On the 7th floor, in a building from the 1920’s, parts of both the Chicago and area tech community got together for collaboration, sharing, and innovating at this year’s TechWeek Chicago event. Between speeches and panels across 4 stages, startup alley, the Launch competition, and so much more – we had the pleasure of spending time at the event and immersing ourselves in the tech of Chicago. TechWeek Chicago 2014 was an amazing experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone in Chicago’s technology industry.
If you missed our preview, you can check it out here, otherwise here’s a quick recap. Techweek Chicago is a weeklong festival celebrating the innovation ecosystem in the Windy City, with 7 days of exciting tech-related events culminating in a 3 day conference and expo (plus music festival). With over 150 speakers, and thousands of attendees, TechWeek Chicago is a huge yearly technology innovation event in Chicago. The event brings people from all forms of technology companies together to share information, their product, and collaborate.
To be honest, we weren’t sure what to expect when we walked into the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, IL to get to the expo and summit areas. After registering our badges, we wandered the expo floor for about an hour – exploring the different booths being setup by companies such as WordPress, GoGo, Microsoft, T-Mobile, SingleHop, and more. As we made our way towards the press area, walking through startup alley (Where all the small startups are located), we were greeted by the sounds of something really cool – startups talking about how they can help each other or helping each other with their projects. There couldn’t be anything better for the Chicago tech industry than that, right?
After we settled into the press area, we had our first interview of the day with Dan Ushman of SingleHop, a hosting company with a wide range of services that is growing at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, our Rode Videomic had stopped working, and the audio on that video is not as good as we like (it was replaced, fortunately!). We had a lot of time to kill between interviews, so we spent that time checking out the Future Sound area as well as the food trucks that were in attendance. Nestled right in front of the Merchandise Mart, between it and the river, was the stage for the music festival and the diverse food truck selection.
After lunch, we had our second interview with Jeff Hoffman, an expert in startups and avid entrepreneur. Jeff shared some awesome advice, and we highly recommend that everyone interested in starting a business heed it! Afterwards, we listened to a few speakers and panels, which were the goldmines of information throughout the weekend. We ended the day at the Microsoft Official party (With a magic show?) behind the Future Sound stage, where we had the opportunity to talk one on one with people from all over in a really casual setting. Day 1 of TechWeek Chicago 2014 ended with us enjoying the awesome show put on by Eric Prydz.
The second day was action packed for us, with multiple interviews and a ton of awesome going-ons. We kicked off the day with our interview of Rivet News Radio, a company that is producing short news clips for their iOS listeners. We met up with another TechWeek sponsor a bit later, a company that provides excellent password storage protection as well as backups – Keeper Security. After another visit to the excellent food truck selection, we made our way back to the 7th floor of the Merchandise mart to see a few more speakers before meeting with Alex Brown from 10th Magnitude to talk about the Cloud and the future of technology.
The panel discussions were extremely interesting, and we sat in on a keynote presentation from Gary Robinson of IBM on “How IBM Taught A Computer To Think” which was truly inspiring. Gary spoke on how IBM Watson is changing the face of healthcare by helping Doctors diagnose their patients issues quicker, to allow Doctors to think more about what is next rather than what now. Another great keynote we had the opportunity to check out was that of the CEO of 1871, Howard A. Tullman. 1871, as a company, is big deal for Chicago and for technology as well, by giving digital startups the chance to get going. Howard went into how our culture has changed completely and that we need to innovate ourselves as quickly as technology innovates in order to keep up.
We missed out on the Future Sound festival in the evening in order to meet up with an app developer who is creating an app by the name of Distilld, which is an app for Whiskey and Bourbon drinkers. Distilld, which allows drinkers to check in and rate/review what they’re drinking. On top of that, it has the fastest image recognition we’ve seen – recognizing a bottle’s label in the flash of an eye. Stu Grubbs, the app’s developer, has a powerful product in his hands – and personally as a Bourbon drinker, I can’t wait to use the app.
The final day was the lightest day on our schedule, with no scheduled interviews lined up for the day. That allowed us to roam a bit more, as well as check out more panels during the day. We interfaced with a good number of the companies in attendance, and really got to know some of the awesome services that they were providing. A few of the panels we had the opportunity to sit in on were “Building Online Businesses: A discussion with Chicago’s E-Commerce Leaders”, the final Keynote address – “TechWeek 2014 Retrospective: a Conversation with Stefan Weitz on What’s Next for Chicago Tech”, and then one that really hit home for us – “The Surveillance Economy: How the NSA Hurts the Cloud and What You Can Do About it” by Christian Dawson. Christian, the chairman of the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition) was kind enough to sit down to discuss the impact of NSA Spying on the Tech Industry with us as well, for a completely impromptu interview on a topic that is important to us.
Once the Expo and Summit came down to a close, we went out to dinner to avoid the rainstorm that hit just after the Future Sound music festival started for the evening. Once the rain stopped, the staff of the festival quickly did a great job prepping the stage and area for Morgan Page’s 3D show. As part of a technology event, it was appropriate for (what we’re told) is the first 3D show by a DJ, and we were definitely impressed. 3D glasses were handed out, and both the front and rear stage showed off 3D images that moved with the music. The show could not have been a better way to finish off the weeklong event.
Our team had an absolute blast at TechWeek in downtown Chicago. Technology and the industry are a big part of the Chicago economy, and based on what we saw at TechWeek, that industry is booming. Between the hackathon, the Launch competition, and the vast array of companies at the conference – TechWeek is a great thing for Chicago and the Technology industry. TechWeek was a fantastic experience, and we look forward to next year!