Insights From TechNW
On Wednesday, we held our third annual TechNW: North to Innovation conference. This was one of our best events yet, and brought together technology leaders from the Northwest and beyond for a day of sharing their insights and networking.
Next, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff took the stage for the day’s keynote address, discussing the company’s success, growth and IPO process. In addition to recounting the brand’s success and lessons learned along the way, Rascoff stirred controversy for opining on the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, calling it a step backwards for businesses.Digital wallets were a hot topic for the panel, with Chirpify’s Chris Teso pointing out that while most digital wallet platforms are tied to a single payment option, Chirpify’s digital wallet will include PayPal, credit cards and ACH. Maria Zhang of Alike noted that digital wallets are already mainstream in China.
Bill Bryant, a venture partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, led the early stage VC panel which featured Bob Abbot of Northwest Venture Partners, Ray Bradford of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, and Neil Sequeira of General Catalyst Partners. The panelists agreed that the VC market is changing, and that tech accelerators such as Kickstarter and Y Combinator are good for the market because they are helping entrepreneurs get off the ground.
During the gaming panel moderated by Halcyon, representatives from Bungie, BigFish Games and Harebrained discussed the changing gaming industry. They spoke of the ubiquity of games across multiple devices and the shift in pricing and distribution models. Paul Thelan, CEO of BigFish, noted that in 2011 mobile was 2 percent of the company’s business, whereas now it’s approximately 25 percent. Also discussed was the saturation of the gaming industry in the Seattle area, with 350 companies, 10,000 employees and $4 billion in annual revenue.
After lunch, Ignition Partners’ Michelle Goldberg moderated the growth stage VC panel, featuring George Bischof of Meritech Capital, Stewart Gollmer of Tenaya Capital, Scott Hilleboe of Revolution Growth and Glenn Solomon of GGV Capital. Solomon emphasized the importance of getting to know investors, and noted that they often invest after years of knowing a company. He noted that he makes about 10 investments for every thousand companies he meets with. Bischof stated that profitability isn’t as important as having a viable plan for profitability, and that 90 percent of the companies he invests in are not yet profitable.
Next, executives from Janrain, Zettics, Wibidata and Context Relevant shared their insights on big data, both defining what “big data” means to them and sharing some of the more innovative uses of data today. Stephen Purpura of Context Relevant spoke of analyzing trillions of data points to determine which baseball players today have styles similar to those of baseball legends. Moderator Kate Matsudaira of Decide polled the audience via Twitter to find out what big data application they wished existed. From healthcare, to privacy to traffic and weather, the ideas were creative – albeit ambitious – and the panelists admitted that we won’t be using data to stop crime before it happens any time soon.
Following the big data panel were three sessions focused on cloud computing; two fireside chats and a panel. During the first fireside chat, John Connors of Ignition Partners interviewed Simon Crosby, co-founder and CTO of Bromium, who discussed the myths and realities around cloud security.
Connors and Crosby were then joined by Charlotte Yarkoni, senior vice president of cloud services at VMWare, for a panel on the evolution of the cloud. Panelists talked about issues relating to security and enterprise adoption of cloud computing, and how these views have evolved over recent years.
The event concluded with a cloud fireside chat between Matt McIlwain of Madrona Venture Group and Andy Jassy, SVP at Amazon Web Services. Jassy noted that it’s mostly the old-guard technology companies pushing the private cloud, thanks to high margins. The AWS model has a much lower margin, which is disruptive to those pushing the private cloud.
We want to personally thank everyone who made it out to this year’s conference. We’d love to hear what your favorite parts were. You can find more photos from the event here.