As part of Portland Startup Week, I had the opportunity to attend both Finnovation PDX and TechfestNW. When I attend conferences and events like these, the energy and passion about new technology trends and the startup scene reminds me of how much the world needs people driven to create something that benefits others, even if the road may not be easy.
At Finnovation PDX, speakers from several local companies in the financial services sector spoke about best practices for launching and building companies from ideation through iteration, including obtaining outside investment. Since some of the areas within this sector are highly regulated, innovation and disruption often create unique challenges, so some of the advice typically given to startup founders does not apply. In FinTech for example, it is hard to raise too much capital because the cost of designing the technology and ensuring compliance with the regulatory environment can quickly become prohibitive.
At TechfestNW, speakers covered topics along four main subject areas: blockchain, the future of work, smart cities and health and fitness. In many cases, the speakers and workshops overlapped categories, with the most poignant message being that tech innovation can open doors previously closed. During a panel titled The Future is Female, Amy Nelson, Jessi Duley and Aileen Lee discussed the male-dominated fields of technology and innovation. While making suggestions for how men and women can work to make the industry more inclusive, Amy Nelson shared that “the best thing I can do when I have the mic is pass it,” reminding us to share our platforms with those who have been historically denied the opportunity to speak. Quite a few School of Business alumni were represented across the speakers, moderators and companies represented, both onstage and at PitchfestNW.
The Cleantech Challenge and PitchfestNW presented various ideas for the future of technology. The Cleantech Challenge featured students from PSU who had ideas for using environmentally friendly methods to improve a problem in the world today. PitchfestNW featured 137 companies who had the opportunity to present their startups to potential investors and receive feedback. While only 10 had the opportunity to present on the main stage, many of them had the chance to have a table and to talk with conference attendees. This year also featured a hackathon dedicated to solving problems in the healthcare space, and a spotlight from Pitch Latino that highlighted entrepreneurial talent from the Latino community. Overall, I found the event to be inclusive and represent a diverse group.
Women in technology
As a woman looking to transition into the tech industry, hearing current and emerging leaders changing the conversation around equity and inclusion tells me that everyone has something to offer this industry. Listening to speakers at various conferences around the area talk about how previously marginalized groups are now finding new success in unconventional areas within tech inspires me to want to do more with my own career while building others. Ideas often start from conversations, and unlocking shifting industry trends to create new opportunities is changing the world for the better. I look forward to watching the changes in the tech industry that are starting here, it is exciting to be in such a hub of innovation.