Kentucky Bets Big on Becoming Tech Hub with Run for the Unicorns

April 22, 2019 12:08:25

And they’re off… in early May. When Run for the Fillies and the Run for the Roses get going at Kentucky’s world-famous equine racetrack, Churchill Downs, they won’t be the only events attracting bets. With Run for the Unicorns, its upcoming conference on trendy tech things like artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual reality, the State of Kentucky is betting on becoming a world class technology hub and incubator for tech startups.

Inspired by the success of South by Southwest (“SxSW”) – an extravaganza of film shows, musical performances, talks and conferences, held annually in Austin, Texas – in making that metropolis a home to startups, organizers of the Run for the Unicorns conference are out to do the same for Kentucky.  Austin now surpasses Silicon Valley as a cradle for startups and, according to one study, ranks second in the nation as a place where startups originate (

Andrew Prell, CEO of Convergence, which is hosting Run for The Unicorns, believes that the Kentucky Derby Festival can have as great an economic impact on Louisville as SxSW has had on Austin, Texas. Attended by about 200,000 people over 10 days, SxSW generates an estimated $315 million in economic activity ($1,575 per person), while the Kentucky Derby Festival, which attracts 1.2 million visitors over its two weeks, creates just $128 million ($106 per person). Scheduling the tech confab to coincide with the Kentucky Derby Festival seeks to kills two birds with one proverbial stone. It adds one more reason to visit the Festival and highlights the benefits of setting up shop in Louisville. It appears that doing business in Kentucky may just give you a good run for your money.

The first big race of the Festival is the Kentucky Oaks, a race for three-year-old female horses, also known as the ‘Run for the Fillies’, which takes place on Friday, May 3. It is followed the day after, on Saturday, May 4, by the Kentucky Derby, which is affectionately nicknamed the ‘Run for the Roses’. The Derby is one of the oldest and most prestigious sporting events in the world. Every year, it attracts thousands of visitors, and an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world place bets on the race.

For more information, visit the event’s website at

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