Organizers of the annual Twin Cities Startup Week learned a big lesson last year when they took out-of-town techies on a bus tour of the metro area — during rush hour on a weeknight.
After lurching through traffic for nearly an hour just to travel a couple of miles from downtown Minneapolis to the Midtown Global Market, they canceled plans to visit St. Paul and instead returned downtown for an evening event hosted by Target Corp. They also found that conducting seminars in both cities gave each day a hip, "unconference" vibe, but it wasn't efficient.
When the 2019 version of Startup Week begins Oct. 9, the action will be concentrated — two days in Minneapolis, two days in St. Paul and a fifth day in which events will be in venues that are walking distance from stops on the Green Line.
"There's a geographic concentration and a concentration of content around topics," said Reed Robinson of Beta.MN, organizer of events designed to draw attention, people and capital to small companies in the region.
Organizers also decided to start the event in the middle of the week; the kickoff party is next Wednesday, Oct. 9, with conference meetings beginning on Oct. 10 and stretching over five business days through Oct. 16.
Two other conferences for entrepreneurs and innovators — Food | Ag | Ideas Week and the Blacks in Technology convention — also begin on Oct. 10. And the Manova Summit on health sciences begins Monday, Oct. 14.
Target, 3M Corp. and Cargill Inc. are underwriting the Startup Week conference. Other firms, including Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, have signed up to sponsor daylong "tracks" of meetings. Minneapolis-based Metropolitan Economic Development Association is tying its entrepreneurial competition to Startup Week activities.
"Startups and founders still remain the focus of this week, but the number of people who want to be a part of those conversations alongside them is growing," Robinson said.
About 100 startup firms are scheduled to provide executives and other employees to lead workshops or meetings. Owners of small companies will be able to pitch their ideas to investors at about a dozen events.
While there are more than 200 separate events for Startup Week, organizing them around daylong tracks may help draw more attendees. The first full day, Oct. 10, will focus on retail technology and the next day will highlight financial technology.
Monday, Oct. 14, is geared toward health care technology, with the following day set aside for general-interest topics. The last day, Oct. 16, is aimed at education technology.
With the recruitment of tech workers from other regions a priority, organizers have set up fun events over the weekend.
"By spanning a weekend, we want to put on display the lakes, the restaurants, arts and entertainment as well," Robinson said.
Most events are free, but an all-access pass is available for $25. For the first time, Twin Cities Startup Week will have a physical presence with offices at IDS Center in Minneapolis and the Osborn370 building in St. Paul.