Conferences are like a box of chocolates… You never know what you’re going to get. Beyond the famed Forrest Gump reference, you get what I’m talking about- opening that box full of ambiguously filled, homogenous mirage of brown. In an effort to stay classy, you slyly poke a hole in the bottom to decide if it’s enticing enough to eat. Swiftly moving to our point, TriplePoint jetted over for WIRED’s inaugural conference in London last week. We attended to learn about the newest ideas and innovations from the leaders reshaping our world in various ways; we were able to see what the future has in store for us. This particular “box” had speakers and attendees from all over the world representing just about every spectrum: writers, visionaries, DJ’s, economists, engineers, artists, and ex-terrorists. Like a box of chocolate with the commonality of deliciousness, what could all these individuals have in common? Passion for innovation.
Each speaker at the two-day conference chose his or her topic, making the presentations exceptionally delightful and inspiring. We were blown away and humbled by the people we met at the conference- speakers and attendees were nothing but of the highest caliber. Here are five takeaways from the trip on what inspired us:
-Aza Raskin (Massive Health)-
Healthcare is not perfect, anywhere. By 2020 around 52 percent of Americans will be diabetic or pre-diabetic. This is horrifying, and what inspired Massive Health’s Aza Raskin, former creative lead at Mozilla. He described our healthcare system as clinically insane and that “we are always trying to solve the wrong problem.” So, what is the correct problem? Feedback loops: which Aza introduced by showing the popular, yet somewhat comical Marshmallow Experiment. We need to bring back the feedback loop for the body to remind people not to overeat, or to correctly take their medication. To address this global issue, Massive Health wants to make a product for people’s health that they love to use. Their first experiment aims to incorporate all of the digital tools available to us, to ensure we lead healthier and happier lives, which you can sign up here for early access.
Lisa Harouni, of Digital Forming, has the goal to design and create products at the click of a button. Beyond creation of aesthetics and accessories, these 3D printers have the capability to revolutionize medicine. Prosthetics and implants are devices that can be built with 3D printers that couldn’t be manufactured in a traditional way (with semi-porous structures that the body can grow into which reduces the risk of rejection by the body). Dr. Anthony Atala, has begun to 3D-print organs themselves- building bladders, bowels, and kidneys using human cells. It’s then only a short step to customized organs.
-Carrie Lemack (Global Survivors Networks) & Henry Robinson (Former member of IRA, Co-Founder of Families Against Intimidation & Terror)-
Community & Connections
Inspiration and innovation can be found in all nooks and crannies, including less technological subjects such as family reunions or terrorism. On a panel titled, “The Formers- Changing Minds,” Carrie Lemack, founder of Global Survivors Networks, and Henry Robinson, former member of the IRA and co-founder of Families Against Intimidation and Terror discuss how survivors of terrorism need to use innovation to take on extremists. “Extremists have innovated. They have used liquid explosives, shoes and one individual tried to put explosives in his underpants,” states Lemack, “So, how can we use innovation to fight fire with fire?” The conclusion was an Oscar-nominated documentary titled, Killing in the Name that brings a compelling and emotional message they hope to share with the world. In this powerful narrative, over 70 former terrorists and a few survivors are interviewed. You can watch the trailer here.
We always hear stories about the ultra-connected world we live in. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Chris and David Mikkelsen, founded Refugees United in an effort to help connect families throughout the world, and empower people to act on their own behalf. The charity is a mobile phone-based service, looking to become the Google search of refugees. The Danish brothers decided to found the company after the pair helped a young Afghan refugee in his journey to find his family.
“It’s about connecting islands of goodwill until we have an entire continent,” says Mikkelsen. In order to maintain anonymity (for safety reasons), the company allows people to register online with nicknames, descriptions of scars, locations or other markers only known and identifiable to closest family members and friends. In 2009, they started with a mere 700 registrations. Today, there are 55,000 people registered on the platform who are looking for missing relatives, and very recently, the Ikea Foundation has agreed to donate $3.8 million to the project.
The event was kicked off with a talk by Rachel Botsman, author of What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live. Not surprisingly, her talk focused on collaborative consumption, which, according to Botsman, is a social revolution where “we are relearning how to create value out of shared and open resources in ways that balance personal self-interest with the good of the larger community.” She sites companies like Airbnb, WhipCar, eBay, and TaskRabbit (her personal favorite) for changing the way people interact with and view products. This new peer-to-peer model drastically changes the way people look at goods and ownership. In a time of economic uncertainty, these organizations are creating flexible and unique ways for people to fully utilize their property or skills to turn a profit. Botsman explains that as we move into this new system, our reputation becomes more important. At the core of this system is trust.
Personally, it is the trust aspect of collaborative consumption that has prevented me from taking advantage of these services. The idea of having a stranger staying alone in my apartment is ridiculously unsettling; as is the idea of paying a random person to clean my apartment. However, in many ways there is very little difference between hiring a maid from a cleaning company I found online and hiring a “freelancer” to clean via TaskRabbit.
She did provide one shocking statistic- Zopa, a peer-to-peer money-lending site, has a default rate less than one percent. Compare that to your average bank.
-Andrew Keen, Author-
The post lunch talk on day two revolved around social media- a perfectly interesting topic to hold when the audience is full of food and sitting in an overheated room. Joanna Shields, the Vice President of Facebook Europe, Middle East, and Africa, spoke on her love of social media, and the continued presence it will have in our lives. A timely subject in London, she discussed the use of social media in times of civil unrest, vowing that a government will never shut down Facebook as a method to halt mass communication. It was interesting to look around the room and witness how many people were checking their Facebook or updating their Twitter while on the topic of social media. And while most people, especially those in this particular room are happy to embrace and participate in social networking, others are fearful of adopting it.
An interesting twist in the normal lineup of speakers, Andrew Keen came on the stage to finish up the discussion. A vocal critic of social media, he focused on the narcissism that Facebook, Twitter, and the like encourage. He argues against the willingness to freely provide personal information that corporations are profiting from. An extremely blunt and honest speaker, Keen was a crowd pleaser who offered an interesting and needed perspective on technological movement that has been so massively and thoughtlessly adopted.
-Lakshmi Pratury moderates “Indian Innovators” forum
TriplePoint is no stranger to iOS. So, when Shilo Shiv Suleman, a young illustrator, took the stage to discuss the app she was working on, she touched on familiar ground. Children, books, and apps are a hotly discussed subject with strong opinions on both sides. While some rave about an apps ability to bring a story alive, others argue that it takes away the imaginative nature of books. “Interactive” comes into question as people debate the positive and negative aspects of childhood tablet use. Suleman’s project, a book app (that she has both written and illustrated) bridges the perfect gap between book and game. In her story Khoya, available before the end of the year, readers become a character in the book. After reading a chapter, they are asked to complete various tasks in order to advance the story and help the characters. Her book incorporates technology and nature by having young readers explore the outdoors and take photos of animal and plant life to progress. A future hit, Khoya is an amazing model for developers, providing a creative way to integrate reading and game play.
-David Rowan, WIRED editor
-Post-talks, guests had a chance to explore and play with toys, gadgets and fascinating new technology in the Test-Lab and were later entertained into the evening with LIVEWIRED with 02 featuring a range of live performances-
-Ben Hammersley, Editor-At-Large, WIRED Magazine gives an entertaining close to the conference-
TriplePoint’s Amanda Iseri & Samantha Qualls