If an inventor could create a device that converts sheer brain power into energy, said device should be brought to the Northside Entrepreneurship Festival next year. That inventor would take away enough energy to send a spaceship to Mars and back. It’s a given that this spaceship would update it’s Sonar status from the red planet, and have it’s own veggie garden on board.

I’ve never been to South by Southwest, the annual festival in Austin, Texas. But this day of discussion around sustainable business ideas that encourage community is exactly what I’ve always thought it would be like. But after this one, I could travel home on foot and sleep in my own bed that night.

In other words, we needed this.

One conference highlight was the panel discussion Fundraising for Niche Startups: Lessons From Urban Agriculture Innovators. I was struck by the fact that a small agricultural company would refer to itself as a “start-up”. This points to how ingrained online is with any business endeavor these days. One point of difference among presenters on this panel, and a topic of great interest to the audience, was how they secure funding for their endeavors. Paul Lightfoot, founder of Brightfarms, a company that designs, finances, builds and operates hydroponic greenhouse farms at, or near, supermarkets, mostly secures funding through “angel investors.” Taking a different path, Britta Riley, Founder of Windowfarms, “bootstrapped” her way to funding with a massively successful Kickstarter campaign for her company that created a vertical, hydroponic farm for growing food in your windows.

Britta Riley, Founder of Windowfarms

The Music NOW: Modern Trends in Music Publishing and Performance Rights panel focused on the issues around publishing rights and what they mean to newer artists. The panel also touched on SOPA and how the music industry could have approached the bill differently to get it more support.

Music NOW: Modern Trends in Music Publishing and Performance Rights panel
Nathan Hecht, Founder & CEO of Kurrenci.com

I had to attend the panel called Designing to Support Real Life Interaction. These entrepreneurs approach their business with the modest goal of unlocking the secrets of human nature itself. How do we use apps like Sonar, or dating sites like HowAboutWe.com, in ways that build actual relationships? The problem of alienation through over-reliance on technology remains, but the fact that we were in a room talking about it and taking it seriously, and looking for solutions, felt empowering.

. . .

(There was one negative about this event. Can I mention the Porta Potty smell problem? I only want to bring it up in the hopes that next year one can flow more with the ideas and not be distracted by the noxious odors of numbers 1 and 2.)

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