After a two-fer of deeply annoying arrogance demonstrated by two different VCs on the first business day of 2011 that I’m still pondering (a mix of conflict avoidance behavior and passive aggressive behavior) I’m really looking forward to CES.
Several years ago, my partners and I started going to CES together. Jason and Ryan had being going for a while. I’m not a trade show guy although I diligently went to Comdex for several years in the 1990’s as part of Softbank (which owned Comdex at the time.) Generally, I’m completely overwhelmed by the people and the stuff and the idea of spending a few days in Las Vegas playing trade show monkey makes me tired just thinking about it.
But there’s something deliciously seductive to me about CES. When combined with an attitude change (rather than fighting the crowds, I just roll with it and pretend like I’m in the ocean, swimming around, not really noticing all the dirt and animals), I’m really enamored with wandering around, looking at, and playing with all the new stuff on display. Rather than target specific stuff, I just spend two days looking at everything.
It helps that we have two really fun dinners with a bunch of friends (it’s my year to organize – actually, that means Kelly has done all the work – thanks Kelly). An early morning run, followed by eight hours of walking around playing with technology, followed by three hours hanging out with good friends and colleagues at a great Las Vegas restaurant. Ok – that’s a good day.
In the past we’ve discovered new investments (such as Cloud Engines) and seen lots of companies we are investors in make good progress (e.g. this year I expect both Sifteo and Orbotix to get a lot of airplay based on what they are announcing.)
I’m heading out a day early for a BigDoor board meeting. It seems appropriate that we’d kick of our 2011 gamification of the universe with a meeting in Las Vegas. So make that three great dinners with friends.
As 2011 kicks off, I think we are in for a ton of innovative software and Internet stuff this year. Yeah, some of it will be “just like everything else but different.” However, of the areas we invest heavily in – human computer interaction – has an incredible amount of activity going on. I’ll be at CES in Las Vegas this week so I expect to have a dose of nerd-eye-candy (e.g. the latest TV sets) along with a bunch of cool / amazing / clever / intriguing new HCI things.
I expect CES will be a classic case of “a mile wide and an inch deep.” If you want to go really deep with HCI, consider joining me at the Blur Conference in Orlando on 2/22 and 2/23 especially if any of the following topics appeal to you.
I’ve accepted the reality that the computers are going to take over during my lifetime. I just want to help be involved in writing some of the code to hedge my bets. Register now to come join me in my quest.
Periodically I promote the conferences we helped create with Eric Norlin – Defrag, Glue, and most recently Blur. If you’ve been to any of these conferences, you know why I get so excited about them – it’s a chance for me and my partners to spend two days immersed in a theme we are investing in while surrounded with some of the smartest people working in that area.
Blur is all about human computer interaction (HCI). We’ve done a bunch of HCI investments, including Orbotix, Fitbit, Sifteo, Oblong, and Organic Motion and we’ve spent a bunch of time exploring HCI as we believe the way we will use and interact with computers will be radically different in 20 years than it is today. As a hedge, we believe that if the robots are really going to take over, we at least want a hand in creating some of their software to improve the odds that they’ll be nice to us.
When Eric and I started talking about Blur, he said he wanted it to be a deeply hands on experience. The HCI stuff we invest and play around with is some of the funnest and most interesting tech. The conference should line be equally fun while giving a bunch of smart thought leaders around HCI a chance to collaborate on what each of them is working on.
For example, Kinect Hacks? Yup – a bunch will be there (the hackers and the hacks.) The history and evolution of multi-touch – did you know it was invented in 1982 the USPTO rulings not-withstanding? Want to play with personal robots? Do you know what neuroergonomics means or why it matters?
As with Defrag, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has stepped up with a major sponsorship for up to 15 people who are either founders of pre-Series A startups or students doing research around HCI.
Blur is happening in Orlando, Florida on February 22nd and 23rd. Early-bird registration runs through January 14th at which point registration is only available at the full price. Come play!
Suddenly, browsers are interesting again. Well – in my little corner of the world they’ve been interesting for a while, but suddenly when I look at the dock on my Mac I notice Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Rockmelt. And yes – I use / play around with each of them regularly.
Recently, Wired declared that the Web is dead. Nice cover bait, but whatever. It’s not dead – like everything on the Web, it’s continuing to evolve at a dramatic pace. My friends organizing Add-On-Con 2010 tossed up a nice call to action recently titled Embracing Change Add-On-Con 2010. The short message – there is more opportunity than ever for browser add-ons, but the add-on community needs to rapidly evolve along with the Web especially given the appification of everything.
If you are a leader at a company that makes browser add-ons, this is your conference. It’s on 12/8 and 12/9 in Mountain View and should have a good crowd from all the major browser companies along with a bunch of your peers.
Eric Norlin is a conference master organizer. The original conference we helped Eric create – Defrag – is happening for the fourth time in ten days in Boulder (11/17-11/18). I know of several major announcements that are happening around the conference along with a long list of amazing people that are attending that I’ll get to hang out with for two days.
In the run up to Defrag, something awesome happened last week as Eric continues to work on the two other conferences he runs – Glue and Blur. Alcatel-Lucent signed on to be the Community Underwriter and Partner Sponsor of Gluecon 2011.
Before I explain why that’s exciting, let me describe Glue in Eric’s words:
Glue is aimed aimed at developers, The topics are far technical and because Glue isn’t defined as “a cloud computing” conference, it’s not caught in the echo chamber of “defining” this, that and the other thing. Glue seeks to explore the connective “tissue” of the web and IT infrastructure. That connective tissue can be called a lot of things: service oriented architecture, web services, APIs, cloud computing, etc. But call it what you will, developers know that it’s not the name that counts, it’s the building of the application, and the underlying infrastructure that supports it.
His goal is simple: make Glue the gathering place for developers in the API/Cloud space. Alcatel-Lucent has agreed to underwrite 15 companies to have free demo space at Gluecon (i.e., the demo pod includes passes to the show, signage, internet — everything you need; just show up with a laptop).
The companies will be selected by merit by the following group of people.
The process will be simple: Eric will accept applications for the 15 spots, every person on the selection committee gets one vote, and the top 15 vote getters have a demo pod.
Eric is trying to change the game with this one. If you take away the company specific conferences (Google i/o, Twitter, F8), there really just aren’t that many national-level gathering spots for developers in the cloud/API space. The key word here is “developers.”
Eric’s goal (with Alcatel-Lucent’s sponsorship) is to make it easy for 15 new and exciting companies to show up and participate. If you are one of those companies, apply now for the Alcatel-Lucent Demo Pavilion at Glue.
The Defrag Conference is happening in Boulder on Wednesday November 17th and Thursday November 18th and is looking like it will be the best one yet. If you haven’t yet registered, use the code “foundry2” to take 15% off of your registration.
The confirmed Keynote Speakers include:
And that’s just some of the keynotes. Toss in a bunch of networking, lots of stimulating discussion, and breakouts that cover everything from APIs to shifting to the Cloud to Social Media Analytics to the Social Customer and it’s shaping up to be dynamite.
If you’re from Colorado, I’d urge you not to miss this stage of deep thinkers from around the nation coming to our fair state.
If you’re from outside of Colorado, what could be better than a few days in a resort overlooking some of the nicest mountains you’ll ever see while thinking deep thoughts?
I hope to see you at Defrag.
While I’m not able to attend because I’ll be out of town, I was intrigued by the invite to the Wisdom 2.0 Boulder conference that I got last week. Alan Kaplan, a local Boulder entrepreneur, introduced me to the organizer (Soren Gordhamer). While I don’t know Soren, I like the idea and agenda for the conference and think a few of the folks he’s invited to speak, including Leah Pearlman (Facebook), Alex Bogusky (co-founder of Crispin Porter + Bogusky), and Gopi Kallayil (Google), look great.
While not a conference goer, if I was in town I’d check this one out, especially since it is in conjunction with Naropa University. Instead, I went and bought Soren’s book Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Teachings for the Creative and Constantly Connected. If this kind of stuff interests you, go check it out.
After flying home on an extremely early flight from Tahoe, having lunch with Amy, and then taking a nap, I’ve been pondering why I thought the Tahoe Tech Talk Conference was so powerful. As you may know, I’m not generally a conference goer, usually focus on tech-oriented conferences like the ones we’ve helped create (Defrag, Glue, and Blur), and rarely can sit still for an entire day. Yesterday was an exception – other than a few short phone calls I managed to stay in the conference room at #TTT for the entire day.
I’ve concluded that it was a combination of the format, motivation of the speakers, and desire of the audience which resulted an a heart felt and intense discussion. If you know Gary Vaynerchuk you understand that “heart felt” and “intense” are his way, but it takes the all the participants to play into this. Let me explain.
The format was obviously going to be a winner, as it was one day of eight speakers giving 30 minutes talks. There was a one hour break for lunch and a three hour session at the end (from 3pm – 6pm) where all eight speakers got up on stage and answered questions. Gary moderated the day; every speaker was dynamite: Chris Sacca, Ben Kaufman, Dave Morin, Travis Kalanick, Kevin Rose, Dave McClure, Alexia Tsotsis, and Gary.
The speakers each focused on one thing and built their 30 minute talk around it. Their motivations were clear – they were trying to get a specific message across to the audience full of entrepreneurs. The messages varied, but they were all clear and crisp, nicely supported by well crafted presentations (versus tedious and dull powerpoints), and while they included reference to what each speaker was doing today, they were not commercials. During the three hour Q&A, the speakers answered anything that came their way. They didn’t all agree with each other but knew each other so there was plenty of banter – some of it more aggressive than others (based on their personalities) – and plenty of audibles were called. Gary did a good job of letting the tension build but then moving on when it became non-productive. This wasn’t just eight smart charismatic people pontificating – they dragged a few people from the audience up to address specific things that came up.
Finally, you had a motivated and engaged audience. At the dinner the night before, I arrived late to a room buzzing with discussion. I grabbed my meal from the Harrah’s World Famous Mashed Potato Bar (yeah – dinner kind of sucked for me) and hung out for a few hours. I immediately met a bunch of new people, all interesting, and each focused on connecting rather than pitching me something. I was worn out from the week but oddly energized by the evening (maybe it was the mashed potatoes.) This continued throughout the following day – the attendees weren’t trying to get attention for themselves; rather they were clearly interested in (a) learning and (b) connecting.
When I reflect on the entire experience, it definitely was both heart felt and intense. This was a result of the combination of the three things above – the format, speakers, and audience. Gary curated it brilliantly and the speakers lived up to their billing. But most importantly the audience engaged.
The Kauffman Foundation just announced that they are providing 15 scholarships to Defrag. If you are an entrepreneur running a startup that is pre-Series A funding, you are eligible for a scholarship. Kauffman will cover the full cost of the conference pass – all you have to do is get to the conference and find a place to sleep.
I’m hugely appreciative that Kauffman has stepped up to do this. Conferences are not cheap and it’s a big expense for a company that has no funding. On the other hand, it’s an incredible networking and learning opportunity for a startup that’s addressing issues in the ecosystem that Defrag covers. Paul Kedrosky had a big hand in this and has been super helpful to Eric Norlin at Defrag from the beginning – thanks Paul – you are a star.
If you are interested in applying for one of these scholarships, just email Eric Norlin (enorlin AT mac.com) with your name, company website, and a 100 word (no more) explanation of why you should be at Defrag.