New format highlights 2022 Forward Festival

Approximately 30 events will take place over a new five-day format from Aug. 15–19.
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Entrepreneurs, students, small business owners, tech-folks, and difference-makers will have new chances to learn, make connections, and collaborate with others at the 13th annual Forward Festival, which will feature approximately 30 events spread over a new five-day format from Aug. 15–19.

“As a festival, we pride ourselves on being people-focused,” says Hilary Stohs-Krause, festival board member and co-owner of Ten Forward Consulting. “After doing research and getting attendees’ feedback, we decided to change the format of the festival. We hope participants and speakers will appreciate how the new schedule better aligns with the workweek.”

Forward Festival previously took place over an eight-day span.

“There are a couple of different factors that led to changing the format from eight days to five days,” explains Stohs-Krause. “The ultimate goal is to provide a slate of high-quality events. After receiving specific feedback from attendees, they preferred a shorter, denser format, which will allow them to have even more chances to learn, make connections, and collaborate with other entrepreneurs each day. As a festival run by entrepreneurs, we’re always looking to innovate and iterate and try new things.”

The condensed format is designed to inspire collaboration in Madison’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, specifically with event organizers working together this year more than ever. For example, area workplace and economic diversity groups are organizing the Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Many of the long-time favorites will be back this year, including the Badger Startup Summit on Aug. 15, Pressure Chamber on Aug. 16, Doyenne Group’s 5x5x5 pitch event on Aug. 17, and the festival-closing Rooftop Social on Aug. 19. Other popular events that are back on the calendar include High Tech Happy Hour, Social Media Breakfast, and Social Good Summit. Since these are some of the larger networking events, attendees like seeing what’s new in startups and hearing high-level conversations among city leaders.

“A perennial goal of the festival is to expand our concept of ‘entrepreneur’ and make the festival even more welcoming and inclusive to founders, makers, and innovators of all types,” says Stohs-Krause. “Two new events this year include Madison Women in Tech’s job fair for women and nonbinary folks, as well as a drag bingo social at Delta Beer Lab, which is the new beer partner. We also have some exciting events about innovation in industries that are not often highlighted — specifically, manufacturing and soccer technology, with Forward Madison.

“Another big change is our partnership with DevFest WI, which is replacing Forward Technology Conference as the flagship tech conference for the festival,” continues Stohs-Krause. “DevFest’s organizing committee is all women, including several Forward Fest board members, and the conference lineup centers around a variety of topics related to inclusivity in the tech industry.

“We’re also looking forward to a panel about the Madison Public Market and how this exciting development will support local entrepreneurs and the city at-large,” Stohs-Krause adds.

Similar to entrepreneurs, the festival continues to evolve. This year, some of the successful components of the last two largely virtual events, like the festival app, are being retained and moved into an in-person experience.

This year, participants also have different options for the Forward Pass — a free Virtual-Only Pass or the standard Forward Pass, which gives access to all virtual and in-person events.

For a detailed listing of events taking place during the Forward Festival, visit

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