October 26, 2016
Back in 2014, Techweek withstood widespread criticism for its perceived sexism, onstage rants, and a prevailing sense that the Chicago-founded technology conference was puzzling and disorganized. In light of these findings, many wouldn’t have placed their bets on the company’s future success. Faced with dwindling sponsorships and rebukes from former Techweek honorees who demanded their names be removed from its awards list, Techweek’s future seemed bleak.
Unwilling to let these setbacks derail the company’s goal to showcase and support… emerging tech ecosystems, Techweek staged a major corporate comeback by carefully addressing their costliest pain points and focusing on growth.
One of the company’s first moves was to mend its troubled relationship with women. They hoped to distance themselves from past charges of sexism, while attempting to meaningfully address the larger conversation about gender inequality in the tech industry. Techweek appointed advisory board member Katie Lynch as its CEO, confident that she could lead the company away from its troubled reputation by making day-to-day decisions and clarifying its stance on diversity and inclusion.
Over the course of her tenure, Lynch quietly helped to re-calibrate Techweek’s brand and rebuild strategic partnerships. Gone were the flirty party fliers featuring scantily clad women. Gone were the bikini contests of Techweek’s past. In their place was a refined product suite, new sponsorship partners, and increasingly inclusive messaging about diversity in tech appeared.
Changing of the Guard
While Lynch’s leadership brought considerable momentum to Techweek, her tenure didn’t last long. In March, Techweek announced that Lynch would exit as CEO after less than a year. Fortunately, this shakeup did not leave the company without direction, as it was simultaneously announced that the company’s business development manager, Amanda Signorelli, would take over as chief executive–responsible for overseeing the company’s continuing expansion, mission and market analysis.
Signorelli would argue that Techweek has evolved. No longer content to simply showcase the tech offerings made by businesses local to Chicago, Techweek now seeks to incorporate merit-based social good into its overall purpose.
This move has been signaled largely by the company’s current campaign to restructure itself as a “public benefit corporation,” essentially allowing the company to prioritize positive socioeconomic benefits to the communities it enters even as Techweek seeks to maximize profits. This distinction is important as it factors into how Signorelli understands how Techweek will interact with various community stakeholders, like VC firms, founders, and the “whole technology ecosystem,” as the company expands both physically and in terms of their offerings.
“Now I’m at the point where, lucky for me, I’ve had a chance to step in as CEO and drive a lot of the vision and path of [our] content at each and every Techweek. Who are the best speakers… and why should they necessarily be the voice of that community?” said Signorelli of Techweek’s event development process in an in-person interview. “We create it so that it’s very tailored. Every place we go, we say: What are the core trends we see that earning the most investment? Given that, who are we willing to drive forward?”
The Techweek Goal
Beyond a robust expansion and market analysis operation, Signorelli plans to drive up value for Techweek participants by building a media operation that will share the conference’s content more publicly and help their stakeholders to engage with the stories that take place at Techweek year-round.
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