Photo: Amanda Signorelli, Techweek CEO
A Letter from the CEO
Dear Friends of Techweek,
A successful year
2016 was an incredible milestone year for us. Starting in January, we released our refined product suite which was aimed at better supporting local technology ecosystems, and the results speak for themselves. We welcomed 90+ new sponsorship partners to support Techweek’s mission so far, including Amazon Launchpad, Lexus and Capital One. I’m delighted to say an incredible 90% of 2016 sponsors offered have already committed to expanding their sponsorship in 2017 and beyond. Our attendees too have been floored by our improved products and quality: we received a 36% NPS customer satisfaction increase over 2015!
Building on this momentum, I’m proud to share with you a new vision of Techweek: an elevated mission with real societal impact, a business model with further refined products for 2017 – as well as a continued fanatic focus on delivering value to our partners and attendees.
An elevated mission
We have spent the past 6 years engaging ecosystems in 8 markets, looking to determine the mechanisms that foster technology entrepreneurship as tool of spreading wealth creation, especially those markets “outside the valley.” Our observations have surprised us: overwhelmingly the emergence of substantial and sustainable businesses – “Hero Companies” – are seen to be a powerful engine behind a flourishing technology ecosystem. We have chosen to embrace this in our mission: we believe identifying and supporting Hero Companies is the most effective path to create successful future entrepreneurs and sustainable technology ecosystems.
I am incredibly proud, therefore, to announce that Techweek’s refined mission is to “spread wealth creation to diverse places and people by supporting the emergence of local Hero Companies.” Our aspiration to drive real social impact is encapsulated in our 100x10x1 goal: Techweek is aims to expand to 100 cities, and within 10 years of engaging each new market, help foster the growth of at least one $1 billion Hero Company.
Techweek has put together a whitepaper as the first step in exploring the underlying relationship between Hero Companies and economic agglomeration, which will be published in a few weeks.
An extraordinary year ahead
Our mission defined, Techweek is looking to partner with companies that are passionate about engaging and celebrating the tech and entrepreneurial communities. We want to tell the stories of emerging Hero Companies, great local growth companies, and share the tools of technology and wealth creation in your community.
Explore how our mission has driven further improvements in our products, our growth into 2 new markets in 2017, then email me at amanda.signorelli@Techweek.com to see how you can get involved.
The merits of a fair meritocracy.
Techweek believes that spreading of wealth creation is simultaneously an economic opportunity and a moral imperative. As the impact of technology accelerated economic change it seems unsustainable that the forces of disruption emerging from the Internet revolution could bring gains to only a few geographies. It is critical that disruptive wealth creating “Hero Companies” would emerge from myriad not a limited few places.
Spreading the wealth of technology entrepreneurship
Techweek believe new technology economies are the right vehicle to spread wealth creation, while having challenges to widespread regional adoption:
- Tech entrepreneurship is a once-in-a-generation economic engine in that is uniquely democratizable, with low barriers to entry:
- Resource requirements are often low enough that bootstrapping disruptive technology companies is possible
- While knowledge and education is needed, the widespread availability of technical courses and traditional qualifications, as well as online information lowers the knowledge barriers to entry
- Online marketing, using cheap and effective direct to consumer ad buying allows efficient and scalable paid customer acquisition
- Technical and busines infrastructure tools, and backbone business functions are now broadly and cheaply available on a -As A Service basis allow cost effective formation and scaling of new small businesses
- Technology ecosystems appear to flourish where there is a concentration of knowledge, economic and talent resources – also known as economic agglomeration.
- Tech “hubs” appear to dominate and appear to continue to be the center of the growth of technology entrepreneurship
- There is a compounding effect of the critical mass of ecosystems: a concentration of of resources, new and experienced talent, investment and existing tech business ecosystems seems to drive robust economic growth and robust entrepreneurial activity.
- Cities and regions struggle to recreate this magic formula to build their own technology and entrepreneurial sectors, often by encouraging building infrastructure to support entrepreneurship
The “Hero Company” theory of economic development
Techweek sees a causal reversal at work in the rise of technology cities. Rather than being just a feature of success, the emergence of substantial and sustainable businesses – which it terms “Hero Companies” – is an input into the creation and development of robust tech ecosystems. Hero companies act as the incubators of future entrepreneurial talent, increases economic activity, and stimulates new spin-off companies, a process described as economic agglomeration.
Techweek further seeks to fully validate its Hero Company Theory with collaborative and internal economic research efforts, starting with its whitepaper found here
Measurably improve the world
We hold ourselves to the highest standard of success against our mission. Techweek recognizes that a great mission is most effective when it is challenged with a quantifiable goal that serves as a clear yardstick for success. Techweek has set itself a bold 100-10-1 goal to measure that success:
100: We will engage with 100 cities
10: Within 10 years in a city
1: Foster a $1 billion dollar Hero Company
Techweek is embracing the Benefit Corp philosophy and will now be equally focused on “spreading wealth creation” through embracing the Hero Company Theory of economic development, in addition to building a world-class and profitable business.
What is a Public Benefit Corporation
A Benefit Corporation is a company with a governance foundation with a clear dual-purpose mandate, i.e., to pursue a social mission in addition to traditional corporate obligations
Why it matters to Techweek
Transitioning to a Benefit Corporate empowers Techweek management to invest time and effort ensuring that Techweek’s strategy and day-to-day direction are consistent with realizing its bold goals, and pursuit of the mission. Other famous benefit corporation include Etsy, Kickstarter, Ben & Jerrys and Patagonia.
Techweek is in the process of transitioning to a Benefit Corporation, which it intends to complete in 2017.
Techweek’s business is designed to support the emergence of Hero Companies
Techweek believes that over the course of its growth from idea and startup to a substantial and sustainable business, an emerging Hero Company will benefit from support in a numbers of ways, and at particular points in its development:
- As an early startup or in idea mode, primary company needs are of business formation: finding mentors, building the skills needed to compete for early capital, and to get expert feedback needed to refine the business model
- The emerging startup and business will then benefit from discovery and recognition – early identification by the market as a potential Hero Company to attract talent and investors
- As the Hero Company grows into a true business, talent acquisition becomes a strategic concern and bottleneck to sustaining growth
- As the company scales and becomes more complex, building knowledge becomes essential: learning and adopting the best practices that are known and vetted by other Hero Companies
- Finally, it benefits Hero Company leadership to engage leaders, i.e., to build and socialize with strong network of peers. This is an essential support vehicle for CEOs – it is lonely at the top. It provides a structured platform for the most likely potential founders, leaders, and investors of future collaborations and spin-offs to meet, and discuss opportunities that would benefit the local ecosystem
Products that supports the emergence of Hero Companies
To fulfill our mission, Techweek has developed a set of products addresses specific development needs of Hero Companies. To maximize the impact, these products have both a physical event component combined with a media amplification platform.
These products are:
- Founders House is a curated environment where entrepreneurs and industry leaders can connect with their peers, where CEOs can let their guard down, form new relationships and have genuine conversations.
- Growth Summit is a series of roundtables and speaking sessions addressing what’s growing and how to grow in each market
- Hiring Fest is a week long festival of private events (breakfast & evening networking, happy hours and knowledge events) to gather local talent to get a hands-on perspective and celebrate the different company businesses and work culture
- The “Techies” Awards is an inspirational evening of prominent tech leaders and emerging growth companies. In each market, Techweek will honor the Hero Companies and Hero Entrepreneurs who are innovating and changing the way we do business.
- Launch Competition is an early-stage pitch competition designed to support early business formation. It is designed to shine a national spotlight on emerging growth companies to help them establish the credibility to raise capital and acquire talent.
Interested in learning more about our products? Download the Techweek 2017 Guide here
Techweek is Exiting Beta; A critical history
Early Techweek (dot com)
In the Summer of 2011, Techweek – a small regional technology conference company – was initially invested in and ultimately acquired. The investment thesis was to use this platform to build a business that could broadly focus on supporting the community, and stimulate entrepreneurial ecosystem development. The investment thesis was that the domain name would a great launching point for a mission-based company that might address these initial investor’s belief in the value of spreading wealth creation.
Turning the original Techweek business model into an effective vehicle to pursue the important mission was not Initial management teams, were not successful, and the products offered were poorly conceived and badly executed and ultimately customers were unsurprisingly unimpressed.
The long and painful beta begins
New management came onboard, and Techweek started with a blank canvas – to attempt to build the right team, and build the right product offerings, and build the right Techweek: a blend of mission and customer satisfaction. A 5 year journey of testing and experimentation – mistakes and learning were just beginning.
Success but a failure of communication
While mission-focused at its core, over the Beta period, Techweek failed to properly convey its intent, with the result that many people were uninformed as to Techweek’s larger purpose of connecting capital, talent and ideas. As it grew, Techweek was noted for its large crowds, world-class speakers, superior events – and often made national headlines as a result- but not for its mission.
Techweek growth and validation of the economic thesis
From 2012 onwards, Techweek recognized Chicago was not alone in its economic potential and need for support – and expanded to 9 more North American cities. With increasing evidence from 6 years of discussions with tech leaders, communities and businesses in these markets, Techweek’s thesis of economic ecosystems development was repeatedly validated – the presence of substantial, sustainable companies catalyzed successful economic ecosystems.
Building a business that supports development of Hero Companies
Over its 6 years in “Beta”, Techweek and multiple management teams innovated and tested many failed iterations of the Techweek platform and product set. Through a process of trial and error, Techweek ended up evolving a core set of products that actually solves real pain-points, and delivers meaningful value to people and places that develops Hero Companies.
Why is spreading wealth creation at the core of the mission?
- Democratized social mobility: Techweek believes that there is a moral opportunity in sharing technology entrepreneurship that allows communities to build their own economic success story.
- System preservation:The free market system has done more to bring more people out of poverty than any prior system. It also benefited a smaller group to a greater extent. However, there exists systemic risk if a significant group of people do not feel well served by a meritocratic system.
- Broad social appeal: Techweek believes that free market principles work, but also that markets are not created equally. Democratizing and actively sharing wealth creation creates an improved outlook for diverse people and regions – a uniquely non-partisan form of economic development
Why does Techweek believe that Hero Companies are important?
We believe that vigorous economic development of an ecosystem is a result of, not the prerequisite for the emergence of big growth companies within it. The introduction of these sustainable, substantial companies (we call them “Hero Companies”) leads to a positive reinforcement cycle, with successful spin-offs from the Hero Companies producing a network of future Hero Companies. The most robust spin-offs are lead by a new generation of experienced entrepreneurs that developed in the talent incubator that is building the Hero Company itself. These spin-offs – the center of the emerging ecosystem – further benefit from the capital and talent concentration from the resulting Herco Company economic activity. The eventual result is a cascade of self-reinforcing economic agglomeration effects and the establishment of a true tech ecosystem.
Our belief is that this agglomeration stems from several axioms of Hero Companies:
- Better companies lead to more spin-off companies
- Better companies lead to better spin-off companies
- Better companies build a generation seasoned entrepreneurs, and create new pockets of local capital
- Better companies drive local economic activity with the creation of jobs and raising the profile of local ecosystem
- These spin-off companies typically co-locate geographically and produce synergies or network effects that further develop of that ecosystem
In short, Techweek believes in identifying and supporting the growth of businesses and individuals that can contribute or become Hero Companies, and their spin-offs.
Techweek’s team has brought its thinking together in a draft whitepaper here – a series of propositions and data points that point at the vital economic power of a Hero Company
How does the mission benefit each of Techweek’s key stakeholders?
- Hero Companies
- The knowledge and lessons of other Hero Companies is pooled and shared through the Growth Summit
- CEOs and Founders are given a platform to network with peers, to share information and discuss potential collaborations through Founders House
- Successful Hero Companies are celebrated as a place for top talent to go through success Awards, such as the Best Place to Work, or through the Hiring Fest events
- Spin-offs discovered and attributed to the Hero Company through the Launch Competition and Awards
- Talent attracted to “enter the Hero talent incubator” through the Hiring Fest and Awards
- Emerging Hero Companies
- The lessons of successful Hero Companies is shared the Growth Summit
- Networking of leaders / peers and investors is encouraged through Founders House and Hiring Fest
- Attracting investment and talent through recognition through the Techies Awards
- Early Hero Companies
- Early potential startups recognized and provided exposure, feedback and mentoring guidance through the Launch Startup Competition
- Future Founders
- Introduction to the best Hero Companies that would serve to help build deep skills and knowledge through Hiring Fest
- Meet potential co-founders through the Hiring Fest and Launch Startup Competition
- Learn some of the best growth knowledge through the Growth Summit
- Get inspired by some of the top Start-ups emerging from the local ecosystem through the Launch Startup competition
- Technologists and Engineers
- Introduction to exciting growth companies to serve as a great career step, through the Hiring Fest
- Learn about emerging tech and growth trends through the Growth Summit
- Meet potential co-founders through the Hiring Fest and Launch Startup Competition
- Techweek brings tech communities together around a mission of building a healthy technology community