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From Big Gig to gigabytes: Summerfest Tech scheduled for Sept. 8

August 16, 2021
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There’s a lot planned and a lot to learn at this year’s Summerfest Tech event, happening on Wednesday, Sept. 8. As always, the schedule is filled with sessions aimed at supporting the region’s growing tech sector, with a specific focus this year on diversity and equity.

After happening completely online last year, Summerfest Tech will be a hybrid event this year, with virtual sessions in the morning followed by in-person afternoon sessions at Henry Maier Festival Park, including a keynote from Google Cloud’s Nathen Harvey and Elaine Stephens, along with a competition.

Smart city, tech town

The morning starts with a roundtable of regional and national chief information officers discussing what Milwaukee can learn from other markets as it develops its tech ecosystem. Following that are two sessions on smart cities. The first will focus on using emerging digital technologies to address environmental, social and economic challenges in urban areas. The second, featuring tech industry leaders from Milwaukee and Atlanta, will focus on the role a city’s culture plays in attracting and retaining talent.

Bridging the digital divide

 The second set of sessions will kick off with an overview of the current state of diversity and inclusion in tech, including the challenges the industry faces and the impacts specific equity-focused initiatives are making. After that introduction are two breakout sessions on tech talent recruitment, one aimed at tech talent, the other aimed at organizations looking to hire them.

This second discussion will be moderated by Kathy Henrich, CEO of the MKE Tech Hub Coalition, which will also be hosting a Tech Career Expo on Sept. 14. Another partner event, Tapping into Nontraditional Talent Pipelines, hosted by MARS Solutions Group, is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Two other sessions address the wider issue of digital equity and access. United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County will be introducing Techquity, the new initiative to address the region’s digital divide it is launching with corporate, social service and public sector partners.

Finally, Nadiyah Johnson, founder of Milwaukee’s Milky Way Tech Hub, and Kiki Mwiti, founder and CEO of the tech industry diversity and inclusion–focused investment platform DYVVYD, will be leading an open conversation about the challenges Milwaukee faces in reaching digital equity and what is needed to make sustainable change.

An afternoon of startups and venture capital

The afternoon’s in-person sessions start with this year’s Summerfest Tech Pitch Competition, presented by Young Enterprising Society, the organization that runs The Blueprint accelerator in Milwaukee and Green Bay. Six early-stage startups, including local companies Vaia, Debtle and Investii, will compete for a $20,000 cash prize before a panel of judges from various tech sectors.

The competition will be followed by a panel discussion with venture capital fund managers from the region and across the country, and then the closing keynote on what it takes to build and scale high-performing technology teams.

All the afternoon events will be streamed online for those not attending in person. Summerfest Tech runs from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 8. Admission to the event is free. For a more detailed schedule and to register, visit

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