Startup Summit is returning to the in-person scene after almost two years next Wednesday, Sept. 22, from 2-6 p.m. with its half-day conference titled “How Startups Will Survive and Thrive Post Covid-19″ at Frontier RTP. You can register here; tickets are $25, or $15 just to access the happy hour from 6-7 p.m.
Tech veterans Keith Washo and Mark Bavisotto co-founded Startup Summit in 2018 shortly after they each moved to the Triangle in hopes of fostering an innovative and dynamic community that was locally focused instead of nationalized.
“I came here seeing fresh opportunities,” Washo said. “It’s like a greenfield, and Mark and I wanted to get plugged in and make a difference right away. We kind of had that startup-grit mentality that we could be helpful as change catalysts to the community based on everything else we’ve seen in other places because coming here, we saw so much that can grow.”
Pre-pandemic, Startup Summit kept people engaged through monthly social events plus periodic half-day and full-day summits, all of which transitioned online in the past year and a half. This half-day event will be the first one in-person since before Covid.
“We had to pivot by doing virtual events, which we’ve been doing,” Washo said. “I guess some good things—good principles and good values— never change, but in some ways, you change by not changing. And now we’re trying to get back to the spirit of what we started, on Sept. 22.
Keynote speaker Steve Malik will be focusing on how to grow a healthy, lean startup and cut costs in a rapidly changing dynamic environment. Closing keynote speaker Omkar Nimbalkar will offer advice on accelerating internal and community innovation through Covid-19 challenges.
The event’s panels feature Triangle startup rock stars and timely topics, including looks at how investment has changed due to the pandemic and how Covid has also affected sales and marketing strategies. Washo said he hopes this event’s in-person nature will allow attendees to dive back into deep learning and community.
“You learn and you grow so much more from being in the classroom, so that’s what we’re trying to bring back,” Washo said. “We’ve changed a lot by pivoting with the current economy, but we haven’t really changed in terms of our core mission: to bring people together to come together, learn and apply what they learn to grow professionally and personally.”
Locally owned business sponsors will provide creature comforts at the event, including coffee from Gabi’s Grounds Coffee Shop, happy hour appetizers from Big Al’s BBQ and happy hour brews from Brüeprint Brewing Company.
Amid concerns about the Delta variant, the conference will follow every regulation set by Durham and Frontier RTP. Precautions include social distancing at the tables, a reduced capacity, sanitizing stations, face coverings—even for those who are fully vaccinated—and encouragement to go outside for fresh air at any point in the conference.
Reflecting a the startup community that has only grown since Covid hit, Washo said he thinks the Triangle is on the edge of something extraordinary. This summit, he believes, is just one more step toward building the entrepreneurs that will get us there.
“I liken RTP to what Silicon Valley was in the 2000’s, and seeing Silicon Valley growing with this hockey stick growth,” Washo said. “ I think RTP is right at the cusp of being at this next huge growth.”
Prospective participants of the Sept. 22 event can check out the Startup Summit’s website.