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Unconference draws tech crowd to USF College of Business

Annually each fall, a group of technology enthusiasts from the Tampa Bay community comes together at the University of South Florida’s large, airy College of Business building to listen to local speakers give off-the-cuff presentations about all things tech.

BarCamp Tampa Bay 2015, which is now in its eighth year, bills itself as an “un-conference,” one where tech industry programmers, developers, designers and entrepreneurs come together to share knowledge and develop connections. Marketers, copywriters and other web-related content creators are also welcome at BarCamp events.

One constant of any BarCamp is change. Each year’s speakers and topics are laid out in a first-come, first-served informal format. Instead of assigning topics or asking for presentation outlines ahead of time, BarCamp organizers crowdsource topics and the speakers from the local tech community. Topics can range from agile development and user experience design to 3D printing, startup funding or networking tips. 

“We never know until the morning of the event exactly what is going to be presented,” explains event co-organizer Ken Evans.

The one-day event took place on Saturday, October 17, with early morning speaker signup and a steady stream of topics presented from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A break for lunch included a mile of subs donated by Firehouse.

Startup Monkey Founder Evans hopes to see participants walk away “with an appreciation for what others know and a willingness to freely share with each other as peers. BarCamp’s greatest asset may be that someone in the audience last year is inspired to get up and be a speaker this year.”

"Cool T-shirts" and an after party are also part of the BarCamp package. This year, the after party took place at the newest location of the successful Tampa-based tavern, World of Beer, on Fowler Ave. 

The event has been hosted at USF for the past four years, and Evans, who attended Syracuse University in New York, was “delighted” to see the event welcomed back to the campus in Tampa's growing Innovation District for a fifth.

USF’s Muma College of Business is “a wonderful venue host,” Evans says. “I know they see the value in what we are doing for the students, as well as the broader tech and business community.”

Collaboration is key for technology professionals, Evans says. BarCamp Tampa Bay is a “fun and rewarding program that has meant so much to the growth of the local tech ecosystem.”

Evans estimates that coworking spaces, dozens of companies, and “an effort to bridge government, economic development and the tech community all began as a result of BarCamp and the people involved in fostering that spirit. It all comes down to the fact that BarCamp is not only a day of sharing, but also a day of action.”

Action that Evans hope to see last through the rest of the year. “Get involved and keep that spirit of sharing technical and start-up business knowledge alive,” he urges.

BarCamp Tampa Bay is organized by Evans, Joy Randels and TechNova board members, along with community volunteers, and it is supported by Hillsborough County's Economic Development Innovation Initiative fund (read more about EDI2 here).

TechNova is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization based in the Tampa Bay region that organizes annual community tech events like Ignite Tampa Bay and BarCamp.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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