The line between a hobbyist and entrepreneur is pretty blurry, as some of the tools used by both suggests.  The groups are driven mostly by interest and passion, and the path followed is often a result of serendipity rather than strict planning and structure.

 

How, then, does one create a conference that fosters this type of atmosphere?  An agenda that is set months ahead of time will likely become irrelevant and boring by the day of the conference.  A stuffy conference hall with attendees focusing on suits and business cards instead of experience and ideas makes for a tough sell; especially among people wanting to plan for the long term while still worrying about the realities of a funding runway.  On the other end, a random meeting with no agenda and no vision won't generate any interest.

 

The solution? EntConnect, a small, 20-years-and-counting conference that focuses attendees on one another to benefit from each others' experience, ideas, and inspiration.  There is a central theme that is discussed – 2013 will have talks focused around iOS and how clever people can use it to do great things.  The theme is meant to drive top-level discussion (not a developer's conference), and presenters will talk about the direction iOS is taking them, what they would like to see in the future, and regale attendees with stories of success, struggle, and failure.  The keynote speaker is Dave Grenewetzki, returning from 2010's EntConnect, talking about how iOS can be used to quantify and modify personal habits and how to generate revenue from iOS apps.  From there, the conference is planned with a relaxed schedule allowing for impromptu presentations, meetings, and for people to develop their own conversations, networks, ideas, and friendships.  The organizers are so relaxed as to allow me to present on the changes in hardware development that mobile platforms have caused, using the example of TI's SensorTag!

 

Although the formal conference events are held over the weekend, there are several informal events happening just before the conference.  Skiing in the Rockies, dinners, high-speed go karts, and a SparkFun tour are all on the agenda during the days leading up to the formal events with the goal of finalizing the conferences' agenda. Attendees of these early events can easily turn into presenters for later in the week thanks to the conversations and interactions.  To unwind on Saturday afternoon, there is an informal expo where anyone can bring projects to show off and discuss, followed by a few drinks and poker. In previous years, impromptu topics and ideas turn out to be some of the best from the entire weekend!

 

Ready to attend a conference that is an experience as unique as starting a business?  Here are some key details:

  • Conference Website: www.entconnect.org
  • Anyone is welcome to attend – people with their own companies and those aspiring to start their own companies – with anyone under the age of 21 getting half price!
  • Optional [read: fun] events start the evening of March 20th, with the [not-so] formal events starting Friday evening and runs through Sunday March 24th.
  • Conference held at Denver's Downtown Crown Plaza Hotel with free parking for all attendees.
  • Cost of the conference is $299, includes access to the sessions, Saturday lunch, drinks, and the poker tournament (attendees cover their skiing, Go Karts, etc...).  However the organizers have offered Element14 readers a 33% discount!!!  Simply enter code 'ec100' for adult registration or 'ec50' for student registration to get the discount.  The conference also comes with the following ultimate guarantee: 'You will be completely delighted with EntConnect or your entire registration fee will be refunded.'
  • Those interested in presenting on a topic should email John Gaudio.  
  • Registration is now open so sign up today – looking forward to seeing you there!

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