Editor's note: This post has been updated to include disclosures from the author.
With Memorial Day behind us and vacation planning coming into focus, summer is the perfect season to make your startup adventure a scaling reality. These summer venture conferences offer the inspiration, community and capital connections you need. Plus many of them are destinations in themselves that are fun for the whole family.
Ready for your venture adventure? Here's your list.
1. Nashville's 36|86, June 8-10
Fresh music and serious startups combine to make 36/86 by Launch Tennessee a hot ticket for investors and founders alike. (Full disclosure: Launch Tennessee is a client of my tech PR firm.)
"36|86 is a one-of-a kind celebration of regional entrepreneurship and culture," says Courtney Corlew, co-producer of 36|86. "Whether hearing from top innovators, negotiating an investment opportunity or enjoying good conversation over hot chicken and Tennessee whiskey, everyone can find something satisfying."
You'll hear from great founders like Julia Hartz, president and co-founder at startup "unicorn" Eventbrite. You'll meet investors like GE Ventures and Revolution. This venture conference creates a cultural rhythm--literally, since Bonnaroo music festival producer AC Entertainment serves as the conference entertainment partner. There's a special focus on tech, fashion and the sharing economy, with thought leaders circulating in ag, energy, new manufacturing and 3D printing. Craft distilleries and cuisine samples round out the offering. If you drop in, catch my branding panel with Nora Levinson from Caeden, Jared Nixon of Shark Branding, and Dan Stephenson from Dan's Gourmet Mac and Cheese.
2. Brooklyn's Northside Festival, June 11-12
Dayna Grayson, Partner at NEA, one of the country's largest venture capital firms, travels a lot looking for great companies for NEA's seed fund. She recommends the Northside Festival. The innovation portion of the festival focuses on design, entrepreneurship, and creativity. It also hosts a film and music component-400 bands played last year.
"When I look at a line up and see a dozen speakers who I know, respect, and love to hear talk, I definitely make time to go!" says Grayson.
Scot Stedman, co-founder of Northside Festival, suggests you stroll the tech expo Thursday and Friday--absolutely free with a ticket. "It's Brooklyn's biggest tech party with over 150 speakers from both CEOs of emerging companies and business leaders who are changing industries forever. Plus, 10,000 people come to see the innovation expo where 150 startups share their products in a massive airplane hangar size tent in Williamsburg's McCarren Park."
3. Denver's Colorado Venture Summit, June 11
If the Indie vibe in Brooklyn isn't your thing, perhaps fresh mountain air is more your idea of summer fun. If so, the Colorado Venture Summit brings your vision into view by introducing you to "most of the venture backed companies in Colorado" in one day. Piled on top of peer learning is networking with top influencers, like keynote Scott McNealy, co founder at Sun Microsystems. Rishi Garg, VP of Corporate Development at Twitter, and Michael Guptan, Managing Director at Dell Ventures, are among the must-meet speakers this year. The whole conference, held at the Coors stadium, has less than 200 attendees--which makes it just about perfect if you came to get your game on.
4. Las Vegas' SXSW V2V, July 19-22
Startup culture Vegas style, this four day conference at the Belagio focuses on creating community for entrepreneurs and innovators. It's paired with a strong venture component (V2V = Vision2Venture). Judges for the startup competition include Jeff Tannenbaum, Principal at Blue Run Ventures; Leah Hunter of Fast Company; Wayne Chang, Head of Product Marketing at Twitter; and Ben Ling, Partner at Khosla Ventures. Mobile, wearables and smart data are all themes at this year's conference.
5. Raleigh' CED, September 15-16
In the heart of Raleigh's walkable downtown, this 30 year old tech venture conference has deep roots. David Jones, general partner at Bull City Venture Partners, makes a point to attend every year. "I'm really looking forward to CED Tech Venture; it's a mainstay and draws entrepreneurs and investors throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast."
Around 80 startups fill out the "demonstration room" where 700 attendees, almost 10% of them investors, circulate.
If you're looking ahead and are located in the Southeast, this summer is the time to apply to Venture Atlanta. (Full disclosure: Venture Atlanta is a client of my tech PR firm.) The October conference draws 800 attendees and 100 investors to the Georgia Aquarium. Companies who've pitched there have captured over $13B in capital. Venture Atlanta is open to non-Atlanta companies for the first time this year with applications due by August 14.
What did I miss? Please share your favorite summer startup or venture conference in the comments field.