Last weekend, 400 attendees came together for Geekend 2018, Savannah’s annual tech and innovation conference. For two days we devoured presentations and discussions from more than 60 technologists, entrepreneurs, designers and game developers who shared their stories about building innovative companies, products and experiences.
The conference kicked off with Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas and a thought leader on building successful brands who recently published his first book, Find your Yellow Tux. Jesse set the tone by sharing his personal story of building the Bananas into a successful brand in just over a year by changing the baseball fan experience. For the next two days presentations followed on topics from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning to innovations in medical technology to cryptocurrencies, startup investment and video game design and development.
Friday night featured cocktails and pitches from six local startups. The winner, Green Badger, won more than $5,500 in prizes.
Attendees included tech industry professionals, local entrepreneurs, brand owners as well as the “tech curious.” Perhaps most exciting was the 50+ students from middle school up to local universities who engaged in discussions and demos with eager and open minds.
It is hard to overstate the impact that Geekend has on our local community.
For companies in every industry, the single most valuable resource is human capital and knowledge. Increasing the collision density between smart people working in similar spaces accelerates hiring, idea sharing, and ultimately, the success of local companies and workers. By growing the connective tissue in our tech and innovation community we encourage more people to enter this growing industry and attract more technologists and innovators to Savannah who will start and grow companies.
Geekend showcases successful entrepreneurs and innovators in our community and inspires a new crop of founders. It creates job opportunities for those looking to advance or break into tech and makes it easy for employers to connect with local talent.
Over the years I have met numerous people at Geekend who have advanced my own company and projects, including my company’s co-founder, brilliant designers, and enthusiastic interns. Last year I had the good fortune to meet Aleshia Howell, a newcomer to Savannah, who volunteered to serve as my hard working co-chair for this year’s Geekend event.
Geekend also connects local techies with those in their fields from other places which creates opportunities to grow and be more successful in their industry and raises Savannah’s brand within the greater tech community.
Here’s a small sampling of the collisions and connections created during Geekend:
Justin is a data scientist who lives in Atlanta and works remotely. After attending his second Geekend, his family has decided to move here for the summer to “try it out.”
Two local game developers met on a panel and remarked how crazy it was they had never met before. They are looking forward to getting in touch post-Geekend.
Clark Creative’s team attended Geekend and later blogged “We were able to broaden our technological horizons by experiencing new developments in the gaming and tech world, gain deeper knowledge of consumer behaviors and at one point, were able to unleash our inner banana.” read the full post.
D.J. Henley of Gauge Interactive had a crowd of local retailers seeking his advice after his fantastic presentation on increasing online sales through marketing automation and retargeting ads.
Andrew Moelk with Savannah Candy Kitchen said “the ecommerce and user experience panels at Geekend gave us great insight into providing a more enjoyable way for customers to shop.”
Bottom line: Geekend is paying big dividends for our local community. The great thing is the entire event is a community led effort: it is organized by a team of local technologists and entrepreneurs and supported by almost 40 local sponsors from a wide range of sectors. For example, Savannah-based law firm Hunter Maclean joined the sponsor ranks because they saw “an opportunity to be involved with the ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurship that Geekend draws to our community.” That says a lot about the quality of Geekend.
Yvonne Jouffrault is the co-founder of techSAV, a tech entrepreneur, startup advisor and tech community activist. Yvonne served as the co-chair of Geekend 2018 and can be reached at email@example.com. The Creative Coast is a non-profit organization supporting local innovators which is made possible by the City of Savannah and the SEDA.