Startup conferences can be a great choice for both learning more about your business and meeting more like-minded entrepreneurs. Because when it comes to most things in life — dating, business, and yes, startups — who you know makes all the difference.
While some people are lucky enough to be born into families with connections or go to highly ranked schools, others have to activate that hustle to get in front of the people who will change their lives. And a big part of that startup founder hustle can be found at startup conferences.
But conferences are an investment, of your time and your money. And there are a lot of startup conferences and events these days.
So how do you know which ones are worth it?
Those are just starter questions. Obviously you and your team know better than I (or anyone else) what’s a smart move for your company and what’s a waste of money.
Because it’s February and we’re all looking forward to the rest of the year, here are 20 startup conferences and events from around the United States, listed in chronological order, for you to consider this year.
Why not commit to at least one and see how it goes?
Date: Throughout the year
Location: Throughout the world
Startup Week should probably be called “Startup Weeks” because it’s actually a series of local conferences around the world. While traditional startup conferences bring the participants to where they’re located, Startup Week brings the conference to you. Regardless of where it happens, Startup Week is five days of speakers, conferences, and networking with other founders in your area.
Date: February 2-4, 2018 (Seattle), June 30, 2018 (Lower Manhattan, New York), other dates TBD.
Location: Seattle, New York, San Francisco
Y Combinator’s Female Founders conferences are a great chance for women entrepreneurs to not only connect with each other but to tap into the Y Combinator community. If you’re thinking about applying for an accelerator in 2018, take this opportunity to network and learn as much as you can!
*Note: We’re aware that this event has already passed, but will update when the dates of the year’s remaining events are known.
Date: February 12-14, 2018
Location: Redwood City, CA
This year’s lineup for Startup Grind Global Conference includes hot shots from Canva, LinkedIn, Greylock, PayPal, Fitbit… The list goes on and on. Learn from the best from the best and network the crap out of everyone in this “smaller” (read: 5k people) startup conference that promises and “intimate” setting.
*Note: We’re aware that this event has already passed, but we plan update if there are any other Startup Grind events this year.
Date: March 9-17, 2018
Location: Austin, Texas
SXSW is the startup conference that’s as well-known for it’s hard partying atmosphere as it is for the amazing products that debut there and the startup bigwigs who attend. Be prepared for a whirlwind of networking, pitch competitions, interactive art exhibits, and amazing bands.
Date: March 27-30, 2018
Location: San Diego, California
From basic to ninja and everything in between – SuccessCon is about learning Infusionsoft, sharing what’s working, and networking with those who can help. This year’s conference will be a throwback to the early days of InfusionCon. A smaller, more intimate group, and a focus on the software in real-life practice. They’ll have keynote presentations, training & implementation workshops, and case-studies for every business model. If you’re a startup business owner wanting to harness more of the power of Infusionsoft, this conference is for you.
Date: June 19-20, 2018
Location: Sydney, Australia
Last year more than 12,000 founders attended Launch Festival to learn about how to get their new startups going. As the name suggests, this is the startup conference for newbies — folks who are working on getting their companies off the ground. Check out Launch if you need to fast track your knowledge around what it takes to get a startup from ground to launched.
Date: April 24-26, 2018
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
If your company is about environmental sustainability, then Ceres Conference is the startup conference for you. Learn about the field while hobnobbing with investors, executives, and market leaders as you all work to do well while doing good.
Date: April 24-27, 2018
Location: New York City
Social media is one of those things that everyone thinks they can do but in reality very few people can do well. Boost your social media skills at Social Media Week in NYC, where you’ll learn how to make those time suckers known as social media platforms work for you and your startup.
Date: April 30-May 3, 2018
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
HOW Design Live focuses on — you guessed it — design and designers. Their annual conference includes 100 educational sessions and keynotes and more than 4,000 attendees from around the world. It’s a great option for design-focused startups, as well as for founders (or employees!) who are looking to boost their design skills, knowledge, and contacts.
Date: April 30 – May 3, 2018
Location: New Orleans, LA
This year’s lineup of speakers at Collision Conference includes Alex Ohanian, the founder of reddit, Wyclef Jean, the CTO of Coca-Cola, investor Chris Sacca, and the VP of Product at Facebook Messenger, just to name a few hot shots. The conference also provides amazing opportunities for networking with peers and investors, so get your elevator pitch prepped! Additionally, Jazz Fest is from April 27 to May 6 this year, so you can experience some unique NOLA culture while you’re at it.
Date: May 9-11, 2018
Location: New York City
Design startups, listen up! The 99U Conference in NYC is one you’re not going to want to miss. With hands-on workshops, expert-led breakout sessions, and plenty of opportunities to network — including a closing party at the Museum of Modern Art — this is where it’s at.
Date: May 30-June 1, 2018
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
With 40 years of experience covering entrepreneurship, and educating and empowering entrepreneurs, Inc. understands what business builders need and what will make them more effective. That’s why they created the Inc. Grow Your Company Conference (GrowCo), a three-day event that brings together entrepreneurs who are hungry for the advice, proven strategies, and necessary connections to grow a business. Motivating keynotes and educational breakouts will leave you inspired in so many ways —and with shortcuts and insights to take your business further than you ever imagined.
Date: June 6-8, 2018
Location: Chicago, Illinois
B2B startups will want to check out Masters of B2B Marketing, which has the theme “Growth: Driving Results and Marketing Value” for their 2018 conference. The conference includes speakers from the field, an award ceremony, and a “networking oriented Gala” to celebrate it all at the end.
Date: June 8-10, 2018
Location: New York City
As the name suggests, Next Gen Summit focuses on young entrepreneurs. It’s a relatively small startup conference, with around 700 attendees last year, but a smaller size means it’s more manageable and easier to connect with more people. Check it out if you’re on the younger side of the scale and are interested in networking with peers and founders of bigger companies both.
Date: June 18-22, 2018
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
It’s a cliche in startup land because it’s true: You’re nothing without your customers. Learn how to give your customers the service they expect and deserve at Customer Contact Week. The conference includes inspirational speakers, networking galore, and a range of exhibits. Oh, and it’s in Vegas — so that’s fun.
Date: June 26 – July 2, 2018
Location: Portland, OR
Billing themselves as “an unconventional weekend for unconventional thinkers,” World Domination Summit is actually a full week long of main-stage keynotes, attendee-led meetups, workshops, “adventure activities,” and parties. Get ready for full immersion in this unique startup conference that kind of sounds like summer camp for founders.
Date: July 9-11, 2018
Location: Seattle, Washington
Struggling with online marketing? Learn from the best of the best how to boost your marketing game at MozCon. Last year’s speakers included reps from HubSpot, Etsy, Moz (obviously), and ClassPass, to name just a few. It’s a great option for founders who don’t have a strong background in marketing or for marketers who want to up their game.
Date: September 4-7, 2018
Location: Boston, MA
INBOUND 2018 will feature up to 300 breakout sessions from some of the biggest names and brightest minds in sales and marketing, and will be packed with dozens of new tactics to take your business to the next level—and 2018 will be too. In the past they’ve had names like Michelle Obama, John Cena, Seth Godin, Brené Brown, and Martha Stewart on the keynote stage. This year, more keynoters will inspire you with their visions for the future of marketing, sales, and business.
Date: September 5-7, 2018
Location: San Francisco, CA
TechCrunch Disrupt is probably the most famous tech conference in the world, satirized on shows like Startup from HBO and mimicked in both media and IRL. Watch other teams compete in Startup Battlefield (and apply next year if you’re into it!), hear from industry leaders, check out early stage companies in Startup Alley, and participate in the Disrupt Hackathon.
Date: September 26-28, 2018
Location: Houston, Texas
The Grace Hopper Celebration is “the world’s largest gathering of women technologists” and it’s a great place for female founders to connect with peers, learn from speakers like Melinda Gates and women professors from the highest ranked technology schools in the country. It’s also an awesome time to network with some of the bigger tech companies, who are known to send representatives.
Date: October 1-3, 2018
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
If your startup is building a software product, then INDUSTRY is for you. Spend a couple days in Cleveland learning from top software producers as well as your peers. It’s a great way to get perspective on what you’re building, raise your confidence, and level up with new skills.
Date: October 22-26, 2018 (Check back for exact dates)
Location: New York City
FastCompany is a publication that covers more than just tech and their conference is the same. Their Innovation Festival is for the well-rounded startup founders among us — you know, people who can talk about more than fundraising and code at dinner parties. You might even say that TechCrunch Disrupt:San Francisco as FastCo Innovation:NYC. Check it out for keynote addresses from celebrities, workshops designed to help you push your company forward, and networking galore.
Date: October 17-19, 2018
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Inc. 5000 is a more formal affair than some of the other startup conferences on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s stuffy! The three-day festival includes speakers from Ford, Shark Tank, and Dollar Shave Club, to name just a few. The whole event is topped off by a black tie gala, so don’t forget your formal wear!
Date: October 18-19, 2018
Location: New York City
S.H.E. Summit isn’t technically a “startup conference,” but I’m including it on this list because I believe that well-rounded founders make the best founders. If you only spend time with other people in tech, you end up with a very narrow view of the world. Plus, we all know that our industry has a bit of a gender disparity problem, right? S.H.E. is a global leadership conference focusing on the advancement of women and gender equality.
Date: October 29-November 16, 2018 (exact two week weeks TBD)
Location: San Francisco
Eric Ries’ Lean Startup philosophy might be the most influential guiding principle in the startup ecosystem and Lean Startup Week is a great way for founders to dive deep into it. The name is something as a misnomer, as the conference actually stretches over two weeks in San Francisco, but the long time frame lets participants participate in keynotes, case studies, workshops, and mentoring sessions. Whether you’re just starting your startup journey or you want to brush up with the masters, check out Lean Startup Week.
Did we miss any? Are there any good Startup Conferences you’d recommend?
Emma McGowan is a full time blogger and digital nomad has been writing about startups, living with startup people, and basically breathing startups for the past five years. Emma is a regular contributor to Bustle, Startups.co, KillerStartups, and MiKandi. Her byline can also be found on Mashable, The Daily Dot's The Kernel, Mic, The Bold Italic, as well as a number of startup blogs.
Follow her on Twitter @MissEmmaMcG.