Business / Data / Events / Phorum / Startups

Here’s a taste of what went down at Phorum 2015

A Zuckerberg, some Coffee, a startup demo pit and much, much more.

Randi Zuckerberg shared 10 of the latest trends she's seeing businesses adapt to. (Photo by Tony Abraham)
Full disclosure: Philly is a Phorum 2015 media partner.

Businesses beware: The age of digital transformation is upon us.
What does that mean? In a nutshell — it’s time to adapt the way your organization conducts business. If you made it to this year’s Phorum at the Penn Museum, you experienced a day’s worth of discussion on the issue, as over 25 speakers engaged in six separate panels on digital transformation.
Topics included leveraging big data and cloud computing, enterprise investment, managing interdepartmental communications and trends in technology.
The event kicked off with an opening session from Phorum regular Peter Coffee, VP for strategic research at Coffee said businesses need a wider perspective on who their potential competition could be. Case #1: Uber.
Coffee mentioned the now-infamous jewelry salesman selling his wares out the backseat of his Uber. “This is doing rather well — five other drivers now also have showcases for this guy’s jewelry in the back of their cars,” Coffee said, adding that the man is now making six figures. “I don’t think sales ever thought of Uber as a competitor. And yet, here we are.”
On cloud computing, Coffee said the cloud is the most efficient strategy for big businesses looking to compete with leaner, more agile startups. He asked, “Will you be able to say that any time a new device like the Apple Watch comes to market, I’ll just be able to use my data on that device so I don’t have to license anything new?”
And as for customer relations, Coffee called for an end to content-bombing and the adoption of customer community building. “When customers feel like they’re part of a community with you, they will council you on how to keep their business,” he said. “This is priceless.”
Instead, businesses need to embrace their customers as a confederation of advisors.


Randi Zuckerberg was next to take the stage. The founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, digital marketing maven, actress, author, Broadway showstress and sister to Mark began her keynote address by reminiscing on her days working for her brother in San Jose. It all started when she was still working at an ad agency in Manhattan, dodging endless emails from Mark asking her to join “The Facebook.”
“I wish I could stand here before you today and say that, right away, I knew Facebook was going to be this multibillion dollar company,” she said. “I probably turned him down about a dozen times. I was like, ‘Why would I work for my brother’s silly little company? I would never do that.'”
But she did. And when she got there? No glamour, just a house with a bunch of dudes coding around the clock, consuming mass amounts of Red Bull and Twinkies.
“What I did see was this incredible passion for what they were building that I had never seen anywhere before,” she said. “They believed they were changing the world and the way everyone communicated.” That, she said, is when she fell “head over heels for entrepreneurship.”
The first question Zuckerberg asked was, how do you make your business still feel like a hot new startup when you have thousands of employees in a corporate setting?
Zuckerberg’s answer? “Hackathons.”
While she was at Facebook, the company would host monthly hackathons where their employees could work on anything as long as it wasn’t work-related. She admitted, “Most of the hackathon projects were utterly ridiculous,” like the keg that took selfies of the person at the tap and uploaded them to Facebook. Or, the trampoline that linked to users’ smartphones.
“You’d jump, make a silhouette, and then have to recreate that exact jump to unlock your cell phone again,” she said. Ridiculous, but effective. “It created this culture of people who weren’t afraid to fail.”
She topped off her keynote by sharing ten of the top trends she’s seeing across various industries from her book (and radio show), “Dot Complicated,” encouraging attendees to have their businesses think like a media company, join the maker movement, get into “gamifying” user experience, and above all — unplug every now and then.
“Not all of our relationships with technology are healthy right now,” Zuckerberg said. “To me, I think [unplugging] is going to be the next multibillion dollar industry.”


On a panel titled “Getting Control of the Chaos,” Phorum attendees heard about how to manage the way different departments within their business function together in the digital world. The panel was moderated by LiquidHub’s Jonathan Brassington.
Brassington asked the panelists, “What techniques are you applying to get control of the chaos?”
“With the explosion of digital data and cloud computing, it’s very easy to get solutions in place,” said Michael Reinhart of Fox Rothschild, stressing the importance of interdepartmental integration and adopting a view of data as critical to enterprise. “Ultimately you have to enable your business to grow and take advantage of that while partnering with [IT] to help steer and guide a little differently than years past.”
“You need to view your technology organization as a partner with the business, versus a service,” said Liberty Property Trust’s Steve Messaros. “How will data flow throughout your enterprise? How will customers want to consume this data? That has to be on the forefront of your mind.”


While the panels raged on, a startup demo pit featuring startups from across the region was slowly building to a boil.
One startup out of eight would be chosen to present at the night’s Philly New Tech Meetup. Finalists included West Chester-based MongoSluice and Philly startups Livegenic and Tesorio. Tesorio ended up winning the grand prize.

Companies: Facebook / PACT

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