By: Jun Wang
I took an UberPOOL with another woman who came to Disrupt to represent her company at the Startup Alley. I arrived at 8:28 a.m. to the event venue at the 22nd Street, Pier 70. The venue surprised me at first with its rustic exteriors, massive steel beams inside, and the uniqueness of its raw beauty. Rooted deep in history, set among the old shipyards of San Francisco, the buildings of Pier 70 evoke images of a bygone era and stir the imagination. No luxury conference halls and fancy interior designs, even the typical mild Bay weather was heated by the organic concentrations of thousands of attendees from all over the world.
The conference kicked off with five-minute opening remarks by TechCrunch, no lengthy speech, typical to other professional conferences. A serial of fireside chats, conversations and panel discussions involved investors such as Ron Conway and Topher Conway (SV Angel), Yuri Milner (DST Global), Beth Seidenberg (KPCB), Aileen Lee (Cowboy Ventures), Jeremy Liew (Lightspeed Venture Partners), Bill McGlashan (TPG Growth), Dana Settle (Greycroft Partners); successful startup entrepreneurs such as Parker Conrad (Zenefits), Drew Houston (Dropbox), Pavel Durov (Vkontakte), and Helen Greiner (Cyphy Works); and current tech leaders such as Dr. John Kelly (IBM), Dr. Richard Marks (Sony), Paul Raphael (Felix and Paul Studios), and Claude Zellweger (HTC). Just when I thought think Snoop Dogg came as an entertainment star for the conference to add some fun and music, he sat down with Ted Chung on stage talking about Merry Jane, his newly launched pot-flavored lifestyle media platform. Snoop Dogg founded a tech startup? Yes, what else can you imagine will happen with this tech startup boom?!
My favorite speaker of the day was billionaire, Russian venture capitalist, Yuri Milner. Unlike some, Mr. Milner was not scared that killer robots are coming to destroy humanity in the years ahead. His view about the rise of artificial intelligence is better described as a beautiful friendship between humans and machines. “I think that what we see very clearly is that there is a convergence between the human brain and computers,” said Milner. “Google is a good example of that; when you have a million people feeding the machine — all the content on Google is created by the human brain and then there are a bunch of servers that are analyzing this data and feeding it back into the human brain, so there is a very peaceful co-existence between us and Google. Our brains are slowly adjusting to Google being around.”
While trying not to adjust my brain too much to passive listening, I went around talking to various entrepreneurs coming from different corners of the world – Japan, Argentina, Taiwan, Brazil, Czech, Hungarian, Uruguay, and Egypt.
At 6:00 pm the conference ended with 12 newly launched companies competing on the Startup Battlefield. Companies ranged from improving Virtual Reality gaming background to Data Analytics for indoor farming to educating 5-year olds to create a robot through intelligent toys. Tomorrow includes speakers from Facebook, Fitbit, GoPro, Pandora, and Y-Combinator talking on stage, and an afternoon company visit at Google and Facebook. Exciting, isn’t it!
Jun Wang is a second year MBA candidate at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Born and raised in China, Jun started her global citizenship by studying and working in Japan, Germany, and now the US. Before coming to Smith, Jun was a Product Manager and Lead Auditor at a leading German technical inspection company and working with the United Nations in 11 different countries on renewables, energy efficiency, and waste management projects. Jun’s MBA focus is General Management and Entrepreneurship. Jun currently serves as the President of Professional Communications Club, VP of Smith Energy Association, Entrepreneurs-Club, and Smith Pride Alliance. She is also the Founder and President of the Smith MBA Toastmasters Club and the Campus Director of Hult Prize@ University of Maryland (in partnership with Clinton Global Initiative). Jun’s long-term goal is to launch a technology company across the globe to promote conscious consumerism and environmental sustainability.