I am helping to organize an entrepreneurial conference called EntConnect that runs from March 27th-30th, 2008 at the Sheraton West Denver hotel in Lakewood, CO. This conference has been held each year since 1992 and initially grew out of a conference organized by the publisher of Midnight Engineering magazine. Midnight Engineering was published for about 8 years in the 1990s and was targeted at engineers and technologists who engaged in entrepreneurial activities, often in their spare time, as its name suggests. Even though the magazine is no longer published, many of us had enjoyed the conferences so much that we kept them going. I say ‘we’, but I should mention that it’s the hard work and dedication of John Gaudio who pulls the conference together each year. This year a few of us have stepped up to give John a helping hand. He’s letting me take care of the website and on-line registration system.
The conference has taken on the feeling of a reunion. We sometimes bring in new members and friends which helps to keep things interesting. This year we decided to make an effort to recruit other like-minded people to participate. If you’re interested in entrepreneurial pursuits perhaps you may like to join us.
The conference runs from Thursday through Sunday starting off with a ski day at one of Colorado’s world renowned Summit county ski areas. We generally choose the ski area depending on snow conditions at the time. Past ski trips have been to Keystone, Breckenridge, and Arapahoe Basin. Friday, March 28th has a number of fun activities starting with high performance go-cart racing and/or indoor skydiving and ending with an Italian feast at Valente’s restaurant in Wheat Ridge. After dinner, some conference participants meet for drinks and conversation at the hotel lounge.
The main part of the conference takes place on Saturday with presentations from conference participants on subjects mostly related to entrepreneurial activities. In the past we’ve had topics that included how to improve your company’s ability to show up in web search results or improving your marketing effectiveness as well as many, many other subjects. Some of our members are quite skilled at spotting technology trends and letting us know about them far in advance of their arrival or widespread adoption. The conference goes on all day Saturday with morning, afternoon, and evening presentations. We take a break to go out to dinner at one of the local restaurants in the evening. The late evening activity planned for Saturday night this year is an informal poker game.
The conference is very relaxed and allows for numerous opportunities to have side discussions with people who have entrepreneurial interests. A few of our past participants have grown their businesses from garage startups and sold them for enough money that they could comfortably retire. Curiously, no one has opted to retire. We’ve also had people who have made fortunes and then lost everything during a market shift. A few of us are not entrepreneurs by the strict definition of the word, but enjoy networking with entrepreneurs in the hope that some of it may rub off on us.
The regular cost of admission to the conference is $299 and we have special discounts for rooms at the Sheraton Denver West hotel for $75 per night. There is a period where you can receive a substantial discount if you sign up early. If you sign up before Feb 11th, the cost of the conference is only $99. The cost after Feb 11th will be $149 up until Feb 29th. After that, it will be the full $299. Junior registrants (age 21 and under) are admitted at half of the regular prices. The cost covers the conference admission only. All other activities are pay-as-you-go. For example, if you participate in the ski day, then the lift tickets, meals, and equipment rental are the responsibility of the individual. Similarly, the Friday afternoon events this year are expected to run approximately $30 to $50 depending on which ones you choose. The Friday evening Italian dinner at Valente’s is $35. The Saturday lunch at the hotel is often picked up by one of our sponsors, as are the refreshments on Saturday evening. Thus there is a lot of flexibility on which activities you’d like to participate. You may opt to attend for the entire 4 days or just for the weekend conference.
EntConnect is a great place to network with others and to give and receive advice on running a business. There are many opportunities to participate in the discussion and you can even present a topic of your own. The schedule of topics and speakers comes together on the website as the start date approaches. You can follow its development at www.entconnect.org. You can see a representative Entconnect agenda by looking at last year’s agenda which is linked to the website.
Entconnect has a guarantee that if you are not delighted with the conference, you can request and receive a full refund. I don’t know of many conferences that offer a guarantee like that. Similarly, if you find that you cannot attend for after you’ve paid, you can request a refund or have your registration fee applied to next year’s conference.
We have resisted promoting the conference for fear it may to grow too large since we did see it expand to over 250 attendees one year. After that, it was decided to scale it back in size to give it a much more relaxed and friendly feel. For the past few years, it has averaged around 25 to 30 attendees, but we would be happy to increase to double that size.