The Web Summit, billed as one of the “best tech conferences on the planet” by Forbes, has long been considered the gold standard in technology events. In July 2015, TWS decided to host its inaugural Asia-focused tech conference RISE in Hong Kong. And I got to go for it (representing Crayon Data, of course)! Designed to be a meeting ground of the finest minds in tech, investing and entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region, RISE HK more than lived up to its billing!
A two day event, spread over July 31st and August 1st, RISE kicked off with (what else?), a startup pitch competition, judged by, among others, Crayon’ s founder Suresh V. Shankar. Companies pitching included Votee, Floown and Spincle. Founders and co-founders pitched their hearts out to the judges and the crowd, eliciting a broad range of responses.
The real heart and soul of RISE resided in the various panels and discussions, spread out over four main stages: the Centre Stage, Builders Stage, Marketing Stage and Enterprise Stage. Speakers ranging from Nikesh Arora, VP of Softbank, to Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO, held forth on the state of technology.
The perspectives these captains of the tech industry, offered a view into how they think tech will affect and change all our lives in the coming years. Nikesh Arora is famous in tech circles as Softbank’s anointed CEO-in-waiting, and was extremely bullish on technology’s impact, he believes:
1. The growth and mushrooming of tech startups all around the world is one of the most positive effects of technological democratization.
2. That this is the best time for young talent to work at startups. Working anywhere else would mean using their expertise in the service of corporate structures that are outmoded and obsolete.
3. That the impact of regulation on the tech industry is a hot-button issue. And that regulations should adapt themselves to tech’s needs, especially in cases where technology is addressing unmet consumer needs – a la Uber.
One of the more captivating talks at RISE was delivered by Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, who showcased Amazon’s Machine Learning Service:
1. Amazon’s famous obsession with customer data and machine learning started at its very inception according to Werner. This might explain why Amazon has remained ahead of the curve when it comes to data processing.
2. Following in the footsteps of Amazon’s resounding success with AWS, Amazon’s Machine Learning Service aims to do the same, with algorithmic pattern recognition in massive volumes of data.
3. In simplicity, Amazon promises to expose its own machine learning algorithms to its paying customers, so they can utilise industrial-strength machine learning capabilities on datasets they choose.
RISE’s potential to connect disparate technological paradigms was on full display in the dozens of entrepreneurial “stalls” strewn across the venue. A ton of budding companies were strutting their stuff:
1. LeanXcale– An ultra scalable SQL database company from Spain.
2. Social Data Collective– An aggregator of personal social media data based in the United States.
3. Fifty-five, the Data Agency – A big data company in France that helps marketers and retailers improve their marketing, advertising, and sales performance through data.
4. Dragon Law– A legal services company that enables small and medium sized businesses to access legal advice, at low cost.
As with all good things, RISE had to end. And end it did, on a high, with Paddy Cosgrave (the lead organizer of Web Summit) cheering the crowd on and exhorting them to come back in even larger numbers in 2016. If RISE 2016 is anything like the 2015 edition, he can be sure to count me in!
Suresh Shankar @ RISE: