The first day of our Global Technology Summit offered something for everyone whose business is rooted or involved in, or influenced by, Silicon Valley or the Valley-adjacent ecosystem. Critical technologies like Blockchain and artificial intelligence surfaced as themes from multiple panels.
Matt Larson of Bloomberg Intelligence conducted a live interview with Bart Stephens, Co-Founder and Managing Partner Blockchain Capital, as the event's first keynote. Stephens found his initial curiosity in the crypto world through video games, observing that virtual environments and virtual societies eventually required virtual economies, and noting that gaming will continue to be essential to online currency adaptation. After letting the audience know that as in any competitive industry, "better, faster, cheaper, wins," Stephens brought the matter home for much of the audience, explaining that anyone whose kids are playing Fortnite likely has Bitcoin transactions taking place under their roof.
In the mid-morning sessions, Brad Gersich, co-chair of DLA Piper's Northern California Corporate and Securities practice, moderated a discussion on late-stage investing that included predictions on next year's VC market, which the group thought would resemble 2018's. He said any change would be gradual before it was understood to be significant. Ervin Tu, a partner from Softbank Investment Advisors, also noted that his firm would likely continue its late-stage focus, because those are startups have had a chance to grow up first.
The cryptocurrency theme took shape with a panel on initial coin offerings led by Andrew Ledbetter, co-chair of DLA Piper's Public Company and Corporate Governance practice, in which R3 co-founder Todd McDonald noted that some of the skepticism of blockchain arose because it grew up quickly and in the public eye. TokenSoft CEO Mason Borda said the decrease in ICO funding is due to a more discerning market, and is not related to the technology.
For the lunch keynote, Kara Swisher painted an ultimately optimistic picture of Silicon Valley's potential in the near future – praising automation and suggesting it will one day be normal to work a three-day week because tasks will be handled more quickly, or even removed entirely from the average office worker's task list. She also expressed concern with some Silicon Valley leaders for not recognizing their agency in managing the power of their own technologies.
Later in the afternoon, DLA Piper partner Mark Radcliffe steered a conversation about various industries that are being positively disrupted by blockchain, calling it "the internet of value" and likely to "bring more fundamental change than the internet." The group settled on finance, healthcare, and real estate as the areas most likely to be affected and improved.
Next door, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers Jed York and PlaySight Interactive CEO and co-founder Chen Shachar discussed how to keep kids engaged in sports, during a panel moderated by Peter White, global co-chair of DLA Piper's Media, Sport and Entertainment sector, on "The Convergence of Sports and Technology." The group also touched on the way fans' experiences of where and how they root for their teams has evolved. Po Bronson, senior editor of Futureof.org, raised questions about the pressures on young athletes.
One of the two panels concluding the day was "Meet the Buyers," which lead off by asking each one of today's founders if they think about the exit at the outset. Jon Sakoda of Cisco Ventures said every innovator must think small/medium/long-term, and that it's natural for founders wonder whether investors will find value in what has been created. Kevin Iudicello, managing director at Pagemill Partners, introduced the idea of the "rule of 40" – a tipping point signifying opportunity for investors and both achievement and caution for founders. Once a startup hits a 40 percent growth margin, it's likely the company doesn't have the resources in house to scale at that rate, and while it's a point of pride to have record growth before expansion, it becomes crucial for the startup to adapt and keep pace with its own acceleration.
In a panel moderated by Larissa Bifano, co-chair of DLA Piper's Patent Prosecution practice, the participants looked at what's on the horizon for artificial intelligence. Roy Bahat of Bloomberg Beta humorously explained that advancement is natural and machines have always "taken over" – today's work environment, he noted, is unrecognizable to those from earlier generations. "A rule of thumb is that if you can do something in less than two seconds, soon a machine will be able to do it better than you," Bahat said. The panelists also explained that their individual missions, and those of many of their peers, are to deliver what's sometimes called "little AI" – real-life improvements and data science tools to streamline things for a small VC team or start-up looking to go #Garage2Global.