Triangle Entrepreneurship Week has been a from-the-ground-up success story since its inception in 2011. The third TEW, which kicks off on Monday, September 9th and runs through Thursday, has expanded to include venues from Chapel Hill to downtown Raleigh, and has broken up registration so that attendees can choose from single sessions or a week pass, and then add a la carte partner events like the Innovate Raleigh Summit and DataPaloooza.
They’re trying to reach as many people as they can.
TEW was co-founded by Jon Leonardo, who designed the program as an offshoot of a similar event he had previously held in Washington, DC. Sarah Wechsberg came on as co-founder for the NC version, and the first TEW was held in Raleigh in November 2011 – fortunately or unfortunately – the same week as Internet Summit.
Scheduling lesson learned. They moved it to September for this year, and sandwiched it between music festival Hopscotch and creative festival SparkCon.
“It’s the Main Event,” says Leonardo, referring to the name Raleigh has given these packed two weeks of events. “There are approximately 11 different festivals and conferences, and we’re happy to be a part of it. But it cut down a bit on our planning cycle.”
Jon and Sarah are easy people to like, and they’ve built an event nearly on their own but with a lot of help — and if you’ve done something like this you’ll know what that means.
Says Sarah, “Jon and myself are the main event organizers and we have a rock solid team of interns from NCSU and out of state universities.”
They partnered with Brasco Marketing and Design for materials and website. They also teamed up with BDO, American Airlines, Innovate Raleigh, DataPalooza, Cherokee Challenge and American Underground.
Jon puts the total number of people working on it at over 50.
Partners aside, the two have turned TEW into something unique: A gritty, down-to-earth startup conference with an emphasis on interaction and learning, along with the standard speakers, panels, and networking.
It’s also about connections – and maintaining those connections – an ideal they picked up based on talking to their audience.
“We spent a lot of time discussing feedback from our past attendees and we found out that the best things to happen throughout the week were the solid connections with investors, mentors, customers, partners etc.,” says Jon. “Our goal is to make sure we are creating an environment to make these connections grow stronger and hopefully more effective.”
Panels range from the pragmatic, online marketing and creative financing, to the dogmatic, creating a company that can change the world. Events include pitch sessions and a string of after-hours parties, starting with a kickoff Monday night at the American Underground.
You can register for session – one or all – here.
TEW has evolved to sit somewhere between education conference and pitch/demo, but it has maintained its all-for-one roots. They’re also planning for the future.
“We’re working on a re-launch of a new brand which you’ll see in early 2014,” says Jon. “South Florida, New York, Nashville, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay are some of the areas we’ll start seeing Entrepreneurship Weeks.”
Adds Sarah, “I’m currently thinking only about this upcoming week…but, we have a few new tricks up our sleeves.”