In 2014, American startups saw the largest year-over-year growth in twenty years. New businesses are on the rise—helping reverse a five-year downward trend in startup activity, according to a Kauffman Index report. With 310 out of every 100,000 U.S. adults building a startup or small business, entrepreneurs make up a small but significant part of the American workforce.
No one appreciates this significance more than Katy Lynch, the new CEO of Techweek, a series of festivals celebrating entrepreneurs in cities across the world.
We caught up with Katy on the eve of Techweek New York to chat about her own experience launching and selling a successful social media agency and what excites her about her new role as CEO.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur early in your career? When did you know this was a path you wanted to pursue?
When I first came to Chicago 8 years ago, I worked for a travel startup called Where I’ve Been. I was hired on to be their head of social media, growing their online community from nothing.
A big part of my role back then was networking with the local tech community. As a natural extrovert, this is something I thoroughly enjoy. I sat on numerous panels and participated in fireside chats, sharing my thoughts on how companies could use social media to build their brand. It got to a point where I was receiving countless emails from entrepreneurs asking me to work with them on a consultative basis.
Where I’ve Been sold to Tripadvisor in 2010. By that time, I had made so many great connections, and I was considering launching my own company.
How has being an entrepreneur prepared you for your current role as CEO of Techweek?
You learn a lot about yourself and business when you have started, grown, raised money for, and sold a company. You develop a thick skin. You take risks. You make mistakes – and you quickly learn from them. I would not have been able to run TW without my past experiences as an entrepreneur.
What drew you to Techweek and convinced you to join the team?
Our mission is to build a better world through tech entrepreneurship. I’m a big supporter of entrepreneurs and enjoy being a part of the tech community. I believe technology should be accessible to everyone.
Plus, my team is awesome.
The tech community has firmly established itself in cities like NYC and SF, however, we see startups popping up all over the country. Which cities do you see growing most rapidly in tech, and what excites you about these burgeoning tech scenes?
There are so many! Detroit, Dallas, Seattle, Denver, Boston… to name a few.
Techweek subscribes to a ‘rise of the rest’ mentality. We believe that in this globalized era, exceptional tech companies can be built anywhere, not just in Silicon Valley or NYC. These cities are proving that to be true.
Is there one city whose growth you are particularly interested in?
One city that I have been paying close attention to is Kansas City. (Techweek KC actually just happened last month!) Kansas City is particularly exciting right now for the nationally significant technology initiatives that have begun there, such as Cisco’s Smart City initiative and the Google Fiber project.
There are many globally significant companies based in KC: Sprint, DSI, Cerner, Garmin, VML, and the Kauffman Foundation. These are all big companies that have done a lot to further innovation in their respective industries. It’s very clear that there is a sense of community and pride in Kansas City, particularly throughout the tech community. It’s very impressive to see how supportive the municipal government has been in promoting new business growth in the region.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or people early in their careers, or people who are changing careers?
Take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail. Trust your gut. Hire people smarter than you.
Have you ever had a job that you didn’t love? And how does that compare to doing work that you do love?
In my early 20’s, I had jobs that I liked but didn’t truly love. I’m truly passionate about what I’m working on here at Techweek and love my job every day.
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