The first annual Venture Draft Conference was held in St Louis this weekend. The mission of the conference was to bring professional athletes, venture capitalists and technology experts face-to-face to create business opportunities (aka allow entrepreneurs to mingle with and teach current and former NFL players about technology). A tip of the hat to the Brandon Williams Economic Development Corporation: the Venture Draft was a success.
Rarely do I experience a “wow” moment at a tech conference. However, this one was different. Maybe it was the personality of the highlighted speakers (who attended every event) or the charm of St Louis, but there was something special about Venture Draft.
My “wow” moment came right after I had the opportunity to bounce business expansion ideas off keynote speaker Henry Wong of Garage Technology Ventures at a local cigar bar. As I was walking out of the bar to a sponsored after party, Jim Sorgi struck up a conversation about his future with the Colts and time on Gilman Street. Wow, this conference was pretty cool.
I was not alone. I was one of twelve who drove to the conference from Madison, WI (6 ½ hour drive). Our entire contingency felt the same. Maybe it was watching Yao-Hui Huang of the Hatchory bust a move on the dance floor or experiencing the humble nature of Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank, the conference was a positive experience for those who attended.
The city also played a positive role on conference experience. The food was fantastic and nightlife a great change of pace. Since many of the keynote speakers were from out of town, their attendance at post conference social events added a new dynamic to the event. I’ve never been to a conference that had the opportunity to chill with the CEO of FUBU overlooking the Arch. Usually the keynote speakers are back home or quickly jet setting to their next event. This would have been a very different experience if the conference was held in New York or Las Vegas.
Brandon set the bar high for the Venture Draft. I was glad to attend the first annual, and excited for the second.