Kitchener-Waterloo’s first ever Tech Fest a success

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Techvibes recently hosted its first-ever Tech Fest in Kitchener-Waterloo. Eighteen companies and over 400 job seekers attended the networking event, held May 21 at Bingemans, that included complimentary drinks, appetizers, and, of course, the opportunity to meet representatives from some of the hottest local tech companies.</p>

Tech Fest, which was first held in Vancouver in the fall of 2013 and has since expanded to Toronto and London, is free for job seekers. For the particularly keen, VIP tickets are available which grant entry an hour early ­­— allowing access to the eager hiring companies without the crowds that come with general attendance tickets — and include a drink.

Rob Lewis, the president of Techvibes Media and editor-in-chief of Techvibes.com, told Imprint that the event was originally conceived of as a way of taking the idea of tech companies pitching to venture capitalists and applying it to hiring companies pitching to job seekers. After an hour of networking, representatives from local companies including Vidyard, Kik, Miovision and Enflick, among others, gave three-minute pitches that ranged from emphatic and spirited. to relatively dull.

There is a strong competitive edge to Tech Fest, and companies are encouraged to be creative with their booths. Vidyard brought a mascot with them that danced throughout the evening, Kik came prepared with a popcorn machine, and, not to be outdone, Miovision treated attendees to a full café complete with barista and espresso machine. Those that didn’t bring elaborate booth attractions came replete with company swag.

Lewis said that on top of access to recruiters and engineers at some of the most sought-after tech companies in the country, the combination of free food, drinks, company swag, and the extras mentioned above have been a big part of the event’s success.

“From a job seeker perspective, I think it would have been hard to leave unhappy,” he added. It certainly appears as though attendees agreed. At the Toronto event held in February on one of the coldest days of the year, ticket holders were lined up out the door and many had to wait to get in.

Events like these make a lot of sense for companies as well. At $1,500, getting a booth isn’t exactly cheap — one of the earlier-stage startups had theirs gifted to them by Communitech — but compared to the $10-20,000 per hire fee for a professional recruiter, it’s very affordable. Many of the company representatives at the event said that even without a direct hire, getting a booth is still worth the fee — just getting the “we’re hiring” message out to the local talent community is enough.

The many job seekers in attendance seemed satisfied with the event. There was some frustration with constantly getting told to apply online — the approach most companies take — after spending the time to strike up a conversation, but most see this as a necessary part of job hunting.

Attendees were also frustrated by the relatively remote location of the event. Lewis told Imprint that he is aware that the location wasn’t ideal, and that next year he and his team will try to find better and more central facilities.

There were surprisingly few Waterloo students in attendance ­­— most of the recruiters said that they had only talked to one or two all evening. The largest student representation came from Conestoga College.

Techvibes is planning at least four more Tech Fests later this year. They have fall events scheduled in Toronto, Vancouver, London, and Ottawa as well as a tentative plan to hold one in Montreal. 

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