The Collision Conference Takeaways

I was offered a press pass to attend the Collision Conference in New Orleans earlier this week and there was no way I was turning it down. It was a full and eventful few days and my notebook is full of ideas and snippets of conversations that I will try to capture in a post or two later this week.

Here are a couple of quick takeaways….

1. Tech conferences are not full of all white men. While the ratio of women to men was still no where near what it should be at such a high profile tech conference – there were definitely more women in attendance than I imagined and many of these women were minorities (including myself). However, I can’t say the same thing about the talks I attended at the various stages (Enterprise, Builders, Sports, Marketing and Music). The majority of panels had either all men or one woman and my hope is that by next year this will change. I was invited to a women-in-tech breakfast but had to miss it to catch my flight which was a bit disappointing.

2. The startup companies in attendance had so much energy to engage and discuss their vision – it was palpable. Even after standing on their feet for over 6 hours they were still excited to show me how their applications worked and share their own reasons for starting their companies. I do have a bit of a philanthropy and social good bent to my work so it is of no surprise that I did my best to scope out products with a social change mission.

I spoke with one of the product managers of Funderstar who explained to me how they are working to change the way people think about fundraising. They make it easy for users to support causes, like medical research or animal rights, without having to do their own search for individual charities. I really like their premise of supporting causes rather than specific NGOs, especially if they focus on providing trust and transparency on the charities they support.

One thing I noticed is that women’s rights is not one of the causes listed on their site at the moment, but I did hint to them to make the change. Of course, I did!

3. The energy in the field of technology will only continue to grow. I particularly loved how the the various conference tracks were organized from music to design to sports to big data and how they all intersect with technology.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to try on the virtual reality (VR) gear from The Guardian for nine very uncomfortable and thought provoking minutes. Afterwards, I couldn't stop thinking about other ways VR could be used to allow people to live in other people's shoes (Syrian refugees crossing in boats, for example) and the potential it has to make a positive impact.

4. The night summits were also a great way to meet speakers and startups. I had the chance to meet representatives from Google, Yahoo Tech, IBM Design and even a couple of guys starting a reality show on startups (I didn’t believe them at first especially after they joked that they were "conference crashers" but it seems it is happening and they really were scouting).

I engaged in some pretty interesting conversations on human centered design and the term “user” was discussed at almost every talk I attended. It was great to see that the power of user centered design to create great experiences in terms of usability, accessibility and pleasure at all touch points is a focus of so many leaders in the field.

5. I can’t wait until next year. I may even try to make my way to Lisbon, Portugal for the Web Summit later this year. Anyone want to sponsor my way there?

#CollisionConference #womenintech

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