I’ve been to every Echelon since it began, and the conference has changed a lot over that time. Everything is bigger, slicker, more polished. A reported 1700 attended the conference! There are more interesting people from a wider variety of backgrounds. Ideas are well researched and articulated. Start-ups pitch well and are better funded; you can say almost professional.
The tech scene’s maturation is unbelievable; like watching a child grow up into a young adult.
While so much of this is good, I have noticed two trends that while are not yet concerns, can easily be if we as a community are not careful.
People at tech conferences are…too good looking?
Before, the people who attended tech conferences tended to be nerds passionate about technology and the way technology can make an impact on our lives. You meet a lot of engineers, serial entrepreneurs, even intellectuals.
Today, the people you meet are much better looking. Much better dressed. Many have backgrounds in finance (as did I), some in marketing. There are lots of buzz words. People suss out your profile, and if not judged Grade-A their eyes wander to look for someone cooler to talk to. As a result, people show off like crazy.
I’ve done this. I raised that. I’ve sold for this much.
The reaction I get from people after mentioning my Stanford background is huge; the tenor change is like night and day. People are much nicer to me. Whereas a few years ago, people didn’t give a shit where you went to school.
There’s a purity the tech community used to have that is increasingly harder to feel. There’s too much posturing.
I don’t want to paint the wrong picture. People are still mostly genuine and among the most friendly across industries; I made friendships the last couple days that just might last. But I do think it’s possible for our culture to change from being open and friendly to being judgmental and mercenary. We must guard against that.
Investors at tech conferences are…too snobby?
There are a LOT more investors than before. Which is undoubtedly a good thing. Sometimes I wonder if there’s more money than good ideas.
However, a few investors I talked to over the conference came off as kinda snobby – and I didn’t even pitch to them. They see my entrepreneur lanyard tag and immediately look like they’d rather jump off the second floor than have a conversation. Is it possible to be a good VC and not like to talk to entrepreneurs? Is it a good thing for investors to think of themselves as above entrepreneurs?
South East Asia needs more good old fashioned, Silicon Valley styled VCs. A Ben Horowitz type who’s been there, done that, and loves relating to entrepreneurs. Someone who knows how hard it is to succeed as an entrepreneur and so would never act like he’s above one.
Again, it’s not like those guys don’t exist here. There are a few awesome investors, like Kuan from GREE Ventures and Roderick from Sinar Mas.
But I also see more wannabe VCs who don’t seem to get it.
The tech community has come a long way and so much of that growth is good. We just need to make sure that with all this change, we don’t become too snobby or too mercenary.