Review of Collision From Home 2020

If I had to encapsulate Collision From Home (my first virtual conference) into one word, it would be efficiency. You could get exponentially more information faster, and the challenge becomes processing rather than getting the information. Mingle feature was surprising. It was the equivalent of the drinks/food areas, where you would live video chat with people matched by similar interests for 3 minutes at a time. You can meet more people and faster than if at a physical conference. I’m curious to see if Collision/WebSummit does a standalone app with this.

Here are some highlights, starting with main speakers:

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau – said the World Health Organization has questions to answer on how it engaged with China during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. (more info)

Worth Health Org Director – General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – warned that Covid-19 misinformation spreads significantly quicker than truth online – and is 70 percent more likely to be shared on some social platforms. (more info)

Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal – spoke of the challenges Twitter faces with surges in both use and fake accounts during the Covid-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. (more info)

Facebook’s Head Of Security during the 2016 US Presidential Election –  “Covid has created a chaotic situation on the ground,” which could lead to increased instability during the 2020 election. (more info)

YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan – today spoke of YouTube’s efforts combatting Covid-19 conspiracy theories, saying the virus has brought a lesson in just how quickly misinformation can spread. (more info)

The Information CEO Jessica Lessin – spoke of the “culture war” between tech and journalism, saying that leading tech figures like Elon Musk have embraced Donald Trump’s hatred of the media. (more info)

Andrew Yang – said the number of American jobs lost forever because of Covid-19 will be double the number of job losses in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. (more info)

Anthony Scarmucci – said social media will have a disastrous effect on the 2020 US presidential election and suggested that Donald Trump will attempt to be as divisive as possible in his campaign. (more info)

Margaret Atwood – warned the world may be facing an upheaval as seismic as the fall of the Soviet Union. (more info)

NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal – announced a $2 million donation to people struggling financially because of Covid-19. He has teamed up with Steady, an app to help people find jobs, save money and get financial advice.  (more info)

Main Speakers on Racism:

Siyabulela Mandala (Nelson Mandela’s grandson) – said South Africa’s failures after the abolition of apartheid prove that only radicalism can confront white supremacy worldwide. (more info)

Jonah Peretti BuzzFeed’s CEO – said that racist police violence is part of a long history of oppression in the United States and spoke of BuzzFeed’s efforts to address this. (more info)

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot – said institutional racism defines the history of the United States and that “equality and inclusion” have never been more important than during the “civic uprising following the murder of George Floyd”. (more info)

Women’s March co-president Rinku Sen – warns of the danger of allowing white people to define the vision for racial justice in the United States. (more info)

NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens: I experienced racist treatment from San Francisco 49ers coaches. (more info)

Former US national team goalkeeper Hope Solo – on police brutality: ‘They put a gun to my head’. She spoke of her experience with police brutality, recounting an incident involving her husband, African-American and former footballer Jerramy Stevens. (more info)

Workshops:

I did only two. One was on Kubernetes by AWS, where I finally learned how to officially pronounce it. But I learned that you probably shouldn’t attempt it on your own if you don’t know what you’re doing, and the main lesson was that there’s more to learn. The other was a masterclass on press for startups. I was curious about the perspective from larger media publications like TechCrunch (where he worked before recently moving into Venture Capitalism). It was really useful for startups.

Press Conferences:

Paris Hilton – wants people to know that she’s also all about business, and is an “undercover nerd”. She’s built a 3b empire on her brand. She’s done a documentary that was going to premiere at Tribeca Film Festival, which was cancelled last minute because it was right around the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. She mentioned that she will continue to DJ because she loves it, but more interest in business going forward, investments including Daily Harvest and Good Catch (plant based seafood), talked a little of possibly opening hotels/spas in the future, how her grandfather is her idol, and how important work ethic is.

US Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub – Her job is to make sure people can have a fair and safe election, including making sure voting is accessible, preventing foreign interference, dark money, and more. I’ve never had so many questions. I’m one of the many who had no interest in politics until around 2016, when I became suddenly obsessed with politics. I just prefer watching A Handmaid’s Tale, not living it… so hearing what she had to say was of extra interest.

Some questions included “Why is it so important to take action against microtargeting”? Her answer was about polarization, deviceness, and spread of misinformation. Also about information silos, where it’s a less conducive environment for a healthy debate. The first amendment was designed to protect healthy debate, which is crucial for a healthy democracy. “How do you control fake news?” She explained how misinformation is a strategy, but they cannot regulate it under the first amendment. But social media platforms have a role in it because it triggers the most inflammatory information. (including conspiracy theories, fake news, etc) For example, it has been proven that fraud from voting by mail is infinitesimaly small. I asked about if a website/app is in the works for future voting. She said no, and the one good thing about paper ballots is they can’t be hacked.

Tom Steyer – He’s now doing NextGen America which encourages voters 18-35 to show up to vote, and have their voices be heard. He talked about how the numbers/stats regarding the environment are worse than expected. The rate of technological change is faster than expected.

And on the subject of next gen..  – TikTok stars Josh Sadowski and Hope Schwing took audience questions on their lives and careers on TikTok and what it’s like having millions of followers. Their aren’t exacts yet about the creator house or the reality show, but it is all in the works and sounds like a lot of fun. Hope Schwing explained how the culture on TikTok is really personal, values authenticity, and is all about community, but that cancel culture is stronger and faster than anywhere else. Then Jacob Pace also took questions from the audience on all things Tik Tok and on Flighthouse. He brought up how different audiences want different things, and younger audience generally prefer knew unknown brands. One interesting question was if a brand didn’t know what to do on TikTok yet should they get on and screw up, rather than not get on in the first place… and there really isn’t an answer. But, a brand can be recognized and shared without ever having to get on, especially in the case of music.

Mingle:

On Mingle I came across interesting people. There was Mailani Veney, CEO of Kana Systems who was heavily involved in the Nebraska startup community. She founded Startup Nebraska, co-founded Women+ Startup Nebraska, and a lot more. She told me that the Women+ is for unlimited potential basically, from what I remember. It’s 3 minutes and feels fast, so it’s hard to remember exacts. But she was really interesting.

Then there was Vivian Elebiyo-Okojie, who founded Feed Print, which is early stage and sounded fun. It can give you print versions of social media, such as books.’

Next was Jan Zhang, co-founder of Phage Directory. He somehow made ‘Phages’ a Really interesting topic. I’ve never heard of phages before. Very interesting stuff though, his site is https://phage.directory/about

Then, was Marjorie Spitalnik who is doing early stage Little Rebels, dolls of pioneering women that include a digital experience also (doll & digital).

There was Mariem Mhadhbi from Tunisia who is testing out Valuecometrics, the idea of rating companies based on values. From what I remember she’s testing things out, getting feedback and her ideas about it were really interesting.

Next was Aldo Del Valle from Mexico who is part of a startup that sells software that does full facial recognition and tracking for retail stores, so that stores can get data and see everything from what makes you smile, to customer behaviors including if people steal. But privacy issues and GDPR become an issue in certain countries. I can’t remember if it can be sold in America.

Next up was Jacob Moshinsky who does a startup MoviWear that uses a smartwatch to get live comprehensive health data. Nursing homes, healthcare facilities, etc. often need to tailor things to fit their needs. I asked how it’s different than Apple Watch. He smiled big and said can you alter anything with an Apple watch? I said no. With a big smile he said, exactly!

The experience felt like a fast road-trip of what’s happening from interesting people from around the world. It’s not as fun without the in-person experiences, but feels like you can actually hear, learn and get more done than if in person.