April 23, 2011
The Kellogg Tech Conference was held on April 9th and had an accompanying Chicago-wide hackathon that started on April 8th and wrapped up at the end of the conference. The theme for this year’s conference was Connecting Through Innovation and had talks on everything from mobile development to networking, business memes to social change, startup financing to Hollywood. Instead of doing a play-by-play, here is the content from the conference organized around major themes. And given that the conference theme was about connecting and the logo included a stylized version of the Twitter bird, it is only fair that I highlight some of the best quotes through actual tweets sent out by attendees. Get more specifics on the speakers, panelists and their bios here.
The social theme was by far the most prevalent throughout the entire conference. The morning keynote speaker was Deep Nishar, the Senior Vice President of Products and User Experience from LinkedIn who was interviewed by Tech Cocktail’s own Frank Gruber. Nishar spoke about how who we are and who we connect with is changing at an unprecedented rate thanks to technology and then outlined the five main facets of online social networks:
He stressed that success in work can be formulated into “what you know” raised to the power of “who you know”. LinkedIn’s hockey stick growth metric was something audiences took note of – it took 477 days for the 1st million to join, the last 1 million joined in 7 days and they now add a new member every 45 seconds! Nishar also hinted at LinkedIn’s ambitions at being the professional news curation tool.
During other sessions, one panel specifically focused on how social media can impact social change and featured representatives from the White House, Causes, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Sparked.com. Adam Dell, Executive Director of Social Media for Dell wrapped up the conference by talking about the 4R model he uses to handle social media – Review, Respond, Record & Redirect. Social media and networks have prompted great innovations but Brown showed the audience one of the coolest things – Dell’s ‘Social Media Listening Command Center’ which could easily be mistaken for a missile control center.
@dnishar: Social networks are like different sports like NFL, NCAA & cricket – “use them for certain parts of our lives”
“Part of establishing your reputation is giving back to the community” – @dnishar, @LinkedIn
“Clicks become data only when aggregated & you get insights only when the knowledge is analyzed.” @dnishar of @LinkedIn
“Product management is building insanely brilliant products yet simple that changes people’s lives.” @dnishar of @LinkedIn
“We CAN impact change through loosely-based weak connections” @komenforthecure
“There is something inherently democratizing about social media” — Matt Mahan, Causes
“Crowdsource accountability to make sure money goes where it needs to go”
“People don’t like to be marketed to in social media. @adobe has FB page moderated by product not mktg team.” @jordanldavis
“Social media is going to be the spam of the next generation.” @adamcb of @Dell
“Social listening tools & analytics are going to become commodities.” @adamcb of @Dell
“Social media is about 3 things. Authenticity. Genuiness. Dialogue.” @adamcb of @Dell
Almost all speakers mentioned the growing importance of mobile for their businesses but the conference did have a panel focusing exclusively on the future of mobile as it matured. It included people from Alcatel-Lucnet, Adobe Mobile, Google Mobile Ads and Lextech Global Services. Some of the issues mentioned were:
- Appropriate team size for mobile development (usually five to six people to stay small, fast and task based)
- Mobile searches (now one-third of all are local searches)
- How R & D budgets are shifting more into mobile
Another discussion was around building internally vs. outsourcing. Internal builds might take longer but it would be more customer focused and have a higher quality metric. They also talked about the vocabulary definition problem for “mobile” as it’s growing as a category.
The overall theme was the mobile isn’t just an offshoot of the web and that the desktop, mobile and the tablet are now different channels that should have different design, campaigns and analytics.
“Recurring revenues for mobile is tricky. The ad supported models are still not making billion dollar companies yet.” John Breen of @googlemobileads
“Building for mobile is not about shrinking 21-inch screen into 2-inch screen. Take advantage of mobile context.” @dnishar
“My life is now all about power management in [all my various devices].” @jordanldavis of @adobe
“Given that photos have location stamps too, privacy is just a fallacy now.” Marc Goodman of Alcatel
“Big theme for the future is customization. Devices are going to have the experience you’ve created over time.” John Breen
“Fundamentals don’t change. You need to know what customers want. It’s just new technologies to execute that.” Marc Goodman
“Cramming all the power into mobile just because we can doesn’t make sense. Experience & context come first.” @jordanldavis
“The number of activities & functions you do on the phone is going to increase, opportunity is only getting bigger.” Breen
“Viral grassroots…need to build social hooks or connections into your mobile apps. Be platform specific.” @jordanldavis
Startups & Financing
The startup funding panel was crackling with energy and great takeaways. It was moderated by Troy Henikoff of Excelerate Labs and featured Mike Evans, COO of GrubHub, Alex White, CEO & co-founder of Next Big Sound, Nicole Glaros, Managing Director of TechStars and Somesh Dash, VP of Institutional Venture Partners (IVP). Topics ranged from different funding channels, pros and cons of fundraising and managing startups through different growth stages.
“We at @techstars mainly look for is passion. You’re going to be living, breathing & eating your startup so you better love it.” @nglaros
“Chief difference between doing a startup & having hobby is quitting your job.” @m_Evans
“Your significant other/spouse is the biggest investor in your company.” @nglaros of @techstars
“What we did to prepare for raising funding was to build a great business.” @m_Evans of @GrubHub
“We have a formula at @techstars: $75,000 for each founder – $50,000 for each MBA.” @nglaros
“Value of 0: If you’ve got nothing it’s easier to start a company.” @nglaros
“Take the term “founder dating” seriously. You don’t go on one date & get married…takes time to develop that relationship.” @troyhenikoff
“When you’re raising money you HAVE to know who your audience is.” @nglaros of @techstars;
“Make your investors feel smart too.” @shalek of @nextbigsound
“VCs may not believe your company but it’s important that they believe that you believe in it.” @m_Evans of @GrubHub
“Founders running their companies are the best way for companies to pivot & keep all interests aligned. Today founders are controlling their Internet firms and venture capitalists are along for the ride.” Somesh Dash
“GrubHub is an overnight success 7 years in the making.” @m_Evans
“Process: team, product, business/sales. Notice that the business plan is not a big step in the process.” @shalek
“Always have at least one independent board member who will be your champion & mentor.” Somesh Dash
“Once you find mentors you connect with you should be as closely connected to them as possible. You need to have as many people staying up late & worrying about your company as possible.” @shalek of @nextbigsound
There is an acceleration of value creation. It took Google 10 years, Facebook 5 and Groupon 3 – Prof. Sawhney
Best one about raising money. “If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.” @nglaros
“Secrecy is not a long-term differentiator.” @m_Evans of @GrubHub;
“The value isn’t in the idea but in the execution.” @nglaros of @techstars
“Entrepreneurship is the gold rush now.” Marc Goodman of Alcatel
Matte Scheinker, VP of Consumer Experiences at AOL was the lunch keynote and provided a humorous yet insightful respite amidst all the serious talk. His talk was centered around execu-memes like “long hanging fruit” and “monetize” which are memes that travel from executive to executive, boardroom to boardroom & ultimately define the world of business. He honed in on “innovation” which he said was fuzzy and unreal and instead asked the audience to solve problems. He innumerous pithy quotes made him a tweeter’s delight.
“6 years ago I said ‘You are not your user.’ Now I’m saying ‘You should be your user.'” @scheinker of @aol
“Any company that has whiteboard walls, take a job there.” @scheinker
“Products are definitely a reflection of the people that build them.” @scheinker of @aol
“After you spend time in big companies take time off to become yourself & not a corporate drone.” @scheinker
“We need to separate innovation the word from the idea. The idea is good but the word is too smurfy.” @scheinker of @aol
Northwestern hosted the first hackathon on the eve of the Tech conference which was open to all coders and coding enthusiasts in the Chicagoland area. Hunch and Twilio gave users free access to their API and even sponsored specific prizes for demos that made use of it. Over 50 people signed up for a night of energy-drink and pizza fueled coding frenzy. The people who made it through the 24 hours with a functioning product presented to a panel of judges after the conference ended. The winning team of Northwestern graduate students, Speaky, created a mobile application that helps users search through Wikipedia by voicing their requests. One of the judges who tested it out asked the app who the President of Northwestern University was and it used natural language processing to come back with the right answer – Morton Schapiro.
The Kellogg Tech Conference is a yearly event organized by students at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
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