Collision is “America’s fastest growing tech conference” by the team behind Europe's massive Web Summit. In its second year, Collision has grown to over 10,000 attendees from more than 50 countries. There for talks, demos, debates and pitches were CEOs of the world’s fastest growing startups and the world’s largest companies, alongside top Venture Capitalists (VCs), academics and media.
Tom Kelshaw and Jodi Neuhauser attended, connecting with startups and opportunities from their earliest stages to maturity.
Dominant themes from presentations, interviews and hustling on the show floor were:
Diversity: The Greed case for Good
Diversity is an essential part of any successful organisational structure & strategy. It's just plain good business. In the startup world, disproportionate mixes of women, ethnicities, ages & abilities can threaten good business.
An AI-focused panel spoke of the danger of accelerating automation (via AI and algorithms) in being coded to reflect existing biases... Douglas Merill of lending startup ZestFinance, who struggled with deafness and dyslexia, cautioned against disregarding large majorities of profitable customers because they don't fit a typical type.
Birchbox founder Hayley Barna warned that only 10% of seed funding [assumed: in USA?] went to women.
[Whereas in MENA, 500 Startups (one of the most profitable and successful venture funds in the world) notes that more than 50% of founders they're looking at are women. Catch up, Silicon Valley.]
Sacca (a billionaire) explained investing in diverse teams and markets (e.g Africa) as simply "being greedy and getting rich". One example was StyleSeat, a marketplace for hair & beauty stylists, which other VCs avoided so he "went all in" … to make many millions.
Harper Reed, former CTO of Barack Obama's campaigns and Threadless, warned against unconscious biases that plague corporate and tech worlds. Hiring from outside your "comfort zone" can introduce various skills, experience & maturity that might be missing form young companies.
Some recommendations to learn more about bias:
- Harvard's Unconscious Bias Tests
- Facebook's internal course on Understanding Biases
- Which were given good reviews by the Harvard Business Review
Cannabis: The Greed case for Weed
With California's AUMA Act likely passing in November, more and more USA states are legalising marijuana and creating a multi-billion dollar market.
- Investors Peter Thiel (Facebook & PayPal VC) & Snoop Dogg (Casa Verde) have backed Cannabis startups such as Eaze & Meadow (delivery), Merry Jane (media) and Bob Marley - Natural (branding).
- We spoke with the founder of YCombinator-backed Confident Cannabis, which unifies the compliance & testing of product at disparate laboratories around the legalized states. Unlike say, wines, which have no objective measure of their quality or taste, marijuana must be chemically analysed before sale (like the ingredients list on the side of a packet of processed food). Confident Cannabis are cornering the market between growers, distributors & retail outlets... creating a sort of data-led futures exchange of varieties with attributes that may in high demand.
When markets emerge, such as CPG in South East Asia, brands and agencies have moved quickly to take advantage. I wonder who will be the first "all green agency" to open shop to service this consumer opportunity?
- Wattpad - Perhaps the most popular social network most people have never heard of. Provides a platform for both writing & reading fiction, with line-by-line- comments from fans. Which must be daunting for authors. But it's launching breakout stars like Anna Todd and her six-book series "After", with a Paramount Pictures deal. Brands like AT&T & Coca-Cola are already working with WattPad and their legion of active contributors on branded stories.
- Knocki - IoT and Smart Homes have been big for a while, but I loved this innovative input device. It uses a simple vibration sensor and very smart algorithms to detect taps & knocks on any surface. Place a few of these sensors on, under or behind walls, tables, bed-frames, doors etc. One, two, three or more taps (even morse code) can be used to activate smart home devices like door locks, lights, Sonos, Nest thermostats etc.
- DiaperKind - "Uber for X" startups are common as... muck. This NYC-launched startup provides the washing & cleaning services for re-usable cloth nappies ("diapers"). For environmentally-conscious mums, reusable diapers without the cleaning & sanitising might be an attractive proposition. They promise to bring the latest in textile-tech to combat the various innovations from disposable giants like KimberlyClark, P&G & UniCharm - who reap a majority of the $30B diaper market.
- JoJu - Attractive, inspirational influencers have always sold fashion, and more recently sold their own fashion lines. But not every Instagram or Line star has their own Tom Ford on call - so JoJu (out of Paris, naturally) are connecting fashion designers with the hip & influential. It's a revenue-share model that provides accessible apparel collections for influencers that they can sell to their fans & followers.
- Converus Lie Detector - Modern Machine Learning tech has enabled basic computer vision (e.g laptop & mobile cameras) to exceed the capabilities of custom hardware costing 100x as much. Taking advantage of this is Converus, which analyses very small eye movements to detect lies. It's used for employers and perhaps law enforcement, but I think the real fun would be reality television & games - there's a delicious tension in the act of lying which could be exciting for brands to take part in.
- Cookmood - Cooking shows are nothing new, but live, on-demand cooking training mimics a trend in On-demand professional services being performed in the "gig economy", from medicine, psychiatry and counselling to personal training or beauty advice via video conferencing mobile apps.
- Q-Fi Solutions - Somewhere between Qualtrics & SurveyMonkey, this company offers extensive online survey functionality at a reasonable price.
- Wireless Registry - Wireless Registry is a Location-based services startup that provides an API for mobile apps to identify very accurate location via combination of wireless & other signals that surround us (beacons, IoT products). If Wireless Registry can forge a relationship with the two largest mobile advertising services companies in the world (Yahoo's Flurry & Verizon's Millennial Media) then they'd have an incredible pool of contributing devices to build their database.
- Sabbatical - Powering employee/group sabbaticals in beautiful locations like Puerto Rico. Mixes aspects of WeWork and Airbnb with offsite/training sector and the growing corporate trend of offering sabbaticals to retain staff. They manage properties & programs in very exciting locales - starting in Puerto Rico.
- Indigital Australia - AR without internet. Uses Vuforia AR engine to activate visual data based on known markers, such as rock formations, indigenous art or even strange plants. Awesome to know the founders are indigenous Australians themselves, a typically under-served part of Australia's digital economy.