photo-1452690700222-8a2a1a109f4c.jpgI recently attended WebSummit’s US franchise Collision in New Orleans. Note to self: bring along gluten-free snacks for next trip to NOLA! In all seriousness, it was a very slick conference – excellent use of space to pack in 630 startups! 

By the numbers 11,382 people from 106 countries registered, but I am quite sure that all were not there at the same time. It was rapid fire with 332 speakers in 14 tracks; 400 mentor hour sessions; and 407 investors. Some 52,000 cups of coffee were consumed, perhaps contributing to the fact that the average length an attendee spends in a session was 8 minutes and 43 seconds. Most sessions were at least 20 minutes in duration.

The name tags were color coded and I was a green media tag which meant that startups avoided me and focused on the investors sporting the red tags. While a group of us with green tags were discussing how short-sighted these startups were being, one CEO and founder, Chad of Firefly, did approach us with a demo of his app. He understood that being written about is somewhat important.

I did have time to watch the final pitch competition which included Canadian legal tech company, Beagle; Portfolium a digital project portfolio for college students to enter the workforce; and Rorus Inc, portable filtration pack that provides clean water.  The judges included the most favorited speaker, Chris Sacca, who requested Corona’s with lime as part of his intro. The three presenters had advanced from 108 of the 400 Alpha from some sixteen thousand applications.  Beagle is artificial intelligence (AI) for contract review and a hot topic for lawyers these days and a buzz word at Collison. The winner was Rorus!

It’s difficult to pitch AI or a platform against living saving clean water. Plus the Rorus slide deck crashed mid presentation and they kept going. Interesting as Rorus is planning crowdfunding with the new regulations as a fundraising strategy – excited to follow their progress. Rorus outlined their IP strategy as trade secrets as going international and patents difficult. Kudos again!

A couple of highlights:

  • Daniel Saks of AppDirect “SaaS needs to be sold, it will just not be bought” No surprise but if you build it, they will not come. There is a need for distribution channels and it’s not as easy as everyone tries to make it look!
  • AI and Bots are the buzz words of the conference. One comment from the robotics panel “let’s not focus on what we can automate next but what should we NOT automate.” Also robots are quite rude at this point and we should likely test them on the farm where the animals do not expect politeness.
  • Matthew O’Grady talked about “bigger insights, not necessarily bigger data.” And trying not to terrify the end user when they are approached based on the data.

Overall, I'm appreciative of the invite to the conference, but a bit less selling from the stage and actionable content would be welcome. #onwards.

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