas City,” Kennedy said.

A video of last year’s Chicago event provides a taste of what Kansas City might expect and will help create for Sept. 14-20.

The scale of various Techweeks has varied. According to its website, Chicago’s 2014 event attracted 13,800 attendees, 2,800 companies and 200 speakers. The Miami event drew 6,000 people, 400 companies and 150 speakers.

Kansas City’s first Techweek is likely to attract 2,500 attendees, said Matt McGraw, president and chief executive of Data Systems International and a Downtown Council leader on the event.

Plans call for Techweek Kansas City to include an interactive tour of innovative work spaces in the city. The day-long hackathon will pull together software developers, designers and entrepreneurs. The runway show will feature wearable devices as well as technology leaders and entrepreneurs on the walkway.

The Downtown Council also announced Friday that it has embedded its new LaunchKC business accelerator selection process into the Techweek event.

LaunchKC seeks to attract technology startups willing to move to Kansas City for two years. Its lure is $50,000 in grant funding, free workspace for a year and access to industry expertise and mentors. It plans to select 10 companies for the first LaunchKC class.

Techweek normally awards one company a similar package of grant funding.

Its team will help promote the LaunchKC application process nationally. LaunchKC will winnow the applicants to 20 or 30 by the time of Techweek Kansas City. Techweek will then help choose the 10 companies that will participate in LaunchKC and announce them during the September event.

Kennedy said learning about LaunchKC was the item that pushed Techweek Kansas City into being. He’d visited Kansas City last September at the urging of Miller from Think Big Partners and John Hall and Ryan O’Connell from Influence & Co.’s Kansas City office.

Kansas City has held other tech-oriented events, including 1WeekKC last June that brought together Entrepreneur Day @ The K, the weekly 1 Million Cups sessions at the Kauffman Foundation and the demo day conclusion of the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at mdkcstar.

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