5 Forward Festival events you may want to check out

By Erik Lorenzsonn, The Capital Times

ForwardFest_CapTimes-webThe Forward Festival, an annual event centered around connecting entrepreneurs in the Madison area, returns this Thursday with its most expansive agenda yet.

This year’s affair will comprise 44 individual events — mixers, panels, conferences, workshops, art galleries and pitching competitions — over a span of seven days. The ambitious agenda is a stark contrast what the festival looked like in its early days. The inaugural Forward Festival in 2010 featured a mere five events.

Laura Strong, the chief operational officer of Quintessence Biosciences and one of the festival’s organizers, said the festival has grown a staggering amount. She said that each year since the festival’s founding, more groups, from tech startups to local chefs, have expressed interest in pitching in. For example, Strong said that this year will feature art more prominently than ever before, with organizations like the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art hosting a number of events.

 As with years past, the festival’s anchor event will be the Forward Technology Conference, an all-day affair at the Monona Terrace on Tuesday. The conference will be replete with panels and networking events. It will also feature the conference’s two keynote speakers: the Denver-based entrepreneur Jordan Eisenberg and e-commerce expert Amy Africa.

Other touchstone events like the Badger Startup Summit and the Games+Learning+Society Conference will once again be part of the festival — although this year will notably be the last for the GLS conference, since the center will soon shut down in the wake its directors’ departures.

While the festival will be primarily “by entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurs,” there will also be plenty of events that will be of interest to the general public, said Strong.

“Forward Fest is not just about connecting our own communities, whether it’s food or art or technology,” she said. “It’s about connecting in general.” Read more …

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