Billed as Scotland’s “tech gathering”, Turing Fest returns to Edinburgh in August, with some 1,000 delegates expected to attend the two-day event to hear from a line-up of 50 speakers.
Turing Fest, launched in 2011 by Jamie Coleman – co-founder and chairman of technology start-up incubator CodeBase – will be held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) on 2 and 3 August, just before the city plays host to the world-famous Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
This year will be biggest yet for the Fest, which had about 700 attendees last year, and organisers are also planning an investment networking event the night before the conference itself kicks off.
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Turing Fest chief executive Brian Corcoran told The Scotsman: “Anyone who’s involved in building a tech business in Scotland – not just founders – should be there. I don’t think there’s a better day or two of learning to be had in Scotland this year.
“As the tech ecosystem has matured, Turing Fest has as well, and now it’s fair to say it’s a conference about the business of technology.”
Conference themes and speakers
The event offers “four conferences in one”, with data scientists, product managers, marketing experts and start-up founders and investors from around the world gathering for two days of insight and inspiration.
Day one, on Wednesday 2 August, focuses on two themes – product and strategy.
Speakers in the product strand include entrepreneur and angel investor Qasar Younis, former chief operating officer early-stage venture fund Y Combinator, user experience (UX) designer Jeff Gothelf and Jane Austin, director of design and UX at online print business Moo.
Skyscanner co-founder and chief executive Gareth Williams will be speaking about strategy, along with others including Founders4Schools charity founder Sherry Coutu and Rob Jones, co-founder and executive vice-president of design at fantasy sports operator FanDuel.
Day two, on Thursday 3 August, concentrates on the themes of engineering and marketing.
Engineering speakers include Maria Gutierrez, vice-president of engineering at Edinburgh-based online account software developer FreeAgent, Adam Gross, chief executive of platform-as-a-service provider Heroku, and Government Digital Service open source lead Anna Shipman.
Meanwhile, Rand Fishkin, founder and former chief executive of search engine optimisation (SEO) start-up Moz, will be making his only UK speaking appearance this year at Turing Fest’s marketing conference, where other speakers include Wil Reynolds, founder of digital marketing agency Seer Interactive, and SEO consultant Aleyda Solis.
Conference tickets are available on the Turing Fest website, priced at £169 per day, or £249 for the two-day pass, excluding VAT. A 10 per cent discount is available for groups booking four or more tickets.
What will you gain from attending?
Corcoran said: “The point of Turing Fest when it began, and where it is today, is about education and learning. We’ve got the potential in Scotland to build some amazing technology businesses and in many ways we don’t really have a choice – we have to get on that bandwagon because technology is going to play a bigger part in every business.
“Turing Fest is trying to play a role in helping people who are already involved in the tech ecosystem to get better at what they do, and also to bring more people into that ecosystem, whether they’re students, governments or established businesses that are trying to adapt to the new realities of tech.”
As well as the main conferences, Corcoran said an “essential element” of Turing Fest was its evening events, dubbed the Night Fest, where delegates can gather in a more relaxed atmosphere.
“The social side is a key part of the technology ecosystem, as it’s different to the traditional nine-to-five way of working. In the technology world, we’re all connected all of the time, which isn’t necessarily a good thing but that’s the reality at the moment. The whole point of Night Fest is to get everyone together.”
The first evening will see attendees descend on the Mash House nightspot in the Cowgate area, while the Fest will finish up the following night with a pub crawl through the city.
Corcoran said: “It’s a huge factor in attracting people – when I get in touch with potential speakers a lot of them say they’ve heard the Fest is great fun.”
Along with the informal networking opportunities, this year’s Turing Fest will be preceded by an “investor speed-dating” event.
Corcoran said: “We’re going ahead with an event called Next Gen, which will run on the evening before Turing Fest. We’ve got 15 to 20 venture capitalists, almost all of them from outside Scotland, and we’ll have about 50 place available for Scottish-based technology entrepreneurs who are interested in raising seed and A-round capital, and potentially beyond.
“Turing Fest is a draw for these investors and we’re looking to capitalise on that when they’re in town. The format is pretty relaxed but we’re aiming to get a lot in – over the course of the evening we’ll basically have investor speed-dating where founders and investors can meet each other to see if there’s a conversation to be had.”
Where to stay
Turing Fest has partnered with Convention Edinburgh to offer delegates special rates on a range of hotel rooms and apartments in Edinburgh. There is a link on its website that connects to its partner booking site, where delegates will need to register before making a booking.
The EICC is in the heart of Edinburgh and neighbours the five-star Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa. Other nearby hotels include the Premier Inn on Lauriston Place and DoubleTree by Hilton on Bread Street, while Fountain Court Apartments has 230 serviced apartments across eight central locations.