I had the opportunity to attend Internet Week on its third day, and it seemed a bit quieter than it probably was on the first couple of days. Still, the sponsors’ reps were very helpful and anxious to talk about why their companies were great.
I met with Ashley Hayslett and Winston Noel from Aereo, a relatively new venture that allows customers to watch live TV online. They described their service as having big “rabbit ears” on top of our buildings. This concept has been tried before by companies like ivi.tv; but the Aereo folks seem to be ahead of the curve in making this construct affordable. They’re going head to head with cable companies, and streaming firms like hulu.com and Netflix.
I also spoke with the crew at Aquent, a major branding and marketing firm, and specifically Vitamin T, one of its subsidiaries, along with a rep from www.thegymnasium.com, yet another Aquent sub. I couldn’t help observing that sometimes “more is not better”. Aquent is an established talent acquisition firm; however, the presence of several subsidiaries or affiliates in my mind diluted their own branding at this conference.
We do indeed live in an “almost” virtual world. Still, conferences such as Internet Week provide an “up close and personal” contact with these major players in the tech scene. I say this because today I have tried at some length to contact some of the people with whom I spoke yesterday so that I could confirm some of my notes. It’s almost impossible to reach these firms by phone; in fact some of the business cards I collected had only email addresses, and no phone numbers. In fact, many of the business cards offered to us during the day had no name. Perhaps they don’t want to be contacted. Interesting … it still matters to be able to speak to another human!
The panel, moderated by Scott Denne of the Wall Street Journal, engaged in a spirited discussion about New York’s position in financing tech industry start-ups compared to Silicon Valley and Boston. More pivotal to New York’s future in the industry was the exchange among panel members about the limited pool of IT professionals coming out of universities in this area.
MLB.com, one of the corporate sponsors at Internet Week, had a significant presence at Internet Week, and were happy to demonstrate new games on their site such as “Beat the Streak” and “Head to Head”.
United Kingdom Trade & Investment (UKTI) was a visible and enthusiastic participant at Internet Week, bringing along a number of British vendors including mallwego.com, a social website which brings together shopping, gaming and socializing in one site. According to the British Consulate in New York, the “Great Britain” initiative is an international effort to advertise the increasing numbers of tech start-ups that are conceived and financed at least initially in the UK. The common wisdom is that the PE/VC industry is much more developed in the U. S. than in Great Britain, let alone the rest of Europe.
My point is that every once in a while in this virtual world, expositions such as Internet Week serve the specific purpose of reminding us that we’re still dealing with humans. The business cards of real people ought to offer a method of reaching them by phone, if not a specific snail mail address. My brief but informative converstions with vendors from the UK has made a significant impression on me and others who find it far too easy to assume that tech initiative always starts on the left coast of the US with funding from the right coast!
Conferences such as Internet Week are expensive to produce and to attend. However, I will continue to maintain that the opportunity to put a face with a name is the most efficient use of a marketing budget. Well done.
Ok, Blog Reading Public, I’m not asking you go to out and hug a human any more than I’m suggesting you name your motherboard. Balance, people, balance. Data, trend analyses, back tests, algorithms – all helpful to an analyst. But I guarantee the people who made the most lasting impression on me from my field trip to Internet Week were also the only two reps who gave me a business card with a name, phone number and physical address. Still, all in all, Internet Week NYC was good.
And in the interest of full disclosure, my motherboard’s name is Daisy.