Cyberposium 15 took center stage on Saturday, November 21, drawing a crowd of almost 700 students, professionals and tech enthusiasts. With more than 100 panelists and moderators, the conference, subtitled, “Navigating the Digital Storm,” attempted to address some of the quickly changing tides in technologies ranging from cloud computing to mobile to cleantech.
The conference featured RIM CEO Jim Balsillie and YouTube Founder and CEO Chad Hurley as keynotes as well as 16 expert panel discussions. The morning kicked off with a keynote by Balsillie, who posited that RIM’s success to date has largely been driven by its competency in scarcity management – from network capacity to battery life to heat dissipation and size. Balsillie’s implication was that many other smart phone manufacturers are not as good at managing scarcity across all of these dimensions, although despite our best efforts, we could not get Basillie to actually use the words Apple or Android.
“This year’s panel topics were amazingly well-received,” said Cyberposium co-chair Melinda Ajtay (OC). The Trends in Digital Media, Reinventing eCommerce, and Mobile consumer panels drew the largest crowds, perhaps a reflection of the tremendous upheaval and opportunities in these spaces.
The first panel I chose to sit in on was the Cloud Providers panel. The conversation initially focused on defining cloud computing, but then quickly switched to the factors that may inhibit adoption of cloud computing. The panelists didn’t delve into technical minutiae, but rather discussed the concerns of would-be cloud adopters over data security and lock-in, the actual logistics of transitioning workloads into the cloud, and the lack of government policy and regulation around data ownership and discoverability.
Both of the Startup Showcase panels were filled to capacity. The early stage panel stressed the importance of having a technical co-founder. Michael Collette of FluidHTML summed up the role of a startup CEO as being similar to movie producers. “They write the script, recruit talent, and get the film in the can.” The late stage panel focused on transparency, sales skills, and selecting the right customers.
The afternoon keynote was a fireside chat with Chad Hurley, co-founder and CEO of YouTube, moderated by HBS Professor Tom Eisenmann. My main takeaway was simply that the TV delivery experience is hugely important in Chad’s mind to the ultimate success and monetization of YouTube. He predicts that “in a few years, buying a TV without Wi-Fi will be like buying a laptop without Wi-Fi today.” The corollary is that YouTube is in quite an enviable position, with a sugar daddy like Google who is able to give the company the runway it needs to continue focusing on honing the user experience and addressing monetization in the longer term.
Without question, Cyberposium 15 was a resounding success, attracting a larger professional turnout than ever before. With more than 40% of the audience coming from industry, students had plenty of opportunities to make lasting connections.
Jake Flomenberg is an EC from Philadelphia, PA and an aspiring entrepreneur. ÿAs Co-President of the HBS TechMedia Club, he has worked to bring more of an emphasis on technology entrepreneurship to HBS.