Having been to countless conferences, conventions, meet-ups and networking events ad nauseam...the "unconference" AKA startup Accelerator #5, held April 30th, in Rockford, at the Eigerlab was inspirational and fun, and proved to be a great resource for inventors, independent business folk and would-be entrepreneurs. The structure of the event actually mirrors the iterative process of new product development and creating a new business. Typical conferences have a set agenda with predetermined experts to meet an anticipated but often unconfirmed need of the participants. The "unconference" format encourages the participants to voice the topic of their choice or choose from suggested topics. All voices are heard, sessions are scheduled, and experts attracted to the event share in navigating discussions to address a given topic. The amount of structure in the discussions varies but more often than not seems appropriate. In contrast to traditional conferences you don't have to sit in the back of the room to sneak out if the topic or presenter proves of no interest to you. At the "unconference" you are encouraged to vote with your feet with no offense taken or implied by the person that votes.
The event(s) seems to attract a productive mix of people seeking help and resources, along with various experts that attend because they enjoy giving and assisting the community of aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs. The Bizstarts staff does a great job of moving things along and James Carlson of Bucket Works, adds his expert facilitation skills to the mix to make the event even a bit more memorable.
Lots of positives from this well executed event. I left knowing that innovation and entrepreneurship are alive and well in Rockford. The event was also intended to erase the perception that the state border be a boundary of consequence for doing business between Illinois and Wisconsin. To that end, I left with this feeling and new twist on an old acronym; FIB really means Friendly Illinois Brethren.
Reed Felton, Felton Consulting