Last Saturday was the 7th annual >play Digital Media Conference, a student run conference hosted at Haas that brings together over 500 business professionals, industry leaders and graduate students to discuss the most important trends in digital media and cast predictions for the future.
Let me step back to last Thursday, when >play actually kicked off with an amazing event at the headquarters of Couchsurfing in San Francisco - a great space with couches (obviously), but also swings, and cool murals on the wall. It was a great night with about 150 attendees - a mix of student volunteers, >play vips and friends of Couchsurfing - who all enjoyed the sushi, sake, tea, beer and wine.
Back to the conference on Saturday. I was blown away by how professionally run the conference was. There was definitely no indication that this was a purely student run event. My day began with a breakfast hosted by Groupon which was really informative and interesting given their upcoming IPO. After breakfast it was time for opening remarks from the Dean, Richard Lyons, followed by the morning keynote - Jeff Jordan who is a partner at Andreesen Horowitz, and a real Bay Area identity, sitting on a huge array of Boards, as well as being Chairman of the Board for Open Table.
The keynote took the form of an interview from Kara Swisher, and they both played off each other for a really enjoyable hour, in which they discussed topics from Steve Jobs (Jordan said: "He made science fiction a reality"), to how VCs make investment decisions (Swisher joked:"to me it's like a bunch of teenage girls chasing Justin Bieber").
After the keynote there were rocket-pitches from the companies showcasing their products in the expo including Kno, Yelp, Yahoo!, TubeMogul, Rakoko, Pulse, Bre.ad, Sifteo, Wallit, Snapette, OnLive and more. Other companies at >play were Sony Computer Entertainment, Microsoft, Rexly, localmind and many more. Between the rocket pitches and exploring the expo during the day I was fascinated with all of the exciting products and trends ... although one of the more fun was playing with the XBox and the Kinect that Microsoft had set up.
Other highlights of the day included talks from Sony Computer Entertainment, and Kno, who are fundamentally shifting the textbook market, to a panel on Search vs. Discovery in which we heard about the need to balance tailored results with the problems of overpersonalization.
The day closed with a final keynote from Geoffrey Moore, a best selling author and chairman emeritus at TCG Advisors, who spoke about Crossing the Chasm vs Spinning Up The Web - the different strategies needed for B2B and B2C success in digital media, which was fascinating to hear.
All in all, it was an excellent day - I had a great time, and also learned a huge amount!