Monday, 02 May 2016 09:31

Did Collision Conference's Mike Harvey, peg New Orleans summit as a success?

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The clock ticked down and the lights lowered.
The second "Collision Conference" ever, and the first one held in New Orleans, was almost history.
So, what did Mike Harvey think about the “summit focused upon startups, technology, venture capital, entrepreneurship?    Did it meet his expectations?  Would the Collision Conference be pleased to return to New Orleans?

A more than curious-mind wanted to know.

Which is why I sat down with Harvey in the fading hours of the magnificent event held last week at the enormous Ernest Morial Convention and Exhibition Hall in the Central Business District of one of the world's most famous cities.

Before the Collision Conference opened its doors, Harvey and I talked shop.  Actually, we chatted from both sides of the pond.  He was in Ireland and I was in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb. Via online video, we discussed the upcoming conference.   I had no idea what to expect from Collision nor did I know its mission.   I figured, I would spend an afternoon of quality time there one afternoon and say, been there, done that.  

During our online talk, Harvey, the Head of Communications of Web Summit, which hosts Collision as well as other similar events around the world, explained the goal of Collision, who should attend and why.

Ok.  Certainly piqued my interest.  I'll check it out.

First, came a special invite to meet the Collision team members, some of the top speakers, exhibitors and investors.   That event, held at the New Orleans Board of Trade, gave me a glimpse as to how the rest of the week would evolve.  Attendees were there to meet one another other.  Cards were exchanged quickly and often.  This was an opportunity ready to happen and everyone was introducing themselves, waiting optimistically, to marry the moment.

Shortly after the conference doors opened Tuesday morning, I could hardly believe my eyes.  I was looking at  was wall to wall people.  Also, it appeared that each exhibitor in this massive hall had attendees lined up waiting to chat.  The speakers were talking to full houses.  Chairs were at a premium.  

Needless to say, I ended up spending more than a few hours at this event.  There simply was not enough time to see everything.  Nor was there sufficient opportunity to meet those with whom I wanted to meet.  Still, as the hours and the three days proceeded, it appeared, the crowd just got larger and the enthusiasm, stronger.  

I spent all three days at Collision, and took in their spectacular night events.

So, as I waited for the post-event interview, I wondered--what could Mike Harvey tell me that I did not know already?

A lot.

Benjamin Nowak, the proprietor of Cinamaker joined me in the interview.  Cinamaker, as its site says, is a “multi-camera production studio in your pocket”.  I thought it would fun to test out his product during this interview so that a smart phone could shoot the three of us, from different angles. The conditions were far from optimum, most importantly, we lacked a microphone and the hall was still very loud.  Still, we wanted to get Harvey's observations, despite the noise around us.  

Benjamin started the discussion by stating that Collision did a great job of getting the "right people" to the event.  That is what he was looking for as a vendor, and he was quite pleased with the results.   Was Collision satisfied with New Orleans?  "Blown away", "we'll be back", Harvey said.  In fact, it is scheduled for New Orleans for the next two years.

Then, why wouldn't it be.  After all, Harvey and others had the opportunity to soak up the city's international culture, enjoy the French Quarter, the Mississippi River, examine the new vibrant communities in the Warehouse district. New Orleans, is home of one of the most emerging entrepreneurial communities in the country.  Young people seem to love the atmosphere and the state boasts a very attractive digital media tax incentive program.

He said, they tried new things with this event, adding new additions, to test the market and found great success.  The show ended with Chris Sacca and the “pitch competition”.   Sacca is the venture capitalist who now regularly substitutes on Shark Tank and who rivals Mark Cuban as the hip-techie.  

The winner of the "pitch competition" was a home-grown firm from Philly.  All of the "pitch" winners from the various events will be on the main stage for a final pitch contest, this November when Web Summit features in Lisbon Portugal.

While Collision and the people from Web Summit are busy with the various conferences—India, Portugal and Hong Kong, Mike Harvey said there will be one person who will likely be busy for the next year.  That person, is Chris Schultz, an entrepreneur living in New Orleans who played an integral role in bringing this event down to the Big Easy.  

In all, Collision, as the name implies, brought together people (who work, live and breathe technology, entrepreneurship and new ideas), from across the globe, for a three-day event in a city “reeking” with culture.   Also, it certainly helps that the show coincides with the one of the city's most popular festivals, the internationally-recognized Jazz Festival, which unfortunately this weekend turned out to be inundated by rain. 

So, was Harvey pleased with the first-year's event colliding with New Orleans?

To watch his response, watch the video filmed with three phones’ cameras shooting from different angles.   
I suspect the eleven-thousand plus attendees, would reply as one, in full agreement.

(Please share this column with others who might have an interest.  Thank you.)

Below From Michael Hecht, President and CEO of GNO Inc:
Collision, the fastest growing technology conference in America, moved from Las Vegas to New Orleans this year, and has drawn nearly 11,400 people from over 50 countries – a 35% increase in attendance.
Held in the week between Jazz Fest at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, other highlights included:
            332 speakers and moderators on stages and leading roundtables
            630 startups exhibited
            407 investors looking for startup talent
            60 leading funds took part in Office Hours, where investors met with promising startups
            700 investor/startup meetings
            400 mentor hour sessions where experienced entrepreneurs and investors offered advice to startups

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