TEDxSiliconAlley 2012

TEDxSiliconAlley 2012 was held on December 3rd, 2012, at Terminal 5 in New York City.

Headlining the event were Ray Kurzweil & Juan Enriquez. Juan was the first speaker to sign on, only one week after TEDxSiliconAlley 2011, Juan tentatively agreed to speak at 2012’s event. It would take several more months to get Ray signed on. The date of December 3rd was ultimately determined by the one single day in late 2012 when the busy schedules of both Ray and Juan made them available to appear in New York City at the same time.

The theme of the event was “Rise of the Machines” which all speakers were asked to use as the starting point for their talk, to be interpreted as strictly or as loosely as needed, to produce their best presentation. As curator, in addition to signing Ray and Juan to headline, I structured the day to include a series of keynote talks, alternated with shorter talks given by New York City based mobile and geolocation based tech startup founders. This expanded on my own opening talk at TEDxSiliconAlley 2011 — the premise being that, with the US being the world’s largest smartphone market, and New York City being the US’s largest smartphone market, and furthermore, New York City being not just the largest market for hardware devices, but also that New Yorkers’ use the greatest amount of data services on a per capita basis, of any mobile market, hence New York City is the ideal testbed for mobile tech companies, and therefore an ideal location to launch a mobile startup. Furthermore that as a policy matter, city government should be pursuing policies that support mobile development specifically, as an area of growth to foster. As with all of my curation, effort was invested in achieving gender balance.

Keynotes were given by:
Ken Segall, Author of Insanely Simply. Creative Director of Apple’s “Think Different” campaign who coined the name iMac.
Bre Pettis, Founder & CEO of Makerbot, who had just appeared on the cover of WIRED Magazine.
Jincey Lumpkin, Esq., CEO and Chief Sexy Officer of Juicy Pink Box and sex columnist for The Huffington Post.
Francesca Ferrando, Philosopher of Posthumanism, then a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, and author of Italian best seller, Belle Anime Porche.

Short talks were given by:
Vanessa Dawson, Founder & CEO of Evry.
Foy Savas, Co-Founder & CEO of Loudly.
Sameer Parekh, Founder & CEO of Falkor Systems.
Ori Inbar, Co-Founder of Ogmento and Founder of
Ding Ding, Founder & CEO of TunTunTuTu.
Vivian Rosenthal, Founder & CEO of GoldRun.
Jim Kovach, COO of CrowdOptic.
Jason Sosa, Founder & CEO of Immersive Labs.

Included in the program was the Sundance award winning short, TOMO, by special effects artist and director, Paul Catling. The stage set featured sculptures by the artists Christopher Conte and Sophie Kahn.

Jon Carin, keyboardist for Roger Waters and previously of Pink Floyd, The Who, Psychedelic Furs and others, was also to have performed, but the date ultimately conflicted with Roger Waters’ practice dates for the Hurricane Sandy relief concert, Jon was required at band practice and had to cancel. It is difficult to estimate some industry specific numbers, but total hurricane damages for New York State are estimated at $33B, and losses for events held in New York City in the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane are said to have exceeded $500M. Our event was no exception. We had sponsors pull out and average single day ticket sales dropped from almost 30 tickets a day to zero sold on the day of the hurricane, and did not recover above single digit sales until after election week. I pulled a lot of favors, and only with tremendous effort on the part of our whole team did this event happen at all — and of particular note, the efforts of Judith Currin, long time business colleague, and producer who deserves as much credit for this event as myself.

Curatively and Critically, the event was a huge success.

Like many such projects, there are those small unexpected moments that overshadow the rest of your day. For TEDxSiliconAlley 2012, that moment would come for me at the day’s conclusion. An after-event dinner had been planned at Blue Fin. It was a very small group in attendance including Danielle and myself, Ding Ding, her boyfriend Derek Lei and two of his Google colleagues, Brian McNamee of event sponsor Resolute Digital, Ray Kurzweil, Juan Enriquez and a couple of others. When I invited Ray and Juan to headline together I was well aware that they both lived in Boston-Cambridge — both futurist writers and both multiple TED Talk speakers, though Juan’s circle is more affiliated with Harvard where he previously taught, and Ray’s circle is more in the orbit of MIT where he once studied. On soliciting them as speakers, my presumption was that they likely knew each other well. However, over the course of dinner conversation Ray and Juan exchanged business cards. If I made one small contribution to the network effect of the universe that day, it was introducing Ray Kurzweil and Juan Enriquez — the two had never met.

Later the same week news would break that Ray Kurzweil was joining Google as Director of Engineering.

GigantiCo by Chris Grayson