Thanks to Paul Tumpowsky for giving us the opportunity to attend such an event! We had a blast, and encourage fellow InSITE compatriots to attend this annual event in future years.
Ella (E): It was a foggy morning when I arrived at Cavallo Point Lodge for the Bloomberg Next Thing Summit. The two-day event was held in a small, isolated part of Sausalito, right by the Golden Gate Bridge where striking views are in all directions. The place was filled with excitement with people who were ready to meet like-minded people who love and support technologies. I was excited to meet entrepreneurs from hottest tech startups and notable venture capitalists from the industry.
Michelle (M): I have to admit, getting up at 5 AM to beat the traffic to Sausalito was not exactly how I’d envisioned starting my first day after completing finals, but it was well worth the early rise. The view from Cavallo Point Lodge was absolutely breathtaking — I had never seen a more beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge amongst the rolling clouds and the blue sky. The place definitely thrummed with energy, and it was a great experience throughout since this was my first time attending such an event.
I kicked off the summit by attending the Women & Tech Next Wave Breakfast, which had a fantastic panel of women leaders. From Caroline Ghosn (Founder and CEO, Levo League) to Caroline Pugh (Co-Founder, VirtualU) to Lise Buyer (Principal, Class V Group, LLC.), the diversity in the panelists themselves was a great example of how the business of innovation itself requires diversity for success.
Key takeaways included:
- The need for a pipeline when it comes to women in management. When a company faces retention issues for its female employees, the source of the problem stems more from the cultural fit — the idea that women leave for family reasons is a complete fallacy and it’s time to disabuse ourselves of that notion.
- Turning the misconceptions with our gender into opportunities. Yes, it sucks when we get mistaken for the secretary, but when you make that correction, trust that that is a far more powerful impression than anything else, and use the opportunity to establish your personal brand.
- Giving women the respect they deserve. A female founder or senior executive is still rare in our society, so when we come across one, step up and recognize her talents — keep an open-mind about her background, and don’t assume that she’s part of the HR or PR departments.
(E): For me, I started my day with The Hunt for the Next Big Thing — a panel that included Ron Conway, John Hennessy, and Esther Dyson. The keywords from the first session were machine learning, artificial intelligence, wearables, and sharing economy. Ron Conway mentioned how he developed pattern recognition spotting successful startups in the past. It was a big picture session where speakers discussed emerging trends in technology and which verticals they are betting their money or spying their eyes on.
(M): From the entrepreneur’s perspective, Conway also mentioned that it was important for the founders to identify a personal pain point — it’s necessary for the team to be able to relate to their customers because they need to be able to connect to their users if they hope to understand the problem that they are trying to solve.
(E): Of the sessions that followed the rest of the day, the most interesting one for me was “Second, In Command” with Robert Lloyd, President, Development and Sales at Cisco. He talked about a new initiative supporting internal startups within Cisco and how he tried to validate ideas with customers by feeling the “pulse” of customers. The idea of “intercloud” connecting distributed clouds was all very new to me and I found it fascinating.
(M): I think it might be because of my background in product development and user experience for consumer electronics, but I found the sessions on “Mobile”, “The New Consumer”, and “Wearables” to be the most engaging. Robin Bienfait (CEIO, Samsung Telecommunications America) had an interesting point about the fact that as wearables become the next frontier for mobile devices, these devices run on the premise of generating some form of awareness, and quantified progress in some area for the user. The key value proposition for these devices lies in freeing the user’s hands — and therefore enabling the user to do or concentrate on something else while still giving them the assurance that they are making progress. Yet, as will.i.am pointed out, the challenge lies in keeping wearables simple: as we continue to integrate more technology into pop culture and make it more mainstream, the need for simplification has come to the forefront in order to achieve mass adoption. The result, as Hill Ferguson (CPO, PayPal) and Julia Hartz (Co-Founder and President, Eventbrite) noted, is that because the ubiquity of experience can now make technology more human, the line between the consumer and business is blurring, thus changing the dynamics of human-technology interactions as well as the expectations that come with it. My key learning? Flexibility and adaptability are becoming increasingly more important as an entrepreneur — as well as the ability to listen and understand the user experience!
(E): Since the summit was a showcase on technology, they also had various demo booths set up. I had a chance to try out Oculus Rift, virtual-reality goggle, and the film was 10 minutes long Beck’s concert video. I turned my chair around and switched channels to better understand where virtual reality can lead to next couple of years. I was able to immerse myself as if I was at the concert and understood why Google decided to acquire Oculus for $2 billion after trying it out.
(M): Agreed — Chris Milk’s Oculus concert demo was a great vision into where virtual reality could go in actually making reality a virtual place that you can access anywhere, anytime.
(E): My second day started early with a breakfast with three journalists from Bloomberg. Heated discussions around power of millennial got my attention and left me wonder how millennial will take charge in reshaping future technologies.
If the first day sessions include speakers with great foresights looking into the future holding their own crystal ball, the second day sessions had lineups of speakers who are extremely passionate and had almost blindly in love for the problems they have been trying to solve.
The most memorable discussions was around food technology by Michael Chiarello, Chef & Restaurateur, andRobb Fraley, Chief Technology Officer, Monsanto; 2013 World Food Prize Laureate. My lack of understandings around food technology humbled me and took a personal turn and made me appreciate what I have for meals every day.
(M): The “Hunt for the Multi-Billion Dollar Deals” panel did a great job of tying back into the Pitch Roulette from the previous day as well. Talk about pressure for entrepreneurs these days! There are so many questions to consider (and answer and for VCs!), some of which I’ve listed below:
- When should we launch?
As soon as the launch hits, people will be watching for growth, and that’s when “public” data starts.
- How much can we grow? How fast?
There’s pressure for companies to establish a national footprint much earlier these days, to grow big, and grow quickly.
- What are the financing options?
IPOs aren’t the only way to liquidate investors these days.
More VC-specific (to round out the product pitch):
- Who’s on your team, and why do you guys care about the problem you’re trying to address?
- What’s the business model?
- What’s the competitive landscape?
- How big is the market, and how will you grow it?
- What’s the price of your product? How does that compare to competitors, and what’s the actual monetization scheme?
- Have you made sales? Do you have distribution partners, and what’s the strategy?
- What are the product costs (e.g. manufacturing, SW development, etc.)?
- Do you have a service model? Will user require follow-up customer service, and if so, what does that look like?
- Is there IP for your product, and do you have any proprietary technology?
- Do you need any sort of regulatory approval, and if so, what are they?
- How will you manage your brand on the consumer’s side? How will users remember who you are?
- What’s your vision? Where do you want to go in 5 years?
(E): It was my very first time attending a big technology conference and meeting great minds in technology left me very humble. I reflected myself on how I can contribute my knowledge and skills in verticals, such as big data analytics and consumer Internet, where I can wrap my head around.
(M): I haven’t had the chance to attend a big-scale production like this since CES, and I definitely left the conference excited and ready to jump back into technology. Since I’m working on my own startup this summer, the Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit was a great learning experience, and I hope to be able to leverage my takeaways from the sessions I attended in order to build a better product.