Held last month at Te Papa, X|Media|Lab proved that we can all be global influencers for digital innovation. Not only that, but by utilising knowledge networks, we can leverage the creativity that already exists in our own back yard to help build successful global businesses. Some quick notes from the conference day:
The speaker session opened by addressing the concept of “ideation” – finding good ideas. Former Sony Entertainment president Chris Deering focussed the audience’s attention with the observation that online entertainment services would likely overtake revenues from TV and cable in the very near future. With MySpace (reportedly) approaching already 100 million sign-ups and phone handset sales ballooning he also predicted a future market for mobile communities in the vicinity of 400 to 800 million users by 2012. With numbers like that it was easy to see where the smart money was headed he said.
In a room full of game developers and creators of virtual worlds, those remarks really set the tone for the day. Continuing the theme, Virgin Comics and Animation CEO, Bangalore based Suresh Seetharaman, noted that in India alone there were 550 million under 20 year olds and that the mobile phone has become far more ubiquitous than the computer. He explained that his business was developing new creative streams, starting with fantasy comics because many of the largest grossing feature films have sprung out of comic book stories. Virgin Comics are creating a new pop culture by drawing on both mythology and modern media. A curious example of this is their Sachin Tindulkar super cricket hero storyline.
Local lad made good Richard MacManus prophesised on technology trends, later posting the presentation on his highly rated Read Write Web blog. Moves towards the “intelligent web” were to the fore in his discussion as was the ongoing battle of Google versus Facebook. Keynote speaker Noah Falstein then spoke about the essentials of brainstorming and how to promote ideas instead of egos. Afterwards he went on National Radio and took part in a panel discussion about the future of online gaming.
Tom Duterme enthused about new venture development and the importance of establishing a good team behind the product. As Google’s talent scout for purchasing new businesses, I noticed he was much sought after during the intervals. Gao Li lead a team from the controversial but now profitable Suzhou Science Park (near Shanghai) and shared with us the staggering scale of China’s investment in research, science and technology. In her home province alone there is a $US 2 billion VC fund and some 3.8% of regional GDP is reinvested back into RS&T, putting New Zealand thoroughly to shame.
Alvin Wang Graylin expanded on the China story by mentioning that there are already nearly 600 million mobile phone users but with SMS being the predominant use, he cautioned that revenue per user remains low. In an effort to grow this market his company sets up mobile phone marketing services. He suggested that whilst carriers were keen on securing new revenue streams, this was limited by network capability for the time being.
Perhaps the speaker I enjoyed most was Hugh Mason from the U.K., a politely spoken and knowledgeable investor and entrepreneur in the creative sector. He had a very simple mantra for creating value with a winning start-up business team. “You need a finder, a minder and a grinder” on your team he said and try to have your product solve a problem that makes the world a better place. I took some comfort in the fact that we have formed our latest venture around just such a model.
I also enjoyed the networking session kindly hosted by Park Road Post the evening before but I found myself asking, as a “veteran” of the Wellington technology business networking scene, why was it the first time I had set foot in those hallowed halls. X|Media|Lab stands for cross-media connection. Why then do we hear so infrequently from our friends in Miramar? How about we run a local XMedia event each year and challenge film, software and graphics entrepreneurs to bounce new ideas around together.
According to Tim Berners-Lee, the new imperative for the Web is now creative connectivity. But as one of the XMediaLab speakers mentioned, “I do business with people that I like – but I first need to get to know them in person to like them”. Creativity and good ideas arise from the interstices between communities and hence it is very important to overlap from time to time. I feel that lately we have not been achieving this often enough. New Zealand Trade & Enterprise are to be congratulated for supporting this event and let’s hope there will be others in the future. In the meantime local networks like Unlimited Potential and ION will continue to add value by building social capital and sharing knowledge amongst the technology sector community.