CED’s Venture Connect knows how to adapt. The startup-focused conference was one of the first major events in the Triangle to make a quick virtual transition when the Covid-19 situation rapidly worsened in the U.S. back in early- to mid-March.
This year, startups who similarly know how to pivot during uncertain times to grow and scale despite the pandemic will likely be at the top of the list to emerge from the application process to participate in the 2021 conference. Applications for Venture Connect are due this Friday, Dec. 18. Selections will be made in January.
Venture Connect will highlight startups both in the tech and life science categories on March 23-25, 2021. It will be held virtually for the second year in a row—hopefully for the last time in that necessity-driven format. But regardless of the medium, the spotlight will once again be firmly on promising startups.
“We’d like to highlight the best of the best, obviously, so technology companies that are growing and scaling,” said Kelly Rowell, CED’s Interim CEO. “Typically our top companies are what we would say ‘past ideation.’ They really have a validated product or service, and they’re starting to gain some momentum around that.”
These are startups who may or may not have raised money yet and might be seeking funding and/or customers, Rowell said. Venture Connect is the perfect opportunity to accelerate their growth.
While CED’s rapidly transitioned virtual Venture Connect of 2020 was somewhat limited in what it could offer because of the time crunch, Rowell said this year the five-minute recorded pitches are the bare minimum of what companies can get for participating.
Other opportunities include personalized company profiles and custom teasers that will be played live. There will also be “founder discussions” four times a day that dive deep into the people behind the company, plus a one-on-one meeting widget built into Venture Connect’s virtual platform that will allow easy connections with investors and other participants at the virtual conference.
And here’s some great news: for the first time, it will be totally free for companies to apply for and attend CED’s Venture Connect.
“This is the first time we’ve done that,” Rowell said. “We realize it’s a hard year for everyone. We don’t want an investment of $300 to be a barrier to participate, so we’ve waived those fees for companies.”
Even though there is some “application fatigue” given the rise of virtual events, Rowell said they want to encourage the tech community to fill out the application or refer someone to the application. Venture Connect has more than 80 applications already for up to 120 company spots.
CED’s 2020 event extended content over six weeks, but CED is condensing the schedule this year, Rowell said. The event is shifting how they highlight companies toward humanizing them a bit more, holding discussions about challenges specific to their sub-sectors.
CED’s ultimate goal in general—and in organizing Venture Connect in particular—is building connections to resources that help companies grow, Rowell said.
“Essentially, our goal for this conference is to build visibility on a national stage for companies that are growing here locally,” Rowell said.