The 2014 Collision Conference wrapped up in Las Vegas this week, and it lived up to its promise to make waves in the tech community across the pond. Bringing together investors, start-ups, prominent public figures, and tech industry veterans in iconic downtown Vegas, the Summit showcased the future direction of technology abroad, from drones and big data to marijuana and wearables.
Moving the Summit stateside
This was the first year of the Summit in the U.S., but Ireland-based organizer Paddy Cosgrave has been running these conferences for years in Dublin. What started as a 400-person conference has evolved into an international event with 20,000 attendees expected at this year's conference, including speakers Elon Musk, Tony Hawk, and Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox.
Taking this event to Las Vegas was a large undertaking, and Cosgrave partnered with Zappo's Tony Hsieh to make it happen. Hsieh is well-known in the U.S. for leading (and providing $350 million to help fund) the city's revitalization efforts of downtown Las Vegas. Although some criticize Hsieh's self-promotion, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman quipped during her panel, "if you have $350 million to invest in revitalizing our city, we'll shower you (with praise) as well."
A peak at solid paneling
Highlights from the conference included Hsieh and Goodman, but certainly didn't stop there. Michael Dubin was a crowd-pleaser, using the success of his Dollar Shave Club to illustrate the importance of branding and building trust. Dubin has a great sense of humor that he infuses into his company, and has been celebrated by customers across social media. As a result, 40% of DSC's customer acquisition is organic.
Evernote's Phil Libin was also a large draw -- every attendee I spoke with praised Libin's down-to-earth demeanor and straight talk. I was lucky enough to catch a roundtable discussion with Libin regarding dealing with the media, and have never seen an executive as willing to discuss his company so frankly and directly in public. Libin also participated in panels on immigration in tech and the future of productivity software.
The Spark challenge
The most exciting aspect of Collision was the Spark competition. The "Spark powered by Rackspace" saw over 30 technology start-ups, selected from 500 applicants, battle it out to win a cash prize of $10,000 plus a fund of services. Applicants were rated on five criteria: their team, the product/service, ability to disrupt, financials, and the quality of their pitch. The four finalists were both impressive and U.S.-based.
CareLuLu is an online marketplace that makes it easy for parents to find a licensed day care or preschool. SolePower is developing power-generating shoe insoles for charging portable electronics such as cell phones and wearables just by walking. IMGembed has generated millions of embeds for bloggers and online publishers. AirHelp, who won the competition, is a mediator that negotiates compensation for consumers whose flights have been delayed or canceled.
Both Hsieh and Cosgrove hope to make the U.S. Summit an annual event, and nobody's arguing. Las Vegas is a global tourist destination, and its city council is voting next week to bring a Major League Soccer team to the city. Cosgrove personally led the renovation of The Western Hotel just for the conference, which is appreciated by the locals.
With so many VC firms investing in a wide variety of start-ups, a variety of entertaining after-parties, and sponsorship from Rackspace, Zappos, Belkin, and more, Collision looks to be a game-changer in the tech community moving forward, positioning itself as a CES for start-ups and disrupters worldwide.
Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. Penny is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, Lifehack, and Main Street. He documents his experiences blowing the whistle on the banks and working with Anonymous on his blog. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.