By Tim Feran The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) At this years "Techstars Startup Week" in Ohio there will be a focus on encouraging minorities to get into the tech industry and startup world.
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
For the past three years, Techstars Startup Week Columbus has brought together company founders, CEOs, advisers and experts for panels and events. Each of the past programs has had a different focus: Smart City last year, a practical guide to digital technology the year before that, and networking the first year.
This year's fourth event, which will run from Monday to May 11, aims as always to educate and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, but it also will celebrate the diversity of Columbus' startup culture, organizers said.
Diversity has been somewhat lacking in previous programs, said Branden Jones, who, with twin brother, Bruce, created BLK hack. It's an educational and inspirational monthly event series designed to help minorities get into the tech industry and startup world.
The Jones brothers have been tapped as lead organizers of this year's Startup Week program.
The entrepreneurial duo owns an office-cleaning company and is working on a startup, Fliqs, an online streaming platform that will aggregate old African-American TV shows and films not shown by networks or offered on streaming services.
"We have our own startup and went to a lot of different events," including the past two Startup Weeks, Branden Jones said.
"We saw that there was a lack of diversity. We've been pretty successful in getting more black and brown people (through BLK hack), so when we were approached to lead Startup Week, in the process of recruiting volunteers for the team, we made sure it was diverse ... and with that effort, it became a theme."
The event -- sponsored by JPMorgan Chase and Techstars, a global organization focused on inspiring young entrepreneurs -- will feature nine industry-focused tracks for attendees, including Smart City, sports and entertainment, food and beverage, and tech and user experience.
In each track, experts will discuss such startup skills as securing funding, connecting with customers, building a winning culture and using data to drive results.
More than 100 speakers will be on hand for the event, which is slightly more than usual, Branden Jones said. That's partly because there are more panel discussions, which have been grouped by industry on their focus days.
"Most attendees don't come for all five days, so we wanted to make sure if they wanted to binge on one topic, it was jam-packed in one day," he said.
Also new this year: a job fair, planned for Wednesday.
"We wanted to make sure we showcased the opportunities available, from the corporate standpoint but also startups," Branden Jones said.
"There are a lot of opportunities to work for startups, and a lot of corporations are creating innovation arms, and they are looking for more young blood, too. There are great opportunities there for job seekers or interns."
The free, five-day event will kick off at 9 a.m. Monday at Chase Basecamp at Vue Columbus, 95 Liberty St. in the Brewery District, with comments from Corrine Burger, chief control officer for consumer and community banking at JPMorgan Chase, and a keynote address by Mark Kvamme, co-founder and partner of Drive Capital.
The first session, moderated by Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin, will focus on what makes Columbus a good city for entrepreneurs.
Other speakers will include: Jane Grote Abell, a founding family member of Donatos Pizza; Alex Bandar, founder of the Columbus Idea Foundry; Ben Blanquera, an advocate for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship at Columbus Collaboratory; Haley Boehning, co-founder of Storyforge and vice chair of the Columbus chapter of Conscious Capitalism; and Brandi Braun, deputy innovation officer for Columbus and leader of the Smart Columbus initiative. The program is open to those interested in startups and entrepreneurship. Registration is free but required. Go to https://columbus.startupweek.co.