Inspire Conference 2011 - Top 5

Inspire Conf Logo

Besides starting a blog (hurrah!), one of the things I wanted to do more of this year was attend some conferences and learn more about other tech startups. So, where better to begin than The Inspire Conference? An event making its debut in central London, offering discount tickets for startup companies; it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

This was a conference that does what it says on the tin, covering a broad range of subjects over the two days all with one thing in common; they were inspiring. It proved to be a great idea, with my main interest (and the reason I turned up) being to see the speakers in the realm of technology, it was certainly interesting and eye opening to see some of the non-technical presenters as well.

However, rather than have me randomly waffling about all of the 20+ speakers at the event, here are my top 5 talks from The Inspire Conference, in no particular order:

Rory Sutherland – The Overdue Science

Rory’s subject matter was in the realm of marketing, and (besides being hilarious at times!) the talk delivered several key points and raised many an eyebrow.

One of the key takeaways for me was the “one in the middle” mentality that consumers often display when choosing between products. “The cheapest product is probably naff, the most expensive is probably a rip off, so I’ll go for the one in the middle!”

You can see a similar talk on TED that also includes the hilarious Diamond Shreddies commercial he uses as an example.

Peter Vesterbacka – Interview

One of the things I really enjoyed at the conference in general was the occaisional change from individual speakers in favor of a more relaxed sit-down format. There were a couple of excellent sit down discussions, one of which was Rovio’s Peter Vesterbacka being interviewed by TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher.

Butcher didn’t hold back with his questioning either, and he was soon asking Vesterbacka if there is simply too much Angry Birds stuff flying around at the moment. His response was simple; you should make the most of success while it lasts. With over a million downloads per day, and merchandise flying off the shelves, Rovio has grown from 12 to 120 people in a short space of time.

Whilst the ubiquity of Angry Birds may annoy some, it is undeniable that anyone in this position would do the same. It is inevitable, no matter how popular something is, that the hype will eventually cool down so Vesterbacka is doing the right thing by riding the wave to its full potential. You only have to look at franchises like Tamagotchi and Pokemon to realise that you can’t dominate the scene forever.

Vesterbacka also told the audience of their recent takeover; an animation studio, with their main goal to create an Angry Birds movie!

Michael Birch – Jolitics

The audience instantly warmed to Michael’s deliciously dry sense of humour, one of his opening lines “Did Bebo – Got Here” had everyone laughing and certainly got everyone warmed up for the introduction of his new Jolitics website.

The idea behind Jolitics has huge potential, the power for people to be heard and if Jolitics can get the masses flock on board then it will be something real politicians cannot ignore.

We’ve already seen some excellent work by 38 Degrees in this space. As I watched Michael navigate through the site I was constantly comparing the two in my head. The difference between them is that 38 Degrees have a more simplistic approach, people vote on issues that are important to them.

Jolitics recognises that a lot of people are too busy or less interested in politics, and therefore allows those people to nominate another user to vote on issues on their behalf. Active users can potentially accumulate a large number of followers, and therefore gain a huge influence among the community.

Definitely one to watch, it will be very interesting to see how Jolitics evolves over time.

Erik Hersman – Ushahidi

In terms of real world impact, few could argue that Erik Hersman’s Ushaidi was not the most powerful web tool demoed at the conference. If you were unaware, Ushahidi is a mapping tool that can be used (for example) to report instances of violence via text message. The number of responses will increase the size of the marker on the map. with the hope of attracting help or warning others.

This is a web application that has literally saved lives, hugely inspiring and I would encourage everyone to check it out.

Aza Raskin – You are solving the wrong problem

Second to last on the order of speakers was ex Mozilla man Aza Raskin. One of the most energetic speakers at the event, Aza’s talk was both entertaining and insightful.

I’ve always been a big believer in the feedback loop, but Aza didn’t just reinforce this important concept, he also talked about his new venture and how the feedback loop can be better applied in the real world.

“Imagine you go to the doctors for medication, he stamps a brown spot on your hand. The spot won’t fully disappear until you have taken all of your medication.”

It’s particularly encouraging to see someone from the world of software taking what they have learned, and successfully applying those principals to a completely different industry.