When was the last time you ventured out of your startup cave or expanded beyond the five city blocks you frequent? I get it, you’re a hermit at times, and you need to be, however there is a whole wide world out there waiting to meet you, teach you and inspire you.
If you’re part of a startup, you owe it to yourself and to your company to get out there and attend at least one conference a year. Whether you’re a founder, developer, designer, marketer, or product manager – you need to make it happen. Conferences are ideal venues to gain exposure, network, and be inspired.
Here is an extensive list of some of the top conferences in North America, curated by members of the Clarity community, and prioritized for you.
Make Awesome Sh*t (For the Developers)
(February 21-22, 2013; Miami, Florida)
SuperConf labels itself as an ‘experience’. This two-day event in Downtown Miami is all about the collision of design, development, and entrepreneurship. In addition to awesome keynotes and workshops from people like Neil Patel (KISSMetrics) and Juan Diego Calle of .CO, SuperConf hosts Startup Blastoff – where 8 companies launch their products and compete for a $25k cash prize (applications are still open!).
Game Developers Conference
(March 25-29, 2013; San Francisco, California)
Attracting over 22,000 participants, the GDC is the conference for game industry professionals of all stripes (designers, producers, developers, artists, decision-makers, entrepreneurs). In addition to several dev bootcamps, you will also get access to the GDC Expo, The Independent Games Festival, and the Game Developers Choice Awards. With diverse tracks like monetization, design, production, and marketing – you’re definitely going to get your money’s worth.
HTML5 Developer Conference
(April 1-3, 2013; San Francisco, California)
(April 25-27, 2013; Columbia, South Carolina)
This conference is all about navigating the depths of the web. The 2013 edition will focus on five key areas: design, development, front-end development, mobile, and business and marketing. ConvergeSE brings together some of the most creative makers from companies like Storify, MailChimp and 37Signals for three days of workshops, learning, and parties. If you’re looking to strengthen your craft and meet some awesome people, this is the place to be.
(April 29-May 2, 2013; Portland, Oregon)
RailsConf is celebrating its 7th year this spring. Each year, the conference attracts top-notch developers who are interested in keeping tabs on what’s new in the industry. Check out this show to preview new tools, ooh and ahh at new products, and meet awesome Rails enthusiasts who want to master their craft.
(May 20-24, 2013; Portland, Oregon)
Drupal lovers, unite! This jam-packed four day event is a great opportunity to get out there and see what your peers from the Drupal are getting up to. With a full-day pre-conference event, three full days of sessions and a full day of code-sprints, you might not have time to breathe, but you’ll definitely have time to learn. This conference brings together devs, founders, designers, and community organizers – meaning you’re guaranteed to find interesting conversations and new perspectives.
(May 22-23; 2013, Broomfield, Colorado)
From cloud to mobile, API to big data, GlueCon is a celebration of the developer. The conference agenda is packed with practical workshops and talks on the role of developers in the growth of a business. One of the biggest draws of the conference is the hackathon portion, where you get the opportunity to put all your new knowledge to work in a healthy competition.
(June 6-9, 2013; San Diego, California)
What do you get when you combine seminars from leaders in web development and design with a ‘Trifecta of Fun’? You get ValioCon. This conference attracts some the best minds in the field: the 2012 event included talks from the good folks at Dribble, Fictive Kin, GitHub, and Simple. If you like beach bonfires and brilliant people, you should probably go.
(July 22-26, 2013; Portland, Oregon)
Sponsored by O’Reilly, OSCON is one of the top conferences for the open source community. This conference attracts developers, innovators, business people and investors alike to learn about writing beautiful code. If you’re looking to bolster your tech infrastructure, this is the conference for you.
(2013 Dates TBA; San Francisco, California)
Run by communications giant Twilio, this 2-year-old conference brings together over a thousand entrepreneurs, devs, system integrators, and software vendors to meet, speak, and hack for three days. This conference is all about making awesome, innovative shit using the Twilio API. Hack on, kids.
(2013 Dates TBA, Scottsdale, Arizona)
(2013 Dates TBA; Redmond, Washington)
Arts and Crafts on Steroids (For the Creatives)
(March 3-4, 2013; San Francisco, California)
If you’re passionate about creating exceptional experiences, this is the conference for you. This event brings together UX designers, Creative Directors, Product Managers, and Founders from some of the world’s most innovative companies to explore the intricacies of creating powerful experiences. Whether you’re building a product, or looking to take your company to the next level, you’re sure to leave informed and inspired.
(April 29-30, 2013; Menlo Park, California)
The theme for the 2013 edition is “James Bond is an Experience Designer: What UXD Can Learn From How Others Think”. Unorthodox? Yes. But that’s what Re:Design is all about. Even the format is unique, focusing on impactful small group discussions. This conference is a great opportunity to get face time with leading industry thinkers, and connect with fellow UX geeks.
(June 5-8, 2013; Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Eyeo is a festival dedicated to the endless creative possibilities at the intersection of technology and creativity. Eyeo brings together coders, hackers, data lovers and designers to make, learn, talk, and be inspired. With unique workshops like ‘The Black Art of Manipulating Numbers’, and a Code+ed summit, you’re guaranteed to come out at the end of this multi-day event with enough inspiration to tide you over to next year.
(June 10-16, 2013, Toronto, Canada)
Canada’s answer to SXSW – 19 years running. It’s an incredible week-long gathering of musicians, artists, filmmakers, and digital innovators. Attracting over 330,000 attendees, this celebration of innovation and creativity will certainly lead to some interesting connections. NXNE Interactive is a premier gathering of digital visionaries, including Scott Stratten and Scott Belsky. In short, there is something for everyone.
Re:Design – Creative Directors
(November 4-5, 2013; New York, New York)
Back for it’s third year, Re: Design for Creative Directors is a premier gathering of industry professionals that explores the intersection of art, business, and technology. Past speakers have covered everything from branding, to client relationships, storytelling and social networking. This conference is the place to get inspired and connect with your fellow creative directors from around the world.
(Throughout the United States)
This event is a self-proclaimed tribute to grassroots American innovation. It’s family friendly and may not be directly applicable to your business — but it’s an opportunity to see the work of some amazingly creative minds. If you’re an artistic visionary, you can participate too. The program is moving across the United States, making stops in key cities like San Mateo, New York, and Detroit. It’s even made it’s way to Canada, and is venturing to the United Kingdom in the Spring.
Warm Gun Design Conference
(2013 Dates TBA; San Francisco, California)
Brought to you by the good folks at 500 Startups, the Warm Gun conference is a one-day event dedicated to ‘design that converts’. Warm Gun brings together startups and designers to explore how good design can move your business forward. The perfect blend of work and fun, Warm Gun is a great opportunity to flex your creative muscle.
HOW Interactive Design Conference
(2013 Dates TBA; San Francisco, California & Washington, DC)
A true smorgasbord of design education, HOW offers workshops and talks on front-end development, graphic design, typography, UX, and more. The diversity of offerings at HOW make it a must-attend for experienced vets looking to branch out, and industry newbies looking to get exposure to the field.
(2013 Dates TBA; New York, New York)
This two-day event is 100% devoted to the art of visual storytelling — you’ll get your fix of data, design, and aesthetics. You’ll develop insight in how to craft a compelling narrative that truly communicates compelling human experiences. Sociology + Art + Commerce = Visualized
#Hustlers Unite (For the Founders)
(March 4-6, 2013; San Francisco, California)
Now in its 6th year, Launch Festival is where high profile startups like Mint.com and Yammer have debuted their products. If you’re ready to launch, there’s still time to be part of the competition — the deadline is February 1. There will be more than 5,000 attendees and 40 companies here to learn from, so come prepared. The agenda is packed with hackathons, VC panels, and skill building sessions to help your company find its edge. Booyah.
(March 8-17; Austin, Texas)
We thought about putting this under ‘creatives’, but since it has become a go-to destination to launch a product, we thought the hustlers might be interested. Whether you’re an artist, building a new business, or looking to relax, you’ll absolutely love the creative energy here. This is a place where you come to explore and discover independent films, original music, and emerging technologies. And the BBQ fucking rocks.
Inc Magazine GrowCo Conference
(April 10-12, 2013; New Orleans, Louisiana)
Inc. Magazine is all about leadership, which is why they’re bringing it to you live. This conference is all about leadership, company growth, bright business minds, and creativity. With heavy hitters like Sir Richard Branson and Alexa Von Tobel on the 2013 roster, you’re guaranteed to come away enlightened and inspired.
(April 29th – 30th, 2013, Las Vegas, Nevada)
If you are a self-funded, single founder software company this is a great conference for you. Hosted in the city of sin (by no means is this is no place to sin), but a place to connect with other startups working on their passion projects.
(May 8-10, 2013; Omaha, Nebraska)
Think that entrepreneurship is limited to Silicon Valley? Think again. Big Omaha brings together more than 600 of the most passionate business leaders in Silicon Prairie. Come to this event to meet fellow entrepreneurs, support the Midwest’s business community, and find some inspiration for your own venture.
The Startup Conference
(May 30, 2013; Redwood City, California)
This conference is all about early stage startups, so come to this event if you’re interested in learning, growing, and being awesome. Past speakers have included Drew Houston, Naval Ravikant, Mark Suster, Guy Kawasaki, and Phil Libin. Learn about co-founder issues, crowdfunding, and how to avoid a founding team trainwreck. For people who want to just stop by, there’s a free startup village where some early stage ventures will be demoing. And of course, there are pitch competitions a plenty.
International Startup Festival
(July 10-13, 2013; Montreal, Canada)
StartupFest is known for bringing together some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world. This event unites aspiring entrepreneurs, founders, and entrepreneurial vets for three days of inspiration and innovation. The theme of the 2013 festival is ‘the stories behind startups’. And with elevator pitches in real elevators and panels of grandmother judges, the stories from this year’s event are bound to be interesting!
(August 14-16, 2013; Vancouver, BC)
Social media has transformed the branding world as we know it. Consumers have high expectations for what your brand needs to be, and you need to listen to them. Sponsored by Dealmaker Media, this conference will help you stay competitive by creating a community built on respect and openness. Come to this event, and you’ll learn how to make your customers your business’s competitive edge.
Lean Startup Conference
(2013 Dates TBA; San Francisco, California)
Yes, THAT Lean Startup. Hosted by the one-and-only Eric Ries, this conference is the ultimate crash-course in the Lean Startup philosophy. World-class speakers cover topics ranging from product cycles, to idea validation and mobile app development. One of the most popular events in the entrepreneur’s calendar, this conference is ideal for both seasoned founders and green horns.
Women Who Run The World (Female Founders)
(February 14, 2013; San Francisco, California)
Arguably the conference for female founders, this event brings together a who’s who of women in business. This year’s theme is ‘The Next Billion’ – referencing the increasing wave of female entrepreneurship that will transform economies world-wide. With speakers from Facebook and AngelList, and the Pitch SF Startup Competition, this event will be a celebration of ass-kicking women not to be missed.
(March 21-22, 2013; Mountain Valley, CA)
A break-off from the wildly popular BlogHer digital media conference for women, this conference is now in it’s third year. Are you a woman with the next big disruptive idea? If so, this is the conference for you. Meet mentors, attend workshops, and get your ideas heard.
Women In Leadership & Business Conference
(April 22-23, 2013; Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada)
Two days with some of North America’s most influential women. Are you in? This conference covers it all – marketing to competitive advantage, leadership to work-life balance. If you want to be inspired by all-star speakers and network with your fellow women, this is the event for you.
Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit
(October 15-17, 2013; Washington, DC)
This invitation-only event comes with a hefty price tag, but it is an unparalleled opportunity to meet some of the world’s most influential women people. Where else can you be in a room with Fortune 500 CEOs, world leaders, social innovators, and celebrities? Better get that application ready (and start saving your pennies)!
Have Your Mind Blown (Inspiration)
(February 25 – March 1, 2013; Palm Springs, California)
Running parallel to the famous TED conference, TEDActive is a week of immersive learning with some of the brightest minds around. This event is all about the exchange of brilliant ideas and mind-blowing conversations with folks from around the world. In the words of a TEDActive attendee, “The difference between watching TEDTalks at home and being at TEDActive is like the difference between listening to music on the radio vs. being at a concert”.
(Throughout North America)
TED hardly needs an introduction. It has become the global holy grail of idea-sharing and inspiration. TEDx is the local (and more affordable) answer to the famous Long Beach conference. Whether you attend an event in your hometown, or take a road trip to a nearby event, you’ll be glad you made the time. Few people leave TED unchanged. Will you be one of them?
(April 11-13, 2013; Panama City Beach, Florida)
Pack a diaper because you are going to pee yourself many times. LessConf is the place to go to laugh, listen to amazing speakers and leave smiling. More importantly, it’s the place to be if you want to challenge conventional thinking.
(May 2-3, 2013; New York New York)
If you can stomach the registration fee, you will be rewarded with two solid days of inspiration from some of the biggest international names in design and tech (past speakers include Jack Dorsey, Seth Godin, and Simon Sinek). This two-day event is all about idea execution: 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. This event is for big thinkers who want to move out of their head, and into the real world.
Made by Few
(May 4, 2013; Little Rock, Arkansas)
This event may short – but it packs a punch. Featuring heavyweights like Micah Baldwin and decision-makers from Mozilla and Threadless, this conference blends entrepreneurship, development, design, and creativity. This conference is ideal for those seeking inspiration in its purest form. The intimate nature of MxF also makes it a great networking opportunity.
Business Innovation Factory Summit
(September 18-19, 2013; Providence, Rhode Island)
A self-proclaimed ‘two day story-telling jam’, the BIF Summit brings together a unique collection of entrepreneurs, creatives, and academics to share experiences and inspire action. This event is a place to meet like-minded individuals, collaborate, and bring ideas of life. This conference is all about innovation and disruption – are you ready to join?
The UP Experience
(2013 Dates TBA; Houston, Texas)
UP = Unique Perspectives from Unique People. This is an engaging and intellectually stimulating event that brings together 16 of the world’s most extraordinary thought leaders, creators, and innovators for one exceptional day. Each of the 16 guests have 20 minutes to discuss their work, passion, and ideas.
Hack, Ship, Make Money (Growth Hacking and Sales)
Sales 2.0 Conference
(April 8-9, 2013; San Francisco, California)
While this isn’t your traditional startup conference, this event is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best sales minds in North America. With topics from creating a predictable pipeline, to building relationships, this event will cover the basics of building a successful sales strategy and seeing it through.
Business of Software
(October 28-30, 2013; Boston, Massachusetts)
This event has become a fixture in the calendars of many developers. The Business of Software is an event entirely dedicated to building and growing a profitable software business. From enterprise to web, mobile to SaaS, this event is about sharing experience and advice that will help you take your business to the next level.
(2013 Dates TBA; Menlo Park, California)
Where can you hear from top growth hackers at Google, Twitter, Facebook, LivingSocial, and LinkedIn? At Growth Hackers, of course. In addition to featuring major players, Growth Hackers is also known for attracting an all-star cast of small to mid-sized startups. From A/B testing, to customer acquisition, to mobile launches – this is a must-attend for all growth hackers.
(2013 Dates TBA; San Francisco, California)
Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from the hindsight of others? FailCon is a day devoted to just that — failure. It’s more than just an opportunity to laugh at some blunders, mind you. It’s a day of introspection and key takeaways that we can incorporate into our own ventures. Last year’s agenda included a case against someday, lessons on how to not manage your product, and an argument to aim for small failures.
Entrepreneur Magazine’s Growth Conference
(2014 Dates TBA; Dallas, Texas)
This conference has already come and gone, but stay tuned for next year. Now in its 5th year, this event brings together entrepreneurs from all walks of life including corporate professionals and small business owners. There are more than 12 hands-on skill building workshops to help you grow your vision. And if you’re hungry for networking, there’s plenty of it — top authors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders hang out at this event.
The Art of Sales
(2014 Dates TBA; Toronto, Canada)
One of the most widely-known sales conference in North America, The Art of Sales has hosted the likes of Jeffrey Gitomer and Seth Godin. This one-day conference is packed with practical and theoretical knowledge, powerful keynotes, and networking opportunities galore. Whether you’re just starting out, or growing your company – you’re sure to take away valuable information from this event.
Startup Product Summit
(2014 Dates TBA; San Francisco, California)
This one-day summit brings together everyone from designers to developers, marketers to product managers. Their philosophy is that product is a shared responsibility at a startup, so it’s important to bring the whole team together to collaborate on product strategy. The 2013 conference featured startups like Evernote, Buffer, and LaunchRock. Whether you already work directly with your product, or want to get more involved, this is the event for you.
Spread Your Gospel (Marketers)
Digital Media Summit
(March 19-20, 2013; Toronto, Canada)
This conference is all about embracing the future of social and digital marketing. You’ll hear from industry vets like Cindy Gallop, Amber Mac and Ryan Holiday who will share their insights on topics like guerilla marketing, user-generated content, and legal issues in digital media. This conference is perfect for those seeking practical advice and guidance.
Ad Age Digital Conference
(April 16-17, 2013; New York, New York)
Ad Age is an advertising, media and marketing conference for a new age. Our digital landscape is shifting, and this two-day conference is the place to hear about industry news, network with innovative startups, and listen to speakers from Starbucks, Verizon, and Blackberry. In their own words, Ad Age is “connecting the dots between Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley”.
Social Fresh Conference
(April 18-19, 2013; Tampa Bay, Florida)
Back for a fourth year, Social Fresh is a new breed of conference. With only one track, short presentations and a no-panel promise – this event is designed to make the learning process engaging and entertaining. With a mix of authors, agency owners and corporate marketers, Social Fresh promises to open your eyes to new perspectives and ideas.
(May 15-16, 2013; Toronto, Canada)
The biggest marketing conference north of the 49th parallel. Mesh Marketing is known for bringing together leaders from traditional marketing and startup circles. With a healthy combination of practical advice, marketing philosophy, and networking events – Mesh Marketing is a great investment. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the growing Toronto startup scene.
(May 20-21, 2013; Boston, Massachusetts)
SearchLove is one of the premier SEO conferences in North America. Targeted to both marketers and business managers, this two-day conference is designed to be a crash course in using SEO to boost your bottom line. With awesome features like an advanced track for experienced participants, and an on-site SEO clinic, there is something for everyone at SearchLove.
(June 3-5, 2013; Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Confab is all about content strategy. Bringing together experts like Tiffani Jones Brown from Pinterest, and Kristina Halsvorson, this event is designed to give you the knowledge and the tools you need to integrate content into your marketing strategies.
(August 19-22, 2013; Boston, Massachusetts)
Last year, participants heard from Gary Vaynerchuk and partied with Cindy Lauper. This conference is anything but average. Bringing together inbound marketers from across North America, this three-day event is on many startup calendars. Divided into introductory, intermediate, advanced, and innovations tracks, this conference will equip you with skills tailored to your company’s needs.
(2013 Dates TBA; Boston, Massachusetts)
The name says it all: FutureM is four days of panels, seminars, and events designed to explore the future of marketing innovation. This conference takes a holistic approach to marketing by bringing in speakers to discuss topics like product development and R&D – all essential elements of customer engagement. With attendance evenly divided between mid-level and executive participants, conversations are guaranteed to be diverse.
Young Influencers Conference
(2013 Dates TBA; Toronto, Canada)
This one is all about the youngins. Hosted by Marketing Magazine, this one-day event focuses on marketing to the elusive 16-24 age bracket. Speakers like last year’s Brian Wong and Justin Kingsley will share their secrets for tapping into this prime influencer group.
(2014 Dates TBA; Salt Lake City, Utah)
Alt Summit is a celebration of creativity, blogging, lifestyle brands, and spreading your gospel. In between sessions on food, fashion, styling, and interior design are workshops and keynotes on blogging etiquette, funding your site, and getting yourself noticed. This is the ultimate destination for lifestyle bloggers and brands looking to boost their business, and spread the word.
Look Into the Future (Innovation)
(April 21-23, 2013; Toronto, Canada)
Future. Innovation. Technology. Creativity. In short, a mind-blowing group of devs, creatives, thinkers, and doers covering all things digital innovation. With a festival, over 70 presentations and panels, and a whole bunch of parties – this is the ultimate ticket for cool-hunters everywhere.
The Future of Mobile
(April 29-May 2, 2013; Las Vegas, Nevada)
16 experts, 20-minute conversations, and personalized Q&As sound like a great combination. Interconnected, cross-disciplinary creativity will fuel innovation in the future – so get ahead of the curve and come learn now from a rare mix of doctors, actors, authors, and more.
Future of Web Apps
(April 29-May 2, 2013; Las Vegas, Nevada)
Consider yourself a web visionary? This conference brings together some of the most creative minds in web development and entrepreneurship to discuss the future of the Internet. This conference will help you and your team build the next generation of successful apps.
FEI - Front End of Innovation
(May 6-8, 2013, Boston Massachusetts)
FEI keynote speaker and serial entrepreneur Vivek Wadwah argues that this will be the most innovative decade in human history. And that’s what this conference is all about. Come and rub elbows with the other courageous leaders who aren’t afraid to to tackle provocative issues like risk, failure and change. FEI fuels the Creation of Future Value.
(January 7-10, 2014; Las Vegas, Nevada)
If you’re a gadget aficionado, you’ve most definitely heard of CES, one of the biggest electronics trade shows in the world. The highlight of this event is definitely the expo hall, which features some of the most cutting-edge products on the market.
Have We Convinced You, Yet?
Phew – you made it through the list. And now you’re probably checking your budgets and making room in your calendar to see if you can squeeze in a few of these amazing events.
And that’s exactly the point. We’re not suggesting you go on an insane conference spree – just strategically pick a few events that will help get you to the next level.
Remember, it’s an investment.
Now, your turn! Did we miss any? Share your favorite conferences below.
Photo Credit: Reinventing EventsTags: design, developer, entrepreneur conference, female founders, founder, inspiration, marketing, startup conference