Eric Norlin is a conference master organizer. The original conference we helped Eric create – Defrag – is happening for the fourth time in ten days in Boulder (11/17-11/18). I know of several major announcements that are happening around the conference along with a long list of amazing people that are attending that I’ll get to hang out with for two days.
In the run up to Defrag, something awesome happened last week as Eric continues to work on the two other conferences he runs – Glue and Blur. Alcatel-Lucent signed on to be the Community Underwriter and Partner Sponsor of Gluecon 2011.
Before I explain why that’s exciting, let me describe Glue in Eric’s words:
Glue is aimed aimed at developers, The topics are far technical and because Glue isn’t defined as “a cloud computing” conference, it’s not caught in the echo chamber of “defining” this, that and the other thing. Glue seeks to explore the connective “tissue” of the web and IT infrastructure. That connective tissue can be called a lot of things: service oriented architecture, web services, APIs, cloud computing, etc. But call it what you will, developers know that it’s not the name that counts, it’s the building of the application, and the underlying infrastructure that supports it.
His goal is simple: make Glue the gathering place for developers in the API/Cloud space. Alcatel-Lucent has agreed to underwrite 15 companies to have free demo space at Gluecon (i.e., the demo pod includes passes to the show, signage, internet — everything you need; just show up with a laptop).
The companies will be selected by merit by the following group of people.
- Eric Norlin
- Chris Shipley (Guidewire Group)
- Mathew Ingram (of MESH and GigaOm)
- John Musser (Programmable Web)
- Laura Merling (Alcatel-Lucent)
- Alex Williams (ReadWriteWeb)
- Jeff Lawson (Twilio)
- Jeff Hammond (Forrester)
- Ian Glazer (Gartner)
- Ben Kepes (Diversity.net)
- Vinod Kurpad (Best Buy)
- Seth Levine (Foundry Group)
The process will be simple: Eric will accept applications for the 15 spots, every person on the selection committee gets one vote, and the top 15 vote getters have a demo pod.
Eric is trying to change the game with this one. If you take away the company specific conferences (Google i/o, Twitter, F8), there really just aren’t that many national-level gathering spots for developers in the cloud/API space. The key word here is “developers.”
Eric’s goal (with Alcatel-Lucent’s sponsorship) is to make it easy for 15 new and exciting companies to show up and participate. If you are one of those companies, apply now for the Alcatel-Lucent Demo Pavilion at Glue.
The Defrag Conference is happening in Boulder on Wednesday November 17th and Thursday November 18th and is looking like it will be the best one yet. If you haven’t yet registered, use the code “foundry2” to take 15% off of your registration.
The confirmed Keynote Speakers include:
- Alex Wright addressing the “deep history” of Oral Culture and Social Networks
- Stowe Boyd speaking about “social cognition”
- Esther Dyson on Exploration and innovation
- Dion Hinchcliffe on the future of social analytics
- Jeff Ma on Business Lessons from the Blackjack Table
- David Weinberger on the Philosophy of Knowing
- Paul Kedrosky talking about Monkeys, Typewriters and Data
- Jeff Jonas on Organizations Getting Dumber, and IT’s to Blame
- JP Rangaswami on Information as seen through the eyes of a Foodie
And that’s just some of the keynotes. Toss in a bunch of networking, lots of stimulating discussion, and breakouts that cover everything from APIs to shifting to the Cloud to Social Media Analytics to the Social Customer and it’s shaping up to be dynamite.
If you’re from Colorado, I’d urge you not to miss this stage of deep thinkers from around the nation coming to our fair state.
If you’re from outside of Colorado, what could be better than a few days in a resort overlooking some of the nicest mountains you’ll ever see while thinking deep thoughts?
I hope to see you at Defrag.
While I’m not able to attend because I’ll be out of town, I was intrigued by the invite to the Wisdom 2.0 Boulder conference that I got last week. Alan Kaplan, a local Boulder entrepreneur, introduced me to the organizer (Soren Gordhamer). While I don’t know Soren, I like the idea and agenda for the conference and think a few of the folks he’s invited to speak, including Leah Pearlman (Facebook), Alex Bogusky (co-founder of Crispin Porter + Bogusky), and Gopi Kallayil (Google), look great.
While not a conference goer, if I was in town I’d check this one out, especially since it is in conjunction with Naropa University. Instead, I went and bought Soren’s book Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Teachings for the Creative and Constantly Connected. If this kind of stuff interests you, go check it out.
After flying home on an extremely early flight from Tahoe, having lunch with Amy, and then taking a nap, I’ve been pondering why I thought the Tahoe Tech Talk Conference was so powerful. As you may know, I’m not generally a conference goer, usually focus on tech-oriented conferences like the ones we’ve helped create (Defrag, Glue, and Blur), and rarely can sit still for an entire day. Yesterday was an exception – other than a few short phone calls I managed to stay in the conference room at #TTT for the entire day.
I’ve concluded that it was a combination of the format, motivation of the speakers, and desire of the audience which resulted an a heart felt and intense discussion. If you know Gary Vaynerchuk you understand that “heart felt” and “intense” are his way, but it takes the all the participants to play into this. Let me explain.
The format was obviously going to be a winner, as it was one day of eight speakers giving 30 minutes talks. There was a one hour break for lunch and a three hour session at the end (from 3pm – 6pm) where all eight speakers got up on stage and answered questions. Gary moderated the day; every speaker was dynamite: Chris Sacca, Ben Kaufman, Dave Morin, Travis Kalanick, Kevin Rose, Dave McClure, Alexia Tsotsis, and Gary.
The speakers each focused on one thing and built their 30 minute talk around it. Their motivations were clear – they were trying to get a specific message across to the audience full of entrepreneurs. The messages varied, but they were all clear and crisp, nicely supported by well crafted presentations (versus tedious and dull powerpoints), and while they included reference to what each speaker was doing today, they were not commercials. During the three hour Q&A, the speakers answered anything that came their way. They didn’t all agree with each other but knew each other so there was plenty of banter – some of it more aggressive than others (based on their personalities) – and plenty of audibles were called. Gary did a good job of letting the tension build but then moving on when it became non-productive. This wasn’t just eight smart charismatic people pontificating – they dragged a few people from the audience up to address specific things that came up.
Finally, you had a motivated and engaged audience. At the dinner the night before, I arrived late to a room buzzing with discussion. I grabbed my meal from the Harrah’s World Famous Mashed Potato Bar (yeah – dinner kind of sucked for me) and hung out for a few hours. I immediately met a bunch of new people, all interesting, and each focused on connecting rather than pitching me something. I was worn out from the week but oddly energized by the evening (maybe it was the mashed potatoes.) This continued throughout the following day – the attendees weren’t trying to get attention for themselves; rather they were clearly interested in (a) learning and (b) connecting.
When I reflect on the entire experience, it definitely was both heart felt and intense. This was a result of the combination of the three things above – the format, speakers, and audience. Gary curated it brilliantly and the speakers lived up to their billing. But most importantly the audience engaged.
The Kauffman Foundation just announced that they are providing 15 scholarships to Defrag. If you are an entrepreneur running a startup that is pre-Series A funding, you are eligible for a scholarship. Kauffman will cover the full cost of the conference pass – all you have to do is get to the conference and find a place to sleep.
I’m hugely appreciative that Kauffman has stepped up to do this. Conferences are not cheap and it’s a big expense for a company that has no funding. On the other hand, it’s an incredible networking and learning opportunity for a startup that’s addressing issues in the ecosystem that Defrag covers. Paul Kedrosky had a big hand in this and has been super helpful to Eric Norlin at Defrag from the beginning – thanks Paul – you are a star.
If you are interested in applying for one of these scholarships, just email Eric Norlin (enorlin AT mac.com) with your name, company website, and a 100 word (no more) explanation of why you should be at Defrag.
One of my favorite conferences, Defrag, is really heating up. As always, Eric Norlin is doing a magnificent job of curating the agenda and already has some great headliners such as Esther Dyson, Paul Kedrosky, Vinnie Mirchandani, David Weinberger, Stowe Boyd, and Vivek Wadhwa.
Today, Jeff Ma agreed to keynote Defrag. From Eric’s blog post:
“Jeff Ma, who was the inspiration for the movie “21″ and the book “Bringing Down the House,” and is the author of the *awesome* new book, “The House Advantage” is coming to keynote Defrag. Besides being a world-famous card counter in the game of blackjack (which he, literally, can no longer play in casinos), Jeff has started several businesses (PROTRADE and Citizen Sports – which sold to Yahoo! in May of this year). Jeff’s current focus is on applying the laws of statistics to business in order to give managers, entrepreneurs and leaders an edge (hence, “The House Advantage”).”
I was re-introduced to Jeff recently through our mutual friend Niel Robertson, the CEO of Trada. I wrote about this, and Jeff’s great book, in my post The House Advantage. We’e talked about getting together – it might be that the first time our paths cross physically will be at Defrag on November 17th and 18th in Boulder.
When my partners and I started Foundry Group, one of our key principles was to be “theme-based investors.” At the time the phrase “theme” wasn’t being used in VC-land so we got to make up what it meant, at least for us. We decided that a theme was a “broadly horizontal technology area that would have dramatic impact and opportunity over the next 10+ years.” (see Jason Mendelson’s post titled What Is Thematic Investing for a deeper explanation.)
At Foundry Group, our themes have become our intellectual filter to the world of what we invest in. As a result, they are always evolving, expanding, and changing as we learn more and as technological innovation continues its tireless march. We try to spend as much time as we can rolling around in our themes, playing with stuff, spending time with smart people in each theme, and just thinking and talking about stuff.
Several years ago a guy named Eric Norlin reached out to me after I wrote a blog post in 2006 titled Intelligence Amplification and suggested we start a conference around the idea, but with a better name. The Defrag Conference resulted from that discussion, as did our now four year old collaboration with Eric and his conferences. Not surprisingly, since we referred to one of our popular themes as “Glue” it made sense to start a Glue Conference several years ago.
Last year Eric and I started talking about doing a conference around our human computer interaction theme. We’ve now made a number of investments in this theme, including Oblong, Organic Motion, EmSense, and Sifteo. It took Eric about a year to get comfortable that the timing was right, but he’s now ready to do it. As a result, he’s launched his latest conference – Blur.
The Blur Conference, like our human computer interaction theme, is based on the premise that the current models of human computer interaction are undergoing a rapid change. Technologies that were until recently science fiction or university lab projects are now showing up all over the place. From the promise of the tablet computer to touch computing to motion capture to augmented reality to the “minority report” interface, the ways in which we interact with computers are moving far beyond the keyboard and mouse.
Eric’s goal with Blur is to have it be massively participatory. Everyone will get to use all tech at Blur, hack on it, explore it with their colleagues, and figure out new and inventive ways to work with it. Because the goal of Blur is so participatory, Eric is going to limit the number of attendees in year one to only 250 to make sure he nails the experience.
Blur is taking place on February 22nd and 23rd at the Omni Orlando at Championsgate. The facility looks awesome and Eric assures me Florida is a lot warmer than Colorado in February. Early bird signup is up for $995 (the full price is going to be $1495) so get a jump on things if this floats your boat. I’ll be there!
Mobile Monday Colorado is hosting a member of the TechStars mentor family, Dion Almaer, for their July 19th event. Dion is Managing Director of Developer Relations at Palm (now part of HP). Besides his involvement with TechStars as a mentor, he is a celebrity in the AJAX community as the co-founder of Ajaxian.com, and previously held senior positions within Mozilla and Google. Dion will be able to shed some light on how the largest consumer device company in the world will be integrating WebOS into various product lineups including tablets and intelligent printers. He will talk about the direction of the WebOS operating environment specifically and the future of mobile and the web. It is sure to be a solid event worth checking out.
Early tomorrow morning, I’m heading out to San Francisco to spend two days at Google I/O 2010. I love technical conferences – the Google I/O 2010 agenda looks killer. I’m also on two panels – they’ve invited some VCs who code to participate in Technology, innovation, computer science, & more: VC panel moderated by
standup comedian Twitter COO Dick Costolo and Making Freemium work – converting free users to paying customers moderated by Microsoft evangelist Google Developer Advocate Don Dodge.
Then, next week I’m spending two days in Boulder (well – Broomfield, but close enough) at the second annual Glue Conference. The agenda is also killer, is built around the Foundry Group’s Glue theme (e.g. it’s super relevant to us), and has a superb list of sponsors who will be attending and participating. Did I say the agenda was killer? The amazing thing about Glue is that the speakers are part of the conference – part of the reason we have it in Boulder is to drive deep multi-day engagement amount all attendees (speakers, attendees, and sponsors). Eric Norlin, who created Glue (and Defrag, and Blur) is a master at creating these types of specialty conferences.
I know many of my friends will be at both and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of folks that I have mostly an email relationship with. While you can’t get into Google I/O anymore, Glue is still open for registration. And Eric has set up a discount code of “googleio” for 10% off the conference price. Finally, to all my local Boulder and Denver friends that have been thinking about coming, your cost is about a round trip plane flight to the bay area and a night at a hotel, except this time everyone is coming to you. So come out and play!