On Tuesday, January 27th, tech enthusiasts around the Washington metropolitan area braved the snowy weather to gather at 1776’s downtown location for Tech in Motion’s ‘A Year in Review’ panel discussion. Mike Chan, co-founder of local startup ribl and organizer of Startup Weekend DC, moderated the discussion. Panelists included Rob Pegoraro (Yahoo Tech), David Young (VP of Public Policy, Verizon), Lauren Maffeo (Aha! Labs), Patrick Merfert (9Lenses), and Mike Leurdjik (Core Capital).
Upon arriving, attendees were encouraged to enjoy some light networking before taking their seats to listen to the discussion on the biggest tech headlines of the past year as well as predictions for the upcoming year. Before the panel took to the stage to discuss the past year’s tech headlines, a few words were spoken by representatives from event sponsor companies Jobspring Partners, Workbridge Associates, and Verizon FiOS.
Become a Tech in Motion sponsor in your city.
Mike Chan launched the discussion by making introductions down the line, and launched the conversation by asking each panelist to reflect on one big technology-related headline of the past year. With the annual State of the Net address having occurred earlier that day at the Newseum, Rob and David kicked things off seamlessly with a passionate dialogue about Net Neutrality, with each representing opposite sides and debating the pros and cons of net neutrality, title II, and Section 706. David finished the discussion by summarizing his stance supporting net neutrality rules, but asserted that implementation of title II would be a mistake.
Lauren then steered the conversation towards Fintech, a movement focused on disrupting the banking industry which gained tremendous momentum this past year. As an example, she cited the hugely popular Transferwise which has recently announced a 58M round of funding to expand their offerings internationally.
Almost inevitably, the dialogue turned towards the security breaches of the past year. Corporations such as Home Depot and Target fell prey to credit card hacks, the now infamous Sony hack revealed multitudes of confidential data, and the Central Command Twitter account (@centcom) was hacked while President Obama was giving a speech on the importance of cyber security–all of which served to highlight the growing importance of this industry.
“A scary trend that we have been seeing and will continue to see is data breaches. The size, volume, and sophistication of these attacks are increasing,” Patrick stated.
He spoke at length about cyber security and the seriousness of the problems that it’s presented. Despite these problems, Patrick also highlighted an upside to the issue.
“The silver lining about this is that it’s a great opportunity for security and defense startups,” Patrick noted. “[There is] a ton of opportunity for new entrants and agile startups to tackle these specific types of attacks.”
In a change of pace, Mike Leurdijk observed that the rate of change in the industry has continued to trend upwards over time. Resources are becoming more easily accessible and there is an increase in the amount of disruptors and collaboration occurring in the space.
“This [the rate of change] is something that’s increased from the past few years and it will continue to improve,” Mike stated. “It’s cheap, affordable to become an entrepreneur, there’s a huge amount of opportunity in the enterprise space, you see corporate VCs going further…it’s an exciting time to be here.
Predictions for trends and headlines to look for in 2015 covered a wide breadth of the sector in the conversation. Topics included technology in the enterprise space moving to the consumer level, wearables continuing to tailor their offerings to fulfill the market need for devices that specifically address and target consumer needs, a value shift in startup accelerators and the democratization of angel investing.
Lauren predicted that cyber security and the broader genre of privacy will only increase in importance and relevancy. A recent study by Cisco estimated that 25 billion devices will be connected to the Internet and make up the Internet of Things in 2015.
“Global governments will not able to keep up with growing technology demands, therefore it will be up to startups and corporations to promote privacy and trust,” Lauren predicted.
Interested in being a speaker or demo company at Tech in Motion? Contact us.
A topic that was perhaps the most popular in its prediction of continuing to trend from 2014 in to 2015 was the theme of diversity in technology. Mike Chan started things off by discussing how the lack of diversity seen is the black eye of the industry. When speaking on the diversity reports that companies are feeling pressured to release, he asked if these reports were part of a PR stunt.
Rob was quick to point out that of the companies that have actually released reports; their findings don’t necessarily cast them in the best light. An example cited was Twitter’s diversity report that resulted in backlash for not having a single female on their board. The debate then morphed into how to bring about change and increase diversity.
“The idea is to let this diversity happen more organically,” Lauren weighed in. “Once you start talking about setting quotas or things of that nature, that’s when things start to get tricky.”
Mike Leurdijk kept things in perspective when discussing the amount of time that it will take to make that change happen.
“Change needs to start at the bottom. It’s a cultural change that needs to happen. It will take a long time, but keep encouraging that change,” he asserted.
After the discussion came to a close, there was a brief Q&A section. The audience, as ever, was filled with engaged and inquiring individuals who stayed long after the panel came to an official close to network with one another and speak with the panelists before the space, 1776, closed for the night.
1776 is a prominent startup incubator located in the heart of Washington. The startup incubator is a household name in the DC area, known for everything ranging from their Challenge Cup to visits by prominent figure includingg the British Prime Minister and President Obama. The space, which boasts an ultra-modern and comfortable interior, held the 120+ event attendees easily.
Interested in learning more about the DC chapter of Tech in Motion events? Check out the event page and join this rapidly growing membership base. The next Tech in Motion DC event will be a Demos & Drinks on February 24th at the WeWork WonderBread Factory.