I thought I’d spend some time going over the interesting keynotes from the Connections conference I attended last week. All of the keynotes were interesting, however I’ll be omitting the keynotes from the CEOs and other leaders of the company where they went over customer successes and introduced their new products. Those talks were interesting and very impressive, however not exactly relevant to me as I’m not a user of their products, nor is my company that I work for currently. ExactTarget/SalesForce.com’s products compose an impressive platform, and it’s completely believable that large enterprises of all sorts of different industries and different marketing needs would all succeed partnering with ET/SF. There were other keynotes from three celebrity types that I feel were more intriguing.
The first was a “fireside chat” between Marc Benioff (CEO of SalesForce.com) and will.i.am. This was set up to be an intimate discussion between just two regular dudes, who also happen to be extremely successful and rich, and thousands of people were watching. Marc called him a “Master of Music”, which seems to be pretty accurate. He was in a pretty successful musical pop group called the Black Eyed Peas (they played at halftime at Super Bowl XLV), and he has his own solo act that is still going strong. He has collaborated with many other Zeitgeisty artists, too many to name here. Will has several interests, including acting and product innovation, as well as several human interests, namely recycling. He came up with the EKOCYCLE environmental program with Coca-Cola, turning old bottles and cans into new products. He also recently collaborated with Lexus to design a new vehicle which features some impressive camera technology. Will is a very forward thinking individual, always thinking about what’s next in all his interests. Mark asked him what his vision of the future is, and Will stated that it’s wearables, not smartphones. He thought that watches are interesting, but that wearables in general will soon be more prevalent and be worn on various parts of your bodies. I believe that will certainly come in, say, 10 years, but it’s really hard to believe that smart phones will be out of our lives anytime soon. EVERYONE has one now, we depend on them so much more than any technology that I can think of that has come out recently, even more than PCs. Pretty amazing. Will thinks it’s easier these days for people to create and to predict the future of technology. Meaning, technology is a great enabler in all industries but especially for the creative artists, to more quickly develop and publish their work. I think this was spot on. Just look at a website like etsy.com, where people all over can sell their creations in a fair market. As a artist and owner of a corner of Etsy, you can easily sell your work for a price, and focus on the creative part of the process. As music artist well versed in technology, Will said, he’s less dependent on the studio. He can develop his music himself, and since he’s already a celeb with a public audience enabled also by technology, he can easily sell his songs himself (if he wanted to).
Will is committed to giving back to the community. He grew up in a poor neighborhood in east LA, and feels a responsibility to that region to help out however he can. He is especially interested in education, and believes that technology should be more of an emphasis in our schools (at, say, the expense of athletics.) Since tech is so important in our culture now, why shouldn’t we teach our kids at a young age the foundational skills they’ll need later? Will also develops products on his own (he has a “fleet of engineers” that he hired to help him develop his ambitious ideas. He created a watch that had the functionality to allow him to DJ a concert from his wrist – later that night, for the first time, in fact! It also had a host of other multimedia capabilities that he was really excited about, but didn’t want to elaborate on, as it was only a prototype. Will also mentioned that he was developing a jacket, in which you would carry batteries that would power your devices. I was a bit skeptical on this – it seems heavy – but, perhaps it would work. If you’re cold, you already have a jacket, right? Could be good for people out in the cold a lot for long periods of time, maybe? Smartphones are getting better with regards to battery life with each iteration, so I’m not clear on how useful this jacket will be. I do think tech firms will get more and more creative regarding wearables, so Will is on the right track here.
See will.i.am’s entire fireside chat with Mark here. It’s worth a watch. Will really believes in himself and the things he does, which comes across as a little odd yet endearing. I admire him for his forward thinking and his cultural awareness, and I’m glad that some celebrities at least are mindful of culture at large and how they can impact their communities in a positive way.