With aggressive goals in mind, Techweek Kansas City is ramping up excitement for its second-annual festival of innovation and entrepreneurship in the City of Fountains.
The national tech conference and media firm hosted a countdown party Monday in downtown Kansas City in which Techweek CEO Amanda Signorelli said she hopes to top the festival’s inaugural showing in 2015. Signorelli said the organization plans to attract more than 7,000 participants for the Sept. 12 – 18 conference, topping the 2015 total of about 5,600 attendees.
Signorelli told Startland News that Kansas City is her organization’s most engaged community and that she hopes to spotlight it as a city from which the national tech community can learn.
“We’re a reflection of the community and we believe in being a national platform for markets that people rarely get to hear the story behind,” said Signorelli, a graduate of the Washington University in St. Louis. “We believe that the mainstream media is myopically focused on everything that has to do with Silicon Valley and misses out on the stories and places like Kansas City. To stay true to that, our mission is to be in cities like this.”
Much like 2015, Signorelli said that Techweek’s events throughout the weeklong festival will appeal to not only techies, but also entrepreneurs and those hoping to learn more about innovation in Kansas City. The week of events will include office tours around Kansas City, several happy hours, a big data summit, business expo and will be capped off with the LaunchKC finals.
About 80 Kansas Citians attended the Monday countdown party, which served largely as an opportunity for locals to chat with Techweek staff over drinks. It also offered Signorelli a platform to share plans for the 2016 conference.
Launch KC, the popular grants competition, was again met with an enthusiastic response by applicants, drawing more than 400 applicants for the second straight year. The competition — which will distribute $500,000 via 10, $50,000 non-dilutive grants — will allow the top 20 applicants to pitch their firms in September during a live presentation at Techweek KC. The grant competition is led by the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City and the Downtown Council of Kansas City.
Techweek is still filling its roster of speakers, but it already has secured Priceline founder Jeff Hoffman as a keynote speaker.
Signorelli also reiterated Techweek’s plans to be in Kansas City for the next five years, in part thanks to its appetite for entrepreneurial events. Former Techweek CEO Katy Lynch said that the conference was anticipating about 2,500 attendees in 2015, but that Kansas City surpassed its expectations when it more than doubled that figure.
Signorelli said that more than 250 companies from the metro attended the 2015 conference and that support has already been strong for 2016. More than 75 Kansas City organizations — including startups and corporations — are offering support. It’s also garnered many high-profile ambassadors from the area, including Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, Pipeline CEO Joni Cobb, Kauffman Foundation CEO Wendy Guillies, Cerner vice chairman Cliff Illig and more.