With dozens of accelerators and Startup Weekends in cities around the world, Techstars Founder David Cohen has been frontlining the international entrepreneurial movement for years. In doing so, he has garnered an international draw for his brand that presides it all.
And this September in Raleigh, Cohen will bring his fierce advocacy for entrepreneurship to local technology and startup leaders attending the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s Tech Venture Conference. He’ll be joined by other figures of relevance to the technology community in North Carolina and beyond.
Every year in preparation for its annual conference, CED uses its connections to round up rising stars to represent the state’s startup discipline and spread awareness of the technology landscape to a multi-regional and even national audience.
And the 2017 iteration of the conference continues that rigor.
Taking the stage are Triangle business leaders like PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen and serial entrepreneur, investor and Techstars EIR Chris Heivly.
They’re joined by nationally known figures who are all tied to the North Carolina startup scene in some way. In addition to Cohen, Mark Fernandes of Sierra Ventures and Accel Partners’ Alex Estevez will also speak at the event.
CED will announce more speakers leading up to this year’s program, held at the Raleigh Convention Center September 19-20. But for now, here is a lineup of the voices scheduled to present thus far.
Cohen supports technology ventures all over the world as the founder and CEO of Techstars, the Boulder-based investor and network of startup accelerators and events.
Before that, he was a serial entrepreneur, founding startups (now acquired) such as Pinpoint Technologies, developing software for public safety and EMS dispatch, and earFeeder, a service that turns users’ music preferences into RSS feeds. In a portfolio of 1,000 tech startups, his early investments include several large and successful companies like Uber, SendGrid and Twilio.
Techstars is all about community building, with accelerators targeted to industry strongholds in cities around the world, from Berlin to Toronto, Dubai to Paris, Atlanta to Chicago, and New York to Seattle.
Transparency is also a value. Since its start, Techstars has published stats on every company to go through one of its accelerator programs.
Estevez is on the advisory board for a diverse lot of startups spanning multiple industries, from Alien Vault to Pindrop to NextLabs to BetterCloud. He’s a venture partner at Palo Alto, California-based VC firm Accel Partners. He represents the fund’s portfolio companies and searches for possible future investments in regions throughout the Eastern part of the U.S.
Estevez gave a compelling 26-slide presentation at the annual venture outlook put on by Bull City Venture Partners in January detailing the technology sector landscape for 2017 and beyond.
After years of serving a software sector researcher and analyst, Fernandes joined Silicon Valley’s Sierra Ventures. Now as managing director of the firm, Fernandes has continued to shape his career around software—it’s a common thread throughout his investments, centering around cloud infrastructure, security software, digital health and data analytics.
Fernandes has invested in software startups that eventually had major exits, such as Sourcefire (acquired by Cisco in 2013) and DynamicOps (acquired by Dell subsidiary VMware in 2012).
As one of the foundational pillars of the Triangle startup community, Heivly has been a huge participant in the local tech scene from the start.
He began as a co-founder of MapQuest, which was later acquired by AOL in 1999. Then Heivly served executive roles for various tech companies before his career shifted to investing.
As managing director of Triangle accelerator The Startup Factory, he helped bring 35 investments to new startups in and outside of the region before the program closed last year.
He then founded Big Top Job Fair, a hiring platform and events series, running the brand for the last six years until it was acquired by ExitEvent and American Underground in May.
Now, Heivly is Techstars’ entrepreneur in residence (EIR), a position he joined earlier this year in which he uses his startup experience to further support budding startup communities throughout the U.S.
In the late ‘90s just as research tools and databases began blooming on the internet, Charlotte entrepreneur Lebda founded LendingTree.
It provides loan search and borrowing information to consumers seeking financing. The site offers resources and comparative tools for credit cards, student loans, business loans, and auto and mortgage financing.
Lebda, now Lending Tree’s chairman and CEO, also founded Tykoon a financial education app for parents and their children. And he serves as chairman of Recyclebank, a member organization that partners with cities and businesses to reward citizens and consumers for keeping their communities clean.
One of Raleigh’s most observed startups is PrecisionHawk, which has raised $29 million in venture capital to date and worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to help establish preliminary rules and regulations for commercial drone operations from the ground.
Leading the growth at PrecisionHawk is Chasen, a seasoned entrepreneur who joined the company in January. Chasen formerly founded edtech startup Blackboard, which eventually sold for $1.6 billion in 2011, and location-mapping tech startup SocialRadar, acquired by Verizon in November of 2016.
Part of Chasen’s experience so far at PrecisionHawk has been expanding the company’s headcount, which is well over 100. The company is continuing to hire local talent as it grows. Open positions span software development, sales, marketing and product design.
Allen is actively involved in the entrepreneurial momentum in the Triangle, and has been for years as founder, CEO and now chairman of Automated Insights, a developer of AI software for natural language generation. He is currently a board member of fast-growing Triangle startups First. and iScribes.
Allen regularly chimes in on the growth (and status) of the artificial intelligence industry, putting the technology into local and national context and perspective on Medium. His posts exhibit passion for the industry’s place in the technology sector, excitement that will likely enter the stage at the 2017 Tech Venture Conference.
He is also a co-chair of the conference.
Also a co-chair for this year’s Tech Venture conference is Caplain, general partner and co-founder of Bull City Venture Partners.
He’s on the board of some high growth companies in the Triangle—Cary marketing software startup Zift Solutions, Durham’s Spiffy, providing on-demand car wash and detailing services, and Cary medtech startup Medfusion, which develops technology to improve the patient experience.