Dallas Startup Week, one of the entrepreneurial community’s biggest annual networking events, is going virtual this year.
Originally planned for late April, the event fell victim to COVID-19 pandemic’s first surge in cases. The DEC Network, which puts on the event, postponed it to Aug. 30 — a date that, at the time, seemed well beyond when the virus would run its course.
Then came the pandemic’s second wave.
Instead of canceling again, event organizers decided to move the sixth annual event online as a free, five-day series of sessions.
“While we would have loved to do Dallas Startup Week in person, this technology will allow us to have the closest thing possible to a face-to-face event,” DEC Network CEO Bill Chinn said in a statement.
With the uncertainty of the pandemic, Chinn said the organization had no choice but to prioritize the health and safety of attendees over an in-person event.
“We felt our only option was to go virtual,” Chinn said. “But we promise a robust event with prominent speakers, engaging events and beneficial sessions to help entrepreneurs no matter where in the process they are.”
The event will consist of more than 100 sessions over six days on 16 topics, including arts and entertainment, augmented reality and virtual reality, blockchain, coding, cybersecurity, health care and gaming and esports.
The event will feature high-profile speakers including five-time Olympic medalist and entrepreneur Nastia Liukin, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and Google for Startups boss Jewel Burks Solomon.
Last year, the event served as a matchmaker of sorts for large corporations and entrepreneurs.
This year’s sessions will be hosted on the online events platform Hopin.to and will have a corresponding Slack workspace with channels that go with each of the event’s focus areas.
Several sessions will directly address the business climate under the pandemic. Topics include “How to start a nonprofit in times of crisis” and “The lasting effects of the pandemic on local arts.”
In-person events have been a major casualty during the pandemic as Texas and the rest of the U.S. struggle to get control of the virus. The cancellation of SXSW’s 400,000-person tech and music festival in Austin sent shockwaves through the live events industry in March, and most events have yet to return.
But a virtual future for events like Dallas Startup Week could be here to stay even after the pandemic subsides, according to industry polling.
A majority of marketing and ad professionals anticipate that large events will have a virtual component in the future, regardless of public health conditions, according to a June survey of several hundred industry executives by The 614 Group.