The Tech World Making the Right Collisions in Las Vegas

By Silicon Allee |

By Silicon Allee’s international correspondents Don Oparah and Roy Malkin in Las Vegas

For the past three years, the Summit – previously known as the Dublin Web Summit – has been one of the biggest technology conferences in Europe, attracting over 10,000 attendees to the Irish capital including a stellar cast of guest speakers, startups and investors. The organisers have now branched out, and Collision Las Vegas marked the first time Summit has run a conference in the world’s gambling capital.

Taking place in the custom-refurbished Western Hotel, 1,500 people from the world of tech turned up to check out the stands and the more than 60 guest speakers who included skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, Matt Mullenweg and Sarah McBride from WordPress, Rob Goldman (Facebook) and Bruce Upbin (Forbes).

And there were plenty of speakers representing the next generation as well, prompting Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave to say: “The speakers are the next wave of great companies… I think Las Vegas is pretty magical.”

As well as exhibitors from companies in the Americas, there was a strong European feel to the conference with several innovative German startups making a splash. EyeQuant has developed a method based around eye movement tracking for analysing how consumers interact with websites, enabling clients to improve their conversion rates by making pages intrinsically more attractive to users.

And continuing the current trend for streamlining the digital world, two more German companies have produced innovative tech solutions for very different purposes. United Signals is trying to simplify the investment world and provide a less time-consuming process through its application of user-friendly interfaces and investment strategies, with the execution of share trading according to the specified parameters of those strategies conducted automatically.

MoID, meanwhile, has been working on solving the problem of maintaining useful contacts across multiple platforms, while maintaining user security through selective sharing. The mobile app collates all the platforms that your contacts are on in one place, making the information easily accessible and immediately available. So instead of the rigmarole of hopping between multiple applications to find your contacts, it’s all there at the swipe of the touchscreen.

Other notable companies included Kimera Systems with its ‘Nigel’ technology, human-like intelligence that figures out what you need before you know you need it, and TINYpulse, an innovative tool for driving high employee retention levels by using frequent mini-surveys.

Collision also featured nightly post-conference parties (hey, it’s Vegas after all), and if the alcohol consumption threatened to inhibit the mind the next day, there was the opportunity to take yoga classes before the event started each morning – although if coffee was more your thing, networking breakfasts were a popular choice.

Collision also hosted the inaugural Spark powered by Rackspace Award for startups which had secured less than $1 million (€730,000) in investment. A total of 30 finalists were chosen from 500 applicants to contest for a cash prize of $10,000 and additional services. The eventual winners, AirHelp, aim to enable the victims of flight disruption to reclaim their money more easily through their website and app. For a 25 percent cut of the compensation, AirHelp will navigate the minefield of airline compensation claims for you. CEO Henrik Zillmer said: “We’ve respected everything the organisers of The Summit have done since day one and now they’re launching in the US and we’re proud to be the first winners of Collision’s Spark Award. It’s another stamp of approval that this is a valid business model and that we have entered into an industry that has been notoriously hard to get into due to high customer acquisition costs and we’re doing something that helps a lot of people.”

The event closed with a compelling keynote by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and the billionaire mastermind behind the Downtown Vegas Project which aims to transform the hitherto nondescript downtown area of the city into the next Silicon Valley. He introduced novel measures of success for economic development like Return on Collisions and described how every element of the downtown revitalisation – from the design of the real estate (such as the trendy new Container Park) to the weekly mini-TED events to city-wide free wifi coverage – is being engineering to encourage ‘collisions’ between entrepreneurs and to spur new growth.

Overall, the event’s first foray into Nevada was a categorical success, and the organisers will now return to Dublin to prepare for the 20,000 attendees anticipated at Summit 2014. The conference takes place at the Royal Dublin Society, from November 4-6.