A Geekend Get-Away:

An Interactive Conference for Entrepreneurs, Designers, Coders, Innovators and Technology Mavericks

Geekend web

by Diane McMahon

The theme for this month's issue is “Be Innovative.” Coincidentally, one of the most thrilling
events for innovators is also this month. Geekend is bringing a bonanza of cutting edge innovators to our neighborhood for the second year. Watch out California! There’s a new kid on the block
and the high-tech landscape might just be moving to the Lowcountry.

The event, held October 15-17, is sponsored by Creative Coast, a non-profit organization in partnership with Savannah Economic Development Authority and the City of Savannah. Their website states Creative Coast exists to ”nurture the members of the Savannah community engaged in creative or innovative endeavors and to cultivate an environment in which they can thrive.” The first Geekend was held last year to rave reviews and this year’s event plans to be bigger and better. 

When you go to the Geekend website it’s already throbbing with a techie energy that lures you onward. There’s a countdown clock ticking off the days, hours, minutes and seconds till the OPENING EVENT! A pulsing notice reminds you “It’s the Freakin’ Geekend Baby!” The weekend ticket price is $250 and promises a whirlwind of top-notch speakers from disciplines as diverse as technology, education, video applications, social media, virtual reality, healthcare and digital marketing. A printout of speakers includes 11 pages of impressive speaker profiles. Besides keynote speakers, attendees are promised fabulous panels, presentations and workshops, with the bonus of fun-filled after parties, great mash-up opportunities and interactive entertainment. 

For those less intrepid—or those who have barely put a toe in the flow of major geekdom—there is a special category offered to the “Geek Curious.” The ticket price is $550, which provides an intimate dinner with the Geekend speakers meeting the Geek Curious to give intel on what those young guy and girl geeks are really talking about. The dinner is described as “rocket fuel to launch the [uninitiated] on the Geekend experience.” It is intended to make the attendees more conversant in the continually unfolding technology revolution and economic innovation happening everyday. It could be interpreted as a respectful introduction for baby boomers.

The energy and drive behind Geekend can, in large part, be attributed to the indefatigable enthusiasm of the Executive Director of Creative Coast, Bea Wray.

Bea, who was described in one article as a “serial tech entrepreneur” was selected from more than 300 applicants to fill the leadership role at Creative Coast. In her prior life she was the CEO of Data Securities (San Francisco), she served as a director for Siemens Business Services (Munich, Germany) and she launched and sold two software escrow firms. Bea is determined to bring more high-income, high growth jobs to the Savannah region. In a blog she authors for Creative Coast, she quoted the Silicon Valley Bank’s 2014 Innovative Economy Outlook which reported: “The innovation economy is big—and getting bigger. And it’s moving fast. It has momentum. It is a powerful force for job creation and economic growth across the United States, from early stage startups to large successful companies.”

This is a primary motivation for holding the Geekend event in Savannah. Bea said, “SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) has been bringing extremely talented students to the Savannah area, particularly in the last 10 to 15 years, but the truth is there’s not enough economic opportunity to keep them here once they’ve graduated. I want that to change.” 

 To stimulate entrepreneurial opportunities, Creative Coast sponsors FastPitch, their own version of Shark Tank. They put new entrepreneurs on stage for a day of exciting and innovative three-minute pitches. Previous FastPitch contestants include some great local startups such as GreenBug, Bowerbags and Aetho, all of which are making wonderful strides in their businesses. Some contestants are students from Georgia Southern, SCAD, Armstrong and Savannah State.

FastPitch is an excellent platform to help fuel Savannah’s innovative economy. It’s a process where budding entrepreneurs receive valuable advice and counseling on how to present, explain and pitch their ideas. It’s an opportunity for those about to launch a new product or service to refine their business plans with the help of experienced mentors. And for some deserving entrepreneurs, FastPitch is the opportunity to obtain venture capital and/or investment partners.

Bea said, “If you have ever questioned, ‘where will my children and grandchildren find meaningful and satisfying employment in Savannah?’ FastPitch has the answers.”

Geekend will also have a “Pitch Circus.” Initially, 22 candidates pitched their ideas to investors in platforms that will occur before October 15. Ten candidates were selected to move on to the second round. Ultimately, five candidates will make the last cut and be on stage during the Geekend event. They will give their pitches to a panel of investors in front of the audience, who will vote for the final winner. Reality TV on a Savannah stage!

The event is open to the public on a first come, first serve basis. And if you consider yourself clever, imaginative, entrepreneurial, ingenious, inventive, original, a citizen of the future not the past, or interested and concerned with the world and where it’s going, Geekend is where you need to be. 

For more information and a schedule of events go to: www.geek-end.com. 

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