If you’ve been around downtown Provo this week, you probably noticed more people walking around, crowded restaurants and full parking lots — the city was the site of StartFEST, the state’s largest grassroots startup festival presented by Beehive Startups.
The fun and learning started Aug. 31 and goes through Saturday, though most of the events were Tuesday through Thursday.
The festival brought some big names in business to Provo, including Gail Miller, owner of Larry H. Miller Group; Jonathan Johnson, chairman of Overstock; Josh James, CEO of Domo; and Jessica Moreno, head of community for Reddit.
And Gov. Gary Herbert gave the keynote address for the conference, focusing on the state’s economic successes — according to him, businesses in Utah now get more dollars-per-deal than those in Silicon Valley.
For those interested in marketing, attendees heard about marketing startups, website optimization and market data.
And a film track included a screening of “Life on Bitcoin” and mobile-made shorts and The Pocket Film Podcast and awards coming up on Saturday at the Covey Center.
And there were the Beehive Awards, for which Beehive Startups asked leaders in the community to select people who’ve overcome obstacles, defied the odds — the “unsung heroes within our community who deserve to be recognized.”
Among the winners was Utah Valley Magazine owner/editor Jeanette Bennett; Carina Wytiaz, a digital content marketer and Provo council candidate; Kimberley Jones, founder of Vérité and chair of the Utah Women Technology Council; and Brandon Murdock, IT/Net Ops director for MX.
A startup festival wouldn’t be complete without a contest for funding. SimpleCitizen won the $100,000 #startmadness grand prize as well as the $25,000 audience choice award. The company creates tools to make the immigration process easier and more affordable. It was founded in 2014.
The $25,000 runner-up prize went to Purpose Portfolio, a “SaaS platform that helps companies execute authentic social impact strategies and showcase their results to recruit, retain and engage millennial employees — and build a stellar company culture,” according to its contest entry.
Of course there was fun. The event was bookended by parties — a kickoff featuring a DJ and other performances and a closing party with singer Ryan Innes. In between there was the daily Google recharge lounge, a hackathon, a midnight secret brunch and a basketball tournament.