Vermonters get together to talk cybersecurity, accelerator spaces, community capital, coworking, makerspaces, Vermont startups, and the Internet of Things
Billed as “a week-long celebration of the entrepreneurial and technological Greater Burlington ecosystem,” Vermont’s Innovation Week is organized by BTV Ignite, a non-profit organization founded in 2014.
Burlington is one of over 20 US Ignite gigabit communities, dedicated to “fostering creation of the next generation of the Internet, sparking new business opportunities and profoundly impacting how Americans work, live, learn and play.”
For 2017, Innovation Week’s lineup of educational and networking events touched on subjects like the reality of working remotely, the challenges of creating a digitally skilled workforce, connecting local startups with local investors, and the health of the internet in terms of access, privacy, and decentralization.
There were over 20 events in and around Burlington in the span of five days. This kind of collaboration, idea-sharing, and networking is something Vermont does very well.
Valerie from Breezy Hill was fortunate to attend Monday’s Vermont Investor Summit. A well-attended and high-energy event, the Investor Summit was a showcase for Vermont startups, small businesses, and innovative companies.
One of the summit’s sponsors (and a Breezy Hill client), Milk Money Vermont, has changed the game in terms of community capital in Vermont, helping local investors at all levels invest in Vermont startups.
Several of Milk Money’s current campaigns were also represented, including organic agriculture champions Kimball Brook Farm, Northeast Kingdom internet services provider Kingdom Fiber, and mission-based staffing service Working Fields.
“It was like Vermont on 11.” - Valerie Solof Monette, Breezy Hill Marketing
Governor Phil Scott, Liz Robert of Terry Bicycles (former CEO of Vermont Teddy Bear), and Anna-Marie Wascher, CEO and Founder of Flat World Partners were among the speakers calling for socially conscious, local investment.
Rounds of “speed-dating” between investors and early stage companies pitching for capital were opened amidst a mini-expo of companies showcasing their products.
Overall, it was an exciting, eye-opening, (and well catered!) Vermont evening at the beautiful new Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center on the waterfront.
Fostering a healthy digital civic society
Another meeting of the minds during Innovation Week was Thursday’s discussion at Study Hall - a new downtown Burlington co-working space - about the intersection of societal health and the internet.
It was a heady conversation, facilitated by Julia Vallera of the Mozilla Foundation, a leader in internet openness and creator of the popular Firefox web browser.
Mozilla’s research on internet inclusion focuses on five pillars, which guided the discussion.
- Open innovation - How available is public data online? Do copyright laws work in the digital age? Will open source coding continue to be common among software developers.
- Digital inclusion - How will the rise of mobile phones bolster access in developing countries? Can government-imposed internet blackouts be prevented? How can we combat online harassment?
- Decentralization - How can we maintain an equal playing field when Facebook, Amazon, and Google are controlling more and more of our digital lives?
- Privacy and security - Can we encrypt more web traffic? What do the terms of service that we agree to when we download apps say? Are they negotiable? What are their implications on digital surveillance?
- Web literacy - How can we urge governments to invest in the digital skills of their constituents and help people understand the implications of sharing their lives online?
While we didn’t delve deeply into each of these categories, we did focus on digital inclusion as it relates to Burlington and Vermont. Burlington’s head librarian, Mary Danko, noted that 13 percent of all internet users get access exclusively through smartphones.
That led to a discussion about how lower-income households are increasingly foregoing home-based broadband and traditional computers because they already have their smartphones connected. This raises questions about inclusivity and fairness when employers are asking job applicants to fill out lengthy forms and upload documents to apply for jobs - hard tasks to complete on a mobile device.
BTV Ignite Executive Director Dennis Moynihan and Abbie Tykocki of Burlington Telecom were in on the conversation. Their organizations are in a position to tackle these challenges by building out digital infrastructure that brings all sectors of the community into the online fold.
Innovation Week culminated over the weekend with Vermont Tech Jam, an 11th-year event that is designed to shine a light on the Vermont tech economy, connect the workforce with growing employers, and provide a venue for education and networking.
Innovation Week showcased the brightest minds of Burlington and Vermont focusing on big picture technology and innovation economy opportunities. It was an affirming event and one we were excited to participate in.
Thanks for stopping by,
Breezy Hill Marketing is a Vermont web design agency specializing in marketing strategy,inbound marketing, social media marketing, and building optimized and mobile responsive websites for customers throughout the United States.