I attended RootsTech for the second time this year. This year my husband and 15 year old son attended with me. Although our app, Little Family Tree did not make the top 12 in the Innovator Showdown this year, we were still invited to share our app in the Innovator Alley in the Expo Hall. We would have attended whether or not we had a booth, but getting a booth changed our schedule for sure.

The Innovator Summit started off with a great keynote address by Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch. In the middle of enjoying his speech, I was happily surprised when he gave a shout out to our app, Little Family Tree, as a way to bring family history into the everyday experience for young children. They want to be on a device playing and learning, so why not give them a family history game? Amazingly, he pinpointed exactly why we created the app… to help young children connect with their personal family heritage in a way that is natural to them with today’s technology.

As a partner in a new start-up company, I learned a lot about strategies I can use to help our company grow and succeed in “DIY Small Business Guerilla Marketing Strategies” with Lisa Louise Cooke, Alison Dolan and Jenna Mills. We also attended a couple of very technical classes that my husband and son soaked up as my eyes glazed over. Then we attended “Mission Impossible 2: Tough Challenges Which Need Automated Solutions” with Diane Loosle and David Rencher. This class captured my attention as I thought “yes, Yes, YES!” If we could harness technology to help with some of the more complex analysis that we do as genealogists and make this type of analysis more accessible to the new or casual genealogist, that could really accelerate the process. In fact, I enjoyed the concepts in this class so much that a discussion about it dominated our conversation on the hour drive home later in the evening.

After the “Mission Impossible” class, it was time to find and set up our booth in the Expo Hall. As a newbie in booth-setting-up, I did not expect the amount of construction and undoneness we found in the Expo Hall. I doubted if the whole thing could possibly be finished and ready to open by the next morning. But, miraculously, the hall was ready in the nick of time. We found our spot at the end of the Innovation Alley, but because of our last minute entry, we were not on the set up list and ended up using another booth’s discarded table and sharing electric with a power strip with our next door booth, Twile, who were generous enough to share with us. In fact, we had a great time making friends with Paul, Caroline and Kelly of Twile. We look forward to catching up with them again next year and are super happy for their success in the Showdown.

 The next three days of the conference were a whirlwind of speaking to thousands of people at our booth, trading off every couple of hours to attend a class (and rest our legs), or grabbing a bite to eat. I even took time once to take a quick tour around the Expo hall, where I a) could not resist buying a Shotbox package (I have been watching their product since they came with a prototype last year) and b) saw Geoff Rasmussen of Legacy Family Tree (an acquaintance from our BYU family history-genealogy major days) whom I gave a business card and invited to come see our booth. I even had my “15 minutes of fame” in front of one of the RootsTech camera crews to talk about Little Family Tree. That was nerve-racking for me, but the crew is good at what they do and they coached me through it. We will see how that video turns out when they release it….

I did not anticipate how busy we would stay at our booth and thought I would make it to more classes and be able to go meet some of my favorite bloggers in person. I met James Tanner of Genealogy’s Star, etc., as well as Denise Levenick of The Family Curator, but I did not get a chance to meet Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers, etc., nor Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small. I did very little of these things, however, I enjoyed the things I did do.

Our app was received well. We had lots of positive feedback, some suggestions and a great amount of enthusiasm for the future of our app. We received many invitations to other conferences, opportunities for partnerships and many more mentions in various classes. We even received a visit from MyHeritage.com CEO, Gilad Japhet, who tried our app, asked many questions and gave us some pointed business advice that we took some time to consider and discuss later.

My favorite day by far was Saturday, when children attended the conference with their families. We had many children come to our booth and stay for some time enjoying the app. We had teens try it as well and comment on how much their younger siblings would enjoy the games. Several enthusiastic fans that had been to our booth earlier in the week also brought their children and grandchildren back to our booth on Saturday to try for themselves.

Overall, RootsTech 2016 taught me a lot… About the latest genealogy tech, a little about improving my research techniques (I’ll have to get more of my fill on that topic in recorded sessions and syllabi), about genealogy business, and about the direction to take our company in. I can’t wait for next year! It is already on the calendar.

**And bless my in-laws’ hearts for taking care of our gaggle of children for the four days! We could not have attended without their help.**