What started in Cedar Rapids is coming back to Cedar Rapids.
EntreFEST—Iowa’s largest gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators—will return to Cedar Rapids for the tenth anniversary of the conference. The conference started in 2008 as the place where Iowa’s startup community would meet each year and was organized primarily by the University of Northern Iowa. But when EntreFEST had grown larger than the university could handle, it went on a one-year hiatus in 2016 before relaunching last year under NewBoCo, the new owners and operators.
The conference this year will be May 17-18 in Cedar Rapids.
On Wednesday morning, Molly Monk of NewBoCo took the stage at 1 Million Cups in Des Moines to preview the 2018 EntreFEST and provide a glimpse of what goes into organizing the event.
Monk presented for just over ten minutes then took questions from the audience.
Here are some highlights from her presentation, which has been edited for consciousness:
NewBoCo focuses on innovation/entrepreneurship, just like EntreFEST
MM: EntreFEST is a two-day conference for entrepreneurs and innovators that we will hold in Cedar Rapids this year. NewBoCo is one of the organizations that sponsor this project. We do so much work with entrepreneurs through the Iowa Startup Accelerator and we want to bring more people from our ecosystem together, to have those connections.
However, a unique thing is we partner with our city economic alliance and chamber of commerce because we want to expand this beyond just entrepreneurs. Innovations happen in any company, large or small and we are working with the Cedar Rapids Metro Alliance to present this conference.
That combination is something we feel strongly about.
What are the main focus areas?
MM: In 2018 EntreFEST will focus on three different areas, one is for entrepreneurs. There will be sessions on everything from the right product to use to build an email list to how to build connections and pitches as well. We are really trying to help entrepreneurs connect and build new things. One of the things we like to high is businesses actually start because of EntreFEST, anybody heard of UpCraftClub?
Our next area is innovators. Innovators are not just entrepreneurs because innovations happens everywhere. These are people in nonprofits and large corporations who are trying to figure out how to make their organization change, what they need to do to change a culture, reach a new market or understand a new technology.
We have sessions focused on workplace culture, new ideation and how we can help make that work at a large organization.
Then visionaries, there’s a lot of new things happening in tech and new areas we can be working in. There are other ways you can apply emerging technologies to your field and we want to help make that possible.
The curation team
MM: I’m speaking from an organizers perspective and a lot of people want to know how we make this all happen. The secret is we have a lot of help.
We’ve built a curation team of past speakers and attendees from all across the nation. These are not just people in Cedar Rapids talking about who we want. It’s a national group working on putting this together. They help make connections with speakers, talk about what they see in their fields and what we want to bring here to Iowa.
A different sort of conference experience
MM: We value a different sort of conference experience and EntreFEST makes sure we have everything from breakout sessions to evening parties. Because connecting with people is more than having someone talk at you. There’s all sorts of ways you can have a real, valuable connection with a speaker beyond hearing their talk.
We go to unique venues from restaurants to comedy shows. All sorts of things are happening to make sure your conversations are flowing with the right people and in unstructured, interesting environments.
The keynote speaker is…
MM: Scott Belsky, the Chief Product Officer of Adobe. He tells a journey that a lot of different entrepreneurs can relate to.
EntreFEST is picking up where it left off – Aug. 9, 2017
EntreFEST 2017 – May 9, 2017
New team wants to continue past EntreFEST momentum – Feb. 16, 2017