It not difficult to find something to do in Austin, TX. Whatever the time of year, whether donning flip flops or a sweater – this is the home of Austin City Limits, SXSW, Formula One, UT Football, the state Capital and live music performances at the grocery store… on a Tuesday. We keep it “weird” and shun conventional approaches to doing most everything. It’s a city that its people have immense pride in – which is hard to understand unless you call it home.
So it’s probably no accident that along the way this Central Texas gem has also blossomed into a booming center of entrepreneurship, startups and an amazing ecosystem of schools, businesses, investors and willing mentors to enable it. And there’s no better example of bringing it all together than the annual RISE (Relationship & Information Series for Entrepreneurs) conference taking place 5/13- 17. Offered as an open invitation, free to the community weeklong event, RISE offers every stage of entrepreneur an incredible diversity and range of subject matter expertise to choose from. It’s truly a crowd-sourced conference that’s given through multiple decentralized outlets in everywhere from co-working spaces to prestigious law firms. Started in 2007 by the founders of a local pre-paid company, RISE was recently named by Forbes as one of the top 10 “must attend” events for entrepreneurs in the US for 2013. This is the one we circle on our calendars early.
So what makes RISE any different from another entrepreneur’s conference? Plenty.
Over 250 sessions are offered over a five-day period by the likes of well-known public company CEOs, social media experts, product management guru’s, legal experts and well… just about anyone with expertise to offer an entrepreneur. What makes this so special is that the 1.5 hr. long sessions given by the experts are done entirely as a community service. And these aren’t arms-length presentations, either. The workshop-like format calls for sharing, collaboration and is designed to engage the attendee and bring them into the discussion. So a first time entrepreneur can spend meaningful time with a CEO that’s sold his business for over $100M. The event is highly curated to offer the right blend of content that hits virtually every level of entrepreneurial interest. Everything is offered from how to negotiate an office lease to sessions given by New York Times best selling authors on Lean Entrepreneurship.
The popular “lunch & learn” series for the week this year has evolved into a daily “super panel” bringing together local and national company founders, VC & angel investors, women entrepreneurs and the increasingly popular method of raising money for startups – experts on crowdfunding. And it wouldn’t be Austin without a party each night of the week providing extended networking to attendees, more pitch competitions and founder forums.
The caliber of event is equally matched by the sponsors behind it. This year Dell is the presenting sponsor along with other major companies American Airlines, Google, Turnstone and several local businesses. The amazing support of these sponsors and donations from the community has helped to keep this conference completely free. Where else can an entrepreneur go over a five-day period to learn from experts, talk about your business/idea, make new friends, and then party with them each night. All week long. For free?
Austin shows up routinely on top 10 lists for jobs, community, economic growth and quality of living. It’s for these reasons and many more why Google likely chose Austin to be it’s next Google Fiber city, and why President Barack Obama recently spent the day here touring a tech High School and the city’s most prominent co-working/accelerator of startups – Capital Factory as an example for the rest of the country to follow of business and community working together to create a cohesive ecosystem.
Schools, businesses, investors, and resources are great, but it all comes down to people. Which is why RISE is a true celebration of the very best of Austin; its selfless, inclusive, diverse, socially aware people – always ready to roll out the red carpet and show you a good time.
Scott Robinson is attending his 3rd RISE and giving a panel on 5/16 “The Art of Networking & Effective Requests”. He’s VP of Client Development at USDM.net and the Austin Chair for The Startup America Partnership.