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Sunday Extra: Barcamp crowdsources passion for tech ‘unconference’

Margie Manning



Joy Randels, board chair of TechNova, and Ken Evans, board member, welcomed the crowd to Barcamp.

Barcamp Tampa Bay was an opportunity to put the Tampa-St. Pete area on the tech sector’s map.

Barcamp is user-driven, with presenters signing up in the morning on-site, just before the program begins.

More than 400 people registered in advance and hundreds more were expected to turn out throughout the day on Saturday for what was the 12th annual Barcamp Tampa Bay. It’s billed as an unconference because the content is user-driven, with presenters signing up in the morning on-site, just before the program begins.

“This is a unique event. We provide the venue, you provide the content,” said Ken Evans, a board member at TechNova, the nonprofit that organized Barcamp. “We’re crowdsourcing your passion for technology and your enthusiasm for technology to put this conference on.”

Sponsorships kept Barcamp free of charge.

The program was free, courtesy of dozens of sponsors, ranging from Sourcetoad, a Tampa company that develops software for the cruise industry and has sponsored the event since its inception, to Bank OZK, one of the newest sponsors to sign on. It was held for the first time at Keiser University in Tampa.

Because the theme was the 50th anniversary of the internet, Evans and Joy Randels, board chair of TechNova, unveiled a banner for the occasion, showing the development of the internet including some companies that were around before it began.

TechNova created a banner showing 50 years of internet business development.

“The ones on the bottom are dead and the ones on the top are alive,” Randels said.

“That is the nature of our business,” Evans added.

There were about 60 presentations throughout the day, ranging from basic tech talks to deep dives into specific technologies, including many with intriguing titles such as “Beer IoT” and “Internet Greatest Mystery.”

Evans urged the crowd to use social media to post about their experiences.

“It really helps us as a community raise our visibility locally and globally. People are looking at the companies that have moved here, the products that we’re building, the companies we’re starting, the various accelerator and university programs. Help put us more on the map by being a little bit more vocal on social media,” he said.

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    joy randels

    October 7, 2019at9:20 am

    Thanks so much for the being to Margie, Joe and the St. Pete Catalyst Team for joining us at Barcamp Tampa Bay. We were just shy of 700 in attendance and a mass surge after lunch which is unusual as attendance is generally the highest in the morning. Every open room was booked until for the 2pm and 3pm sessions. We fell very good about those numbers considering we were competing with local and regional events this year.

    Keiser University was an amazing partner and host for us an went above and beyond to help us make Barcamp a success. We absolutely love our new venue and Barcampers commented on how much they enjoyed the new venue. We are very pleased to announce we will be back at Keiser on October 3, 2020!

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