Digital Diversity Network Cloud Gathering Conference

Clayton Banks, Teresa Kennedy, Daphne Leroy, Patricia Andrews-Keenan, Kathy Johnson at the Copacabana

Clayton Banks, Teresa Kennedy, Daphne Leroy, Patricia Andrews-Keenan, Kathy Johnson at the Copacabana

THE BUZZ: On Thursday, October 3, 2013 I attended the Digital Diversity Network (DDN) Second Annual New York City “Cloud Gathering” Conference held at The New York Times Conference Center. This year’s theme was “Innovation, Disruption & Transformation.”

The event brought together many corporate executives such as John Kosner (EVP, Digital & Print Media, ESPN) and Bernard E. Gracy, Jr. (VP, Strategy & Business Development, US Global Strategy & Business Development for Pitney Bowes), as well as entrepreneurs such as Ntiedo Etuk (Founder & Executive Chairman, DimensionU) and Amos Winbush III (Founder & CEO, CyberSynchs). A couple of the big digital companies were represented as well with Angela Gardner (VP, Executive Recruitment, Yahoo!) and fellow Harvard Business School alum Bonita Stewart (VP, Americas, Partner Business Solutions, Google). I saw friends from my early days in digital such as Daphne Leroy (President, DML Media Group) and Clayton Banks (Co-Founder, Silicon Harlem). Clayton said that I was “in digital before it was digital” – which was funny… and true!

I also saw colleagues from my more recent work in the health and social entrepreneurship worlds such as Majora Carter (CEO, MCG Consulting and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow) and the Hip-Hop Doc Dr. Olajide Williams (Chief of Staff, Dept. of Neurology, Columbia University and Founder of the Hip Hop Public Health Foundation). Both of them are brilliant and incredibly inspiring. Much thanks to Kathy Johnson (COO, Digital Diversity Network) for inviting me, Rajiv Pant (CTO, The New York Times) for hosting us, and Clayton and his team at Silicon Harlem for the dinner reception at the Copacabana.

Here are some highlights from the speakers:

Trends to leverage:

    * Social is stickyPinterest, for example, is driving more e-commerce than Google.
    * Mobile first – Mobile offers the most connected screens, particularly globally.
    * Simplifying a person’s life – People are losing track of their own lives. Useful tools/apps will be those reminding you of what you need to do in your day-to-day life… making you a better real life person.
    * Creation of new ecosystems – Figuring out how to make the process stupid-simple fueled by a lot of intelligence underneath, such as the meta-management of your life (e.g. your bills, wills and other things in one digital place) or a one-click buy of a house (by accessing the necessary data, credit screening, etc.).
    * Location Intelligence – Location intelligence can drive new localized business models.
    * Managing data – Focus on consumer thin clients with robust cloud infrastructure.
    * Managing security – Shift from engagement to more privacy/control over what you share.
    * Video games as learning tools – People learn faster when the experience is engaging.

Advice for Intrapreneurs:

    * Don’t be afraid of challenging your business. – You can’t fear cannibalization.
    * Integration is key – Most organizations have silos. There is now an overall move toward integration.

Advice For Entrepreneurs:

    * Metrics matter – Telling the story of your business is important but be well-versed in your data analytics – particularly when going for funding. Big data is the name of the game.
    * Know when to pivot – If your business model is not getting traction, it may be time to make a shift. Often successful start-ups goes through a few rounds of iterations. Successful entrepreneurs are constantly reinventing themselves and have often started multiple businesses until they get it right.
    * Consider innovation versus entertainment – The sexy companies aren’t necessarily the ones making money. It’s often the business-to-business enabling companies that succeed on a large scale (e.g. CyberSynchs which supports 340 million people).
    * Just do it! – Get the business out of your head and into a prototype so you can get customers. Costs have come down. A working prototype can be done for $20,000.

Advice for Job Seekers:

    * Be findable - LinkedIn is a key recruiting vehicle. Also, triangulate by contacting people with LinkedIn, through friends, at conferences, etc.
    * Communicate your potential impact – Make it about the business and less about you. Tell the story of how you can accelerate their goals.
    * Articulate transferable skills – If you want to move into the digital space then look for skill sets that are transferable. Certain places (e.g. Yahoo!) look for “best of” talent and then may create a job that didn’t exist before.

The Digital Diversity Network was launched in October 2012 to assume a leadership role in advancing diversity in the digital and hi-tech sectors. With a specific emphasis on pipeline expansion, leadership development and ownership, DDN works to ensure that the hi-tech earner/producer economy mirrors the demographics of key consumer/user groups.

Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy.