The fourth annual Techweek Kansas City conference takes place next Monday through Friday at venues across the city. The event, which is run by Techweek, a Chicago-based media and events company, looks to inform and connect members of the local tech industry.
In anticipation of the event, Missouri Business Alert asked Ryan Weber, president of the Kansas City Tech Council, for insights about a few highlighted events and big themes on the week’s schedule.
For more information on the week, check the complete programing schedule.
Mayoral candidate forum
Techweek will begin on Monday morning with the Kansas City Mayoral Candidate Tech Forum. During this time, candidates in the 2019 mayor’s race will field questions focused on important technology issues impacting the future of the city.
“We’re very excited to see that (the mayoral candidates) are all participating and that they’re thinking about this stuff,” Weber said. “They understand that the tech priorities of this city are going to define our future.”
The Techweek schedule reflects the growing role that fintech, or digital technology applied to banking and financial services, is playing in Kansas City and beyond. Programs in Missouri including Fountain City Fintech in Kansas City and SixThirty in St. Louis aim to attract tech entrepreneurs to finance.
“Not only is there a strong presence of companies here, but there’s also programs like fintech accelerators that are drawing more of those companies and talent to Kansas City,” Weber said. “But also I think there are a couple other events throughout the week that are just drawing more awareness about fintech as an industry sector.”
NBKC Bank, the bank behind Fountain City Fintech, will present a fintech track all day Tuesday at Union Station. The program will include talks from entrepreneurs in the industry and information about developing tech products tailored toward financial services.
Cryptocurrency has been a hot topic recently, but Weber believes many people still lack a solid understanding of the technology. Techweek will include several information sessions covering the basics of owning, trading and regulating cryptocurrency. Most of these programs will take place on Tuesday at Union Station.
“I think (cryptocurrency) is one of those things that people have probably heard about, read about, but may not understand,” Weber said. “So, I think it’s important that everybody understand, at a high level, how these tools work so that, when these technologies start to emerge in their industry, they’re aware.”
Techweek will feature a diversity and inclusion track on Wednesday at Union Station. Weber believes that a more diverse workforce is important to the tech industry’s growth in Kansas City and beyond.
“In order for (the tech industry) to get bigger, with more workers and more talent, we have to diversify this workforce,” Weber said. “These tech opportunities are for everybody, not just affluent families. So, that is something that Kansas City could lead and should be more of a leader in because of our diverse population.”
“Smart city” infrastructure looks to use technology to run local governments more efficiently. Kansas City has already developed smart infrastructure like Wi-Fi access points and cameras that track pedestrian and vehicle traffic. “Smart” LED Streetlights also use technology to save energy and decrease light pollution. Now, Kansas City officials are looking to award several long-term contracts worth millions of dollars to tech companies that can manage the infrastructure.
Weber believes smart technology could be a defining aspect of Kansas City and help strengthen the city’s tech industry.
“Kansas City has been leading the nation as far as investing in smart city infrastructure,” Weber said. “I know that Kansas City is known for barbecue and sports, but I hope that people start to talk about the fact that we are leading the nation with smart city investment in that infrastructure. Those are the kind of assets that attract more tech workers, more tech companies.”
Several programs regarding such infrastructure will take place on Monday at Union Station.
Several startup accelerators, including LaunchKC, Betablox and Techstars, are partners for this year’s Techweek.
LaunchKC will award $500,000 in grants to technology startups at its annual pitch competition.
Startups that have participated in the Betablox and Techstars accelerators will also have the opportunity to showcase their products at the conference.
“In order to have a thriving startup ecosystem, you have to place a lot of bets,” Weber said. “So, we’re lucky to have a strong portfolio of those accelerator programs, but there simply cannot be enough of them.”