My Visit to San Francisco for TECH CRUNCH DISRUPT
I was lucky enough to get invited to the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco and given media access to attend 3 days of technology filled goodness. However, (as some of you might have figured out already) I am not exactly your typical media reporter, so instead of getting into technical details about every technology advancement announced, I will focus on what I liked and would use, as your typical 23 year old traveling-blonde-French-Canadian-tennis-player-model-finance-graduate-technology-enthusiast, and what I did not like and would not use, as well as the general feel of the conference and its components, and my experience, complemented by some comments, anecdotes, suggestions, bla bla and all that, yahoooo !
So I arrived at the airport in beautiful San Francisco and let me tell you: I was excited. Before even considering attending, I was not too familiar with the concept of the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference. After reading about it a little, I-got-it (blame blonde hair once again). To put everything in non-technical terms, inventors of programs, website, or cellphone applications present in front of a panel of judges hoping their new technology is “disruptive” enough to win the grand prize of $50,000 to continue developing their product and launch it. They also had interviews with extremely successful tech related experts, entrepreneurs, CEO’s, you name it, conducted by Michael Arrington, founder of The TechCrunch Website and conference. Some of these interviews were called “fireside chats” but unfortunately there was no fireplace or fire extinguisher or fire men nearby, ooops. (I even had my OWN fireside chat, but no one wanted to get interviewed so I just talked to myself the whole time.)
My 3 faaaavourite applications/websites:
Gripe is a website that allows you to use your social media network power to get a customer service response quicker. The engine basically takes all your Facebook friends, Twitter followers as well as other applications like Yelp, TripAdvisor, FourSquare, Gowalla and CitySearch and combines them with the reach each individual “friend” also has to come out with a number of people you have the power to reach and influence at . My number is 770,750, WOH. That’s a lot of people. So say for example you were to have a very (and I mean very) bad experience at a restaurant. So prior to this hypothetical experience: the restaurant is beautiful, has many good reviews, you have been looking forward to it for days in advance, made a reservation, told all your friends, got all dressed up, maybe even invited a super hot date you want to impress, your Papou even knows about it right, this is building up. Well you get there, and it is AWFUL. The valets are rude, your waiter is incompetent, your table is too small, your food is wayyy too hot, your date’s food is cold, the wine has residue in it, your chair is wobbly, basically the whole experience is a disaster, you get the point. Well you are paying top dollars for this experience and look over at the other end of the restaurant and there is a couple seated at the best table, their food looks amazing, their waiter is friendly and they are overall having a much better experience than you, paying the same thing. What do you do ? 2 options. 1) you go up to the manager with your gripe application, and tell him you have the power to reach 770,750 people right NOW that will all see a bad review about this otherwise well rated restaurant. Now that’s some pull right there. If you are not ballsy enough to do that, (aka me), you take the following option; 2) you start a Gripe. In your Gripe you can describe the problem, and what you would like to be done to remedy to this problem. It can be anything from: I simply want an apology, to: I want a refund GRRR. What I like about this application is that I feel empowered to get better service in case something goes utterly wrong. No, Gripe will not transform all my internet friends into real-life-hangout friends overnight, I might start to work on designing my own app for that, but it sure will give me the power to use all my internet friends to get some pull if needed. A manager’s response even. Booya. But do not get fooled; Gripe is not all negative ! If for example, you happen to be that happy couple at the restaurant mentioned above, then you can start a CHEEEER ! That way, you can show appreciation for super service and experience ! 😀 I went to a really cool restaurant called “La Mar Cebicheria” right after seeing the presentation and meeting the creators and was very tempted to start a Gripe after having a so-so experience despite amazing reviews. Perhaps the creators of Gripe can start working on their blackberry app soon, winks, winks. Also work on integrating a Facebook Fan page to that network or friends. Maybe even get a widget to embed in a website, why not ! So there ya have it, Gripe, (it means flu in French) download the app and visit the website and start cheerleading or coughing ! 8.5 out of 10 hearts <3
I was realllllly impressed by the product Pinger presented, “Text Free“. The application for iPods, iPads, and iPhones, lets the user chose a cellphone number by entering a zip code and allows unlimited free texts to any cellphone number, anywhere. Free. Free texting. Personally I find this ground breaking. For people that travel a lot, this means you can use a US phone number and text someone back and forth without physically being in the US. What ? YEAH !!! So when I travel overseas, all I need is a wi-fi connection and I am all set to send texts to anyone. How about pairing with the fast growing implementation of wi-fi on airplanes, you can text while flying too ! The application even uses your existing contact entries and associates the names with the numbers, that way you know exactly who responded. It’s left running in the background so you get notifications when you receive a text. The options are wonderful as well, you can turn off the ads, insert a signature, have different ringtone alerts, themes, displayed contact picture, and on it goes. Think about this: you can send texts from an iPod, which is NOT a phone. My 6 year old cousin has an iPod, she can text, from Quebec, me, in Milan, for free. (assuming she would get the concept and be able to download the application of course.) The founders presented their new and upcoming add-on to the application, the voice technology. Users will soon be able to buy minutes to talk, or earn free minutes through the download of a third party sponsored application, and use the wi-fi to talk, same concept ! Since the new iPads and iPods have voice, this is bound to be an amazing revolution. During their presentation I decided to download the app and try it out on my poor brother Alex to whom I pretended to be a hot new import to Florida with an athletic body and a biology degree named Leila. Okay, maybe my example is borderline 5th grade immature but it did work very well in real-time. Now I just have to scout various social media networks to find a Leila with the criteria mentioned above to make up for my silliness… 😛
The only thing I can slightly complain about is that the application, as many others have this problem, only comes for iPods and iPhones therefore the beautiful graphics on the iPad are not as clear in the 2X view and the interface does not work as well as it should on the iPad. Application builders should consider that a growing number of people are purchasing the iPad and it is a plus to have these users (allooo) on their side.
But really, try this app, it’s awesome ! (They got the Second prize from the panel)
9.1234 out of 10 hearts Qwiki
This was one of my faaavourite presentations. Have to give 9.7111 hearts to both co-founders for their dynamic duo demonstration. Maybe I am a little biased by the French gentleman oooops. :p They explained their website as followed: “information is an experience that you want to watch.” So imagine this: you go on the website and enter a key word. Say you enter for example, ummm, a city. Say for the sake of this argument we pick San Francisco. Basically the search engine takes your city and in a second is able to pull all the best information from databases and give a short video made of photos on the topic, accompanied with a cute/soothing/sexy woman’s voice that explains it all. So for the San Francisco @Qwiki, the woman says attractions, current temperature, and location, with photos of all kinds flashing in a beautifully crafted slideshow. This is seriously one step closer to artificial intelligence. The iPhone app they are creating let’s you wake up to that same woman’s voice talking about whatever you want to wake up to. The presenter had his little woman say his name, the temperature, how many new emails he had, an important meeting reminder and ended with “you have a new friend request from Natalie Portman” all with the pictures that followed the thoughts. Honestly I love this. I could see myself using it, say if I traveled through the Amsterdam airport for example, and wanted to know some quick interesting facts about it while I was walking through it, I would LOVE a Qwiki !!! It’s knowledge on the tip of your finger (literally) and I applaud that. Knowledge ROCKS ! I have not tried the website myself but I can already tell I will like it. The app too. Perhaps they can even allow a song to play before the Qwiki for those of us who tend to be in deep slumber (allo) so that way you don’t miss the whole Qwiki with Natalie Portman and all. 😉 can’t wait can’t wait cant waiiiit ! Oh and by the way: they WON for the most Disruptive Technology of the week, the grand prize of $50,000 so you can expect to be able to use their site soon ! www.qwiki.com
One of the co-founders from Qwiki, unfortunately the French one was missing
So those are my three favourites. Here are some quick other ones I saw presented that are still preeetty cool:
SongCupid.com lets you send a personal message to someone’s smart phone with a song in it (I just sent PYT by MJ to my brother )
GroupMe application lets you send texts to a chosen group of friends or contacts (example if you are at a concert or are planning a trip) and even start conference call ! They have a cool app for iPhones as well: www.GroupMe.com
CloudFlare is a new plug in (to an already existing website) that allows you to have a faster connection to your website and be protected from unwanted spam, for anyone with a website out there try it out and you can also see you analytics !!! www.cloudflare.com
Tweetmeme was presented, I have it on my website !!! It is so cool because it allows your people visiting your page to retweet about the story you wrote if they find it interesting (hint, hint, hiiiiint :P) www.TweetMeme.com
Right before Tech Crunch Disrupt started, they hosted a Hackathon that lasted all weekend for 450 developpers to hack. Out of 86 presentations, the winner of the whole thing was a girl named J’aime Ohm that is only 22 years old and just graduated with a degree in computer software engineering… WOHHH, smart ! She created an application named WiseDame (dame means lady in French) that allows girls to basically record your last location and moves in case of an emergency, and send alerts to your loved ones so they don’t worry if you are late or your phone battery dies. Created with women’s safety in mind, @WiseDame ‘s concept is awesome ! Go J’aime, J’adore !!!
@MarissaMayer , VP of Search Products and User experience of Google, was interviewed by @Arrington on the last day to unveil a new product named Google instant. To be honest, there is nothing too exciting about this product. It’s basically that when you type in the Google search box, the box generates the most viewed topics and completes your search for you, making it a few seconds faster. Ouuuuu. The interesting part of the interview though was that Arrington would not stop asking about the rumors on Google purchasing Twitter, and the rumors about Google Music store being in the works. To be honest I bet everyone thought the product announcement was going to be Google Music, so that was quite the let down. Sooo entertaining to watch Arrington grill Miss Myer though. He must have asked her about 30 times how much she would pay for Facebook or Twitter and kept throwing numbers around and making affirmation statements like “So 2.5 Billion right” talking about Twitter..! Watch it here. And the responses that she could right away reply while killing him with kindness, she is inextricably intelligent and poised this woman ! What an inspiration for girls and women around the world that it is a reality to be a VP of one of the biggest companies in the world ! Google her, you will not be disappointed. (haha, get it, Google, ha ! Ok, ok sorry, not that funny.)
So here’s the “not so much” part about the Startups. www.GameCrush.com presented a website that allows users to pay to get introduced to girls and play online video games in real time with voice and webcam chat for 60 cents/minute. What ? Honestly the creators tried to boast the face that profiles were very detailed and gave an accurate description of the user. They described how meeting a girl at a bar and buying her a drink was an investment that was similar to the one made on the website to meet someone interested in computers, video games, etc. I am not sure I fully grasp this ridiculous concept… Any guys out there would pay $0.60 for one minute of gaming with me ? hmmm. Marissa Mayer was in the panel and once again proved her greatness by finding relevant questions to ask the creators… something no one else was able to do !!!
During the convention I was introduced to www.TweetBeat.com which allows people to follow trending topics in real-time. This website is suuuuper cool ! The whole time they had #TCDisrupt tweet Beat on the TV’s and so it was fun to see other attendee’s opinions and uploaded pictures, articles, thoughts, etc… Except I tweeted during a presentation about how the presenter wasn’t interesting as I was about to leave and at that same moment he pulled up the TweetBeat feed and there was my tweet on top of it AHHH ! You could see the technical assistant behind the computer didn’t know what to do, she just kept going back and forth between pages so people wouldn’t be able to fully read… Can’t make this stuff up. :-O
Ummmm, so Groupon, a website that allows users to get a one-day deal on various gift cards for 50% of its original value in their city, pushed the marketing boat one step further while presenting Grouspawn at TechCrunch. They came out with a concept that if a Groupon gift certificate is used while going on a date and the couple conceives a baby that night, they get tuition scholarships for X years for up to two children. Woh. I don’t know but this seems a liiiittle weird. I mean, who really wants to be known as a Groupon baby for their WHOLE LIFE really ? I think it’s a good PR coup from Groupon, but ummm, I don’t think it is really giving me the incentive to conceive a baby right now. Sorry !!!
They also had Chamillionaire interviewed by Arrington on the Second day. Honestly when I first saw this, I was a little surprised (like the majority of all attendants) to see a rapper at a Technology convention. @Chamillionaire started the interview, and boy was he not happy. He argued that instead of focusing on the “why” he was there being interviewed, as I am guilty of, we should have been focusing on why other artists were NOT there. He made good points on how he was using social media networks to boost the promotion of a performer and get free publicity. He said that his executives were skeptical that he had over 600,000 Twitter followers, and thought he had cheated, but explained that he had so many because at a concert he would have Twitter interactions with fans and would do stuff like take a picture and Tweet it right away to get a bunch of followers right then and there. Genius ! Personally I have seen how social media networks can greatly help businesses and promotion when they interact well with their customers. The best example is Billy Dec out of Chicago ! @BillyDec is always on his Twitter responding to fans and his businesses @RockitChicago , @UndergroundChi and @SundaChicago are all on point with reposting, responding, and interacting with customers. Businesses and artists need not to diminish the power of social networks if they want to thrive because this is the future people, so get on the boat yahooo !!! 😀
I got to meet him and jokingly called him “Shamillionaire” as the Qwiki system had earlier mispronounced his artist name and he unfortunately did not get the sarcasm and replied that was not the way to say it… But then explained that I was only mocking the computer voice and had been a fan ever since he was affiliated with Paul Wall !!! 😛 Cool guy, awesome of him to talk at the conference !!!
A girl took a picture of me and put it on a fashion blog called Geeky Fashion Week because she liked my outfit, although she claimed I did not look geeky. (yeah right) You can check it out here … But let me tell you I was a little tired as you can’t tell at all… I might as well have taken the picture with my eyes closed !!!
The whole week they had after parties for the attendants of the conference. On Tuesday, the party was hosted by Google Ventures and featured a performance by * hold your breath * MC HAMMER !!! Mc Hammer was on fire and even taught his own dancers what a real dance performance was. Everyone went crazyyy ! Man, you still can’t touch Mister Hammer.
Overall the conference was SUPER. If I had one suggestion it would be to have more people NOT from the techworld do interviews (like Chamillionaire) and maybe add a few performances here and there. Two RedBull break dancers did a short performance on stage the last day but there should have been more to spike young innovators and attendants’ interest. For example, seeing how @Deadmau5 constantly uses technology to come out with all of this material, there should have been some kind of DJ interaction in there, since these guys’ technology is so omnipresent !Tech Crunch Disrupt was disruptive for crunchy technology for sure.
www.disrupttechcrunch.com for videos
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