Katie Brings Tech Conference to Bloomington

By Edo Steinberg

I haven’t seen this much enthusiasm about a conference in a very long time. Katie Birge, a graduate student of our department and founding member of the blog team, is now the director of the Bloomington Technology Partnership. She is organizing a tech conference called The Combine, scheduled for April 11-13, featuring Wikipedia founder and IU alum Jimmy Wales. Her face lights up when she talks about it.

The Combine – April 11-13, 2014.

“I support the local tech sector by posting available jobs, we help find office space for companies that are growing, recruit new tech sector companies to come to Bloomington, and a big part of what I do is promoting local events,” Katie explains.

“I’m on the five-person planning committee for The Combine,” Kate says. “We’ve been meeting since May or June of last year almost weekly. We nailed down the date and worked out the venues.” They also chose the speakers and new features that were not included in The Combine in previous years.

The Combine will include several events. “There will be an Ignite talk on the 11th. It’s a series of speakers who talk about any topic they want for five minutes with automatically advancing slides.” The slides advance every 15 seconds, with a total of 20 slides. “Some of the topics are tech related and some are completely different. Someone did one on gaming for masochists last time. It was just a list of the hardest games that have ever been invented and why it’s important to try to play them. Someone else did one about all the places to go in Bloomington.”

Another event taking place will be a career internship fair for tech companies. “It’s free for all the local employers to attend,” Katie says. “It’s something the Bloomington Technology Partnership runs, so I put it together. It’s free so even little startup companies can afford to go. They usually can’t afford to participate in career fairs. The companies will be looking for a wide array: from interns studying at IU to people with 5-7 years of business experience.”

The Combine will also include a tour of Bloomington’s downtown tech park, in the area between 7th and 11th streets (Macri’s to Upland’s), which the city is now developing. “It’s a unique idea. A lot of cities have tech parks, but they’re on the outskirts of town and are industrial. This will be totally different. It’s designed just to host tech companies, tech workers, and startups.”

“Of all the tech events in Bloomington, Combine is my favorite,” she says. “It brings speakers and guests from all over the country.”

How do they get big names to come? “A lot of promotions and begging,” Katie jokes. “Bloomington’s tech sector is lucky to have a lot of connections to Silicon Valley, Chicago, New York and other places with big tech scenes. The IU Alumni Association and the Office of Engagement helped us subsidize the cost of bringing Jimmy Wales here.”

“Group rates are available if the department wants to buy a set of tickets,” Katie gently hints. “Student scholarships are also available to subsidize the costs.”

For more information, check out the event’s website.

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