Techweek returns to Kansas City for the third time next week, kicking off Monday and running through Friday. The technology and entrepreneurship conference, held in nine cities across the U.S. and Canada, was created in 2011 to connect and celebrate the technology startup scenes of its host cities, with a mission of spreading wealth creation across diverse places and people.
Amanda Signorelli has been chief executive officer of Chicago-based Techweek since 2015. Signorelli, who is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and worked as an analyst at McKinsey & Company before joining Techweek, talked with Missouri Business Alert about what to expect from the conference’s third Kansas City iteration.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Missouri Business Alert: You see lots of tech and entrepreneurial communities across the country. What stands out to you about Kansas City? What distinguishes it or makes it unique?
Amanda Signorelli: Techweek operates in nine markets throughout North America, and each market is very unique and comes to life differently. Techweek has a playbook for each constituent piece but the way that those events develop and manifest themselves are truly bespoke to each city. So KC has a very rich community of startups, but a few trends that are specific to Kansas City are animal health tech, transportation and data science. KC has one other piece which is very specific to that market, and that is the Launch Kansas City grants program.
MBA: What about this year’s event is new or different from the previous two Techweek events in Kansas City?
AS: This is our third year in Kansas City. Every single year we’ve added something, subtracted something, tried a variety of different pieces. So we try to make sure that every time we come to town, it’s always something different. This year some new pieces we added are that we have a blockchain learning track. We have a series of conversations that are focused exclusively on the fintech space. We have added two new diversity-focused events. We also have a half day of content that’s truly focused on almost all data science.
Then we also have a series of conversations on Wednesday that are new, such as the future of the Animal Health Corridor. So that’s not only a panel, but we’re also bringing puppies on site to really bridge the empathy point of people remembering animal health isn’t necessarily just this big idea that’s hard to grasp; it’s also something you can that you can really take home and see the connection to.
We also have a focus on transportation. We have a few custom events that we did that are more interactive this year. And then we have a full women in tech panel this year. And then our content that we’re putting on is something new that we started doing this year called Growth Summit. It features 20-plus CEOs of companies who are sharing their insights on best practices and growth skills that you can apply specifically to your company.
MBA: If you could only attend one event all week, what would it be?
AS: It’s tough to pick one event, so what I’ll do instead is to pick one day. If people are really interested and committed to hearing about great tech companies and are interested in building their own should absolutely go to the Thursday of Techweek, which is our Growth Summit at Plexpod. Those that are looking for more of a really fun interactive experience that’s emphasizing networking and an opportunity to connect but still have a chance to learn about top trends should go to Wednesday so that they can attend the Barrels and Brushes event, which will include entrepreneurs throughout the city along with two content tracks, on transportation and animal health.
MBA: What do you expect from attendees before and after the event?
AS: First and foremost, before the event: We expect attendees both to sign up, redeem their ticket, RSVP to events, read the emails so that they are engaged, understand all the logistics, check out the schedule. Be engaged on site: Meet people, take notes, exchange cards, keep in touch. After the event, we hope everyone makes an effort to reach out to those connections they’ve had a week to build with, and then also provide feedback.