Yesterday was a beautiful, albeit humid, day in New Orleans, and it was the first day of a technology conference no startup should miss. As a company in the event space, we have a particular affinity for these types of events. Innovation is around every corner, in every booth space, and on every stage. The smartest minds have assembled to discuss their solutions to very complex problems--problems that the rest of the world takes for granted that someone will solve. We are among the problem-solvers, and what the future looks like is exciting!
We missed the first day of talks because we were exhibiting in the Alpha section all day. For startups thinking of exhibiting next year, I say just do it. The feedback you will receive is priceless, given the range of intellect assembled here. You will be challenged to defend your solution against the scope of your problem. Investors are everywhere, though most of them will not wear an investor badge. We quickly learned to listen to the pattern of the questions being asked, because customers and partners approach a pitch from a different angle than an investor. If you can tell a story about how you arrived at the problem and why you’re trying to solve it, you can win the attention of just about everyone. If they empathize with your problem, they’ll press you to tell them more. And you know you’ve got them when they ask you for a business card so they can follow up next week to connect you with xyz person at their company, if not themselves.
If the value of exhibiting wasn’t enough, the content is icing on the cake. Many other startup conferences hold “deal flow” events but not one has amassed the quality of speakers, or the quality of the pitches, that Collision has been able to do. For example: day two began with an amazing discussion between John Chambers and Tim Draper, who gave insights into the future of America in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship. What both men agreed was that regulation will hamper innovation. Tim especially discouraged a push for increased regulation in regards to blockchain technology and ICO development. His point was sound: America has the opportunity to become part of the next wave of innovation, but if it tries to cram new tech into 20th century regulatory definitions, the innovators will build somewhere else. That “somewhere else” could be an enemy of the US; a country that could strengthen because of less regulation and a desire to profit from the innovation our regulators are casting aside. Why should America give up its opportunity to lead innovation?
Later session topics included how the world can prepare for self-driving cities, how great ideas can be incubated and cultivated before they fail, a promotion of impact investing, innovations in automation...the list goes on and on. Other sessions dove into gender bias and prejudice, millennials’ commitment to sustainability and environmental protection, logotype effects and rebranding, cloud security, responsible AI, solar homes, and electric vehicles...not to mention countless discussions of the startup environments in different cities.
Our team met with countless entrepreneurs with solutions to change the world. Event Integrity, for example, is a credentialing app used by event planners to be sure their vendors are licensed, legit, and able to perform the job they were hired to do. Trustedherd solves an event planner’s problem by helping with event staffing. Buffetgo has solved the problem most restaurants face at the end of the work day. The app matches leftover food with late-night diners who receive a significant discount. The end result is less food waste in landfills. Selfee puts your photos on food (you’ve gotta check them out, especially if you’re planning a wedding!). Zilpini matches artists with art lovers on a platform to support struggling artists and inform the world about new art forms. Republic helps anyone become an angel investor through the power of community. Startups get the chance to raise money in small increments outside their personal network, and the average person can test their skills as a VC by picking investments in companies that resonate with them.
Need I say more? There were thousands of opportunities to learn about the “Next Big Thing.” If the innovative spirit in your organization is feeling a little dull, send your staff to a tech or startup conference. They’ll return with renewed energy, enthusiasm, and confidence that the best is yet to come. You can find those conferences on Convention Nation today!
Kim Estep is a frequent event attendee, consultant, and marketer for all things conference- and convention-related. Her dream is to use technology to connect people with events offering the highest ROI at the lowest cost. CN members receive event recommendations direct to their inbox.