Here at Herosmyth, Denver Startup Week is hands-down our favorite time of year.
It’s not only because of the lively spirit, invaluable interactions, and huge educational benefit that the event produces, but also the due to the entrepreneurial vigor it brings to all of Denver.
In the words of the founders,
Denver Startup Week is a celebration of everything entrepreneurial in Denver and the largest free event of its kind in the world. In 2017, the sixth annual event brought 19,000 people together at 376 programs and events to celebrate Denver’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem and build the center city’s culture of innovation.
The weeklong event is intended to unite the entrepreneurial community in Downtown Denver and beyond, and celebrate great companies, innovation, ideas, and people. Events throughout the week are organized by the community at-large and the Organizing Committee, and include sessions, presentations, panels, workshops, happy hours, social events, job fairs and more.
Denver Startup Week is growing like crazy, too, so it’s no wonder it’s officially become the largest entrepreneurial event in the world.
In 2012, when DSW first began, there were a solid 3,500 attendees.
Not bad, but when you jump to 2017, with 18,885 attendees, you can sense that things will only be getting bigger and better with each coming year.
How many people do you think will be in attendance this time around?
I know that we, the Herosmyth team, will be part of the crowd—we had so much fun last year that we’re ready to come back for even more!
If you’d like to get a sense of what to expect from the event (and why we love it so very much), check out our detailed experience of Denver Startup Week 2017 to get started—and positively pumped for September.
Last week, we attended the Denver Startup Week Community Kickoff event because, well, we’re just too excited to not be thinking about DSW this early in the year.
There were a lot of people who came out on a Wednesday night to celebrate the near-half-year mark before the big week, and you certainly could feel the rumbling excitement in the way we all cheered and laughed together throughout the night.
We sat in the front-ish row (behind some people on comfy-looking bean bags) and really got to see and learn the faces of the amazing organizers who make this event possible.
A warm welcome from Tami Door and Erik Mitisek, Denver Startup Week Organizing Chairs
The kickoff served as a way to get prepared by becoming aware of key dates, rules, opportunities to help out, and other important details that will make this year’s Denver Startup Week even more popular than the year before.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend the kickoff, fear not—we took allllll the notes and have compiled them into this article so that you too can make the most of DSW.
Let’s start with the timeline:
- April 4-30: call for sessions and presenter submissions
- May 2-18: public voting on sessions via the Denver Startup Week website (we’ll update the direct link when it’s available)
- End of June: session selection and notification of approvals, waitlists, and denials
- Mid-July: 2018 schedule announcement and registration opening
- August 15: sponsorship and major event cut-off mark
- September 24-28: Denver Startup Week!
If you’re considering hosting your space during the festivities, notify the organizers as soon as possible for your best chance at getting selected. Volunteers, too, can start showing interest sooner rather than later for best picks on what role they’d like to take on.
Otherwise, the dates listed above are the most important ones to go by if you want to present or partake in DSW in a more significant way.
The bottom line is that you must be on time with these deadlines or you’ll miss your chance to be part of the fun.
Lauren Kloock, Maker Track Chair, walks us through the DSW timeline
Over 1,200 people submitted to present at DSW last year.
As exciting as it is that they’ve garnered that much interest, it would simply be impossible to squeeze that many sessions into the span of a week!
So, the organizers and chairs for each track are tasked with selecting quality over quantity before leaving the voting process of the finalists up to the public.
There are 6 tracks that people can partake in at DSW, plus headline events and basecamp.
The tracks are great for organizing sessions by relevancy—that way, marketers know which events are most useful for them and their marketing goals, designers can go to sessions that put a spotlight on creating, entrepreneurs can focus on leadership, and so on.
The 6 tracks that anyone can submit sessions to are:
Meanwhile, the basecamp track is exactly what it sounds like: at the Commons on Champa, attendees will have a central place to gather, mingle, and rest between attending various thrilling sessions.
As for the headline track, those select sessions are up to the organizers of the DSW: here, they choose influencers, speakers, and other types of events that further the discussion and are hosted on a larger scale than most sessions.
Last year, some big names like Mark Cuban, Mayor Hancock, and Casey Neistat partook in DSW’s headline events.
When you’re brainstorming your topic(s) of choice for the big week, really put effort into all the important details that’ll make your submission stand out from those people who just can’t seem to follow instructions. It’s quite simple, really...
If you want your submission to stand a chance, all you need to include is:
- The official title of your presentation (a draft will not suffice)
- The single track selection that the topic fits into best (seriously, no more than one)
- Your contact information (email and company name)
- Any collaborators you would like to include in your presentation
- A public-facing description (again, this cannot be a draft—it needs to be ready to entice the public to vote for your topic)
- The target audience you are trying to reach
- And, of course, your acknowledgment of the official code of conduct for Denver Startup Week
Simple as that!
Remember: give yourself plenty of time, because once you submit, there are no edits, no take-backsies, nada—so make it the best it can be the one and only time you have a chance to do so.
Perhaps my favorite part of the presentation the other night was when Jay, who’s part of the Developer & Product Tracks at Denver Startup Week, shared this awesome graphic:
Jay Zeschin, head of Strategy, Programming & Technology for DSW, presenting the conjoined triangles of session success
Great content = topics + skill building + sophistication + inspiration
If you can nail all the angles of that triangle—er, rectangle, you’re on the right path to being a presenter at this year’s Denver Startup Week!
Now, let’s get down to the really juicy part of the submission process: the best practices, or, as they called them the other night, the submission do’s and don’ts.
- Give first. You’re here to educate, inspire, entertain—not to pitch your brand, so make sure that your presentation provides value to its audience.
- Be concise and polished. You have half a year to practice and nail down the best possible way to present your ideas, so definitely take all that time to prepare a killer talk that’s engaging and to-the-point.
- Show us the diversity and experience of your panelists. Bringing together a variety of ideas and skills is what makes entrepreneurial communities thrive. Naturally, emulating this on your panel or among your presentation’s collaborators will bring more depth and value to your session, so you certainly should strive to mix it up on that front.
- Consider your audience. Who are you talking to, and why do they care? Make sure you’re on-target with who your presentation is for and focus on what value your audience can derive from your session, not on what you’re getting out of it.
- Submit on time using the portal. You now have the link to Denver Startup Week’s official website, and you have the timeline leading up to the big week; therefore, you have everything you need to show up at the right time in the right place with your submission. Go get ‘em, tiger.
- Pitch products or services. Your brand is already getting exposure through your presentation so long as it’s stellar and providing value to the audience, so don’t annoy people by focusing on you instead of them. Chances are, if they like what you have to say, you’ll have opportunities for gaining new clients during the post-session mingling.
- Be ambiguous. Your topic should be clear, captivating, and concentrated. It’s tempting to talk about a variety of things when you have the stage to yourself, but the point is to be laser-focused on one topic so that your audience knows exactly what they’re in for. Besides, the clearer it is what you’re presenting on, the more likely you are to get votes.
- Abuse the system. Don’t exploit Denver Startup Week for PR, sales, or other self-serving purposes—just be a part of the community because you truly want to be.
- Duplicate submissions. Don’t submit duplicate entries to different tracks to increase your chances of getting selected (spoiler alert: it’ll work against you). Instead, come up with different topics and select the track that fits each session best. Does your expertise overlap in the founder and maker tracks? Great; come up with two topics that nicely—and separately—fit each.
- Worry about logistics. The team at DSW is on it: they’ll get you all set up with the proper sound, lighting, gadgets, and whatever else is needed to make each session as smooth and presentable as possible. Sure, you can bring your own setup, but it’s certainly not necessary, so don’t sweat it.
Although voting heavily weighs in on which topics get selected for sessions and which don’t, the ultimate deciders are the chairs of each track. While it’s impossible to know exactly what this year’s attendees will care about until the votes are counted, you can get a sense of how to please the track chairs in order to increase your chances of partaking.
They have 4 main criteria that you should strive to hit:
- Sophistication: a good variety of 100, 200, and 300-level sessions (i.e. Business 101) will ensure that all types of attendees will find something in their area of learning.
- Industries/topics: you can choose which path to take here—they’re looking for a good balance of widely applicable topics paired with a similar amount of niche ones, as well as a harmony of on-trend and timeless topics to get the best variety possible.
- Format: if every session was the same format, things would get a tad mundane. Try to hit one of these three to bring a good mix to the table: skill-building, storytelling, or aspirational sessions.
- Presenter(s): if every presenter had the same background and was from a similar industry to the next, attendees wouldn’t be able to broaden their knowledge beyond a certain point. Diversity is something worth celebrating in all aspects of life, and entrepreneurship should not be an exception. If you have a unique background, work in an uncommon industry or brand, or have something else that’s different to bring to the discussion, they’d love to have you to bring a fresh perspective to the table.
The Bottom Line
Overall, it was great to get a head start on this year’s Denver Startup Week excitement—the Kickoff was a fun opportunity to learn, chat, and get pumped, and we did just that.
The Ascend team at the event. Left to right: Chad Coleman, Steven Monetti, Zofia Antonow, Katie Crawford
Let this article be your guide to getting the most out of participating in this year’s Denver Startup Week, and take the time now to properly prepare in order to get the best value out of the event when September rolls around.
We hope to participate in this year’s event in more ways than one, and we hope that you can join in on all the fun times, too.
If you have any further questions, feel free to drop them below, and if I can’t sufficiently answer them, I can direct you to someone or somewhere that can.