The long-awaited Tech Crunch Disrupt has, once again, visited the European technology capital, to amaze us with the latest developments in the world of tech, as well as give an opportunity for young, aspiring startups to showcase their unique products and services, grabbing the much needed exposure and interest from potential investors.
Being a company, actively involved in the tech sector and one, that couldn't bear Monday mornings without a fresh episode of Crunch Report with the ever amusing Tito Hamze - we had to go. The event did not fail to live up to its reputation, showcasing the finest advances in computer hardware and software sectors. This year also featured a strong lineup of contestants, for the Startup Battlefield, each packing some groundbreaking ideas, with a variety of applications on personal, corporate and government levels. The competition was fierce and, without a doubt, enjoyed by everyone, but the judges - who have had a hard time determining the eventual winner - Seenit, a user-centric video platform, that has attracted over 100 global brands, including BBC, Adidas, Rolls Royce and Body Shop, to name a few.
Having taken it all in, here are the 3 takeaways, from this year's TechCrunch Disrupt London:
Disrupt is Truly Unique
Being involved in the technology, e-commerce and UX markets, means that we get to attend a great variety of events, conferences and expos, varying in size and location. From a tiny CIM UX workshop, that we attended in Norwich, last week, to the Meet Magento events that attract tens of thousands - each event is different in its format, offering and mood. However, you will have to look far and wide, to find a corporate event that is so damn-right fun.
Suits and Oxfords are swapped for T's and trainers, as everyone embraces the new casual business etiquette. Disrupt is, then, a bit like mixing classic violin with rock-n-roll - creating a brilliant 'musical concoction', that shouldn't work, but somehow does brilliantly. And while, at times, you can find yourself a tad distracted - Disrupt serves as a good reminder as to why we are in this industry - because of the boundless opportunities that it offers and the excitement, that it brings.
The Tech Community is Global
In 1939, David Packard and William Hewlett established a small electronics company, in a Palo Alto garage, with the help of their university professor and mentor Frederick Terman. That garage, which has been transformed into $150 billion empire, is considered by many as "the Birthplace of Silicon Valley." The Silicon Valley has since became home, to the largest technology corporations, housing 39 of Fortune 1000 companies. It has also been the Mecca for technology startups, paying top buck, in order to have an HQ in the largest tech hub, in the world. But, what is evident, is that the focus is starting to shift.
And what better place to witness it, than Disrupt? We have spoken to a great deal of startups, company representatives, exhibitors and developers that were aplenty, taking part in the hugely exciting and highly competitive Hackathon. What was quickly evident, is that the vast talent pool, that has filled up the Copperbox Arena, consisted of hundreds different nationalities, all united by the shared passion for everything 'technology'. We have spoken to a great deal of UK-based companies and startups, whose presence stretched from the 'silicon roundabout' to Aberdeen. We had a pleasure of speaking to a development company from Akademgorodok - former Soviet Union's capital of scientific research, and Russia's latest push into the technology sector. We have engaged with numerous startups and established companies, from Eastern Europe, that is clearly establishing itself as a development powerhouse, that can blow US out of the water, with its development capabilities and value for money. The representatives from South East Asia, were also in numbers, with startups from 5 countries that we have personally spoken to.
It has to be said, though, that there still exists a communication and cultural gap, between the Eastern direct approach and the Western, more softer one. And although, the current root to Western market, for most of the outlined companies, seems to lie through white-labelling and forming partnerships with established companies in US and UK - it won't be long before they will be challenging the West for market dominance.
The Opportunities are Endless
We are used to seeing names like Google, Oracle, IBM and Windows, staring at us from every page, headline, article and news feed. We all know these industry heavyweights, that have seen the technological boom, before anyone else has, and are now consequently sitting at the very top, hovering up the best talent, in the industry, and coming up with groundbreaking solutions, that change our everyday lives. It seems, then, that it is virtually impossible for a small company to come up with something, that a Google or Amazon employee hasn't already thought of, fuelled by infinite amounts of Red Bull and research funding. Moreover, your 'brilliant' idea was probably labelled 'not-so-brilliant', thus it isn't currently decorating the coveted 'Our Services' page, of one of these technology incumbents. Right? Wrong!
The main takeaway from this year's Disrupt London, for me, is that we haven't even scraped the top of our technological potential, that can change the world as we know it. And it doesn't necessary have to be a groundbreaking, industry-disrupting new idea. In a highly competitive video platform market, dominated by YouTube, Netflix and Vimeo - this year's Startup Battle winner, Seenit, has shown us how a seemingly small twist, on an existing service, can completely reinvent it and attract great levels of interest from users and companies, alike. Liftigniter, another Startup Battle contestant, have demonstrated that digital conversion optimisation is not a captured market and frankly made existing services like Optimizely, look a tad antiquated. Finally, Boston Dynamics have shown us, how robots can have infinite applications, from assisting military personnel to assisting the elderly , in their daily chores around the house., eradicating a huge global problem, with almost 1 in 5 older people facing care costs over £75,000, in UK alone.
It certainly gives hope, to smaller companies, looking to disrupt the technology industry and cut itself a big slice, instead of picking up the crumbs, after the industry incumbents.