What I Learned at the Fastest Growing Technology Conference in America

Roughly fifty journalists -- including myself -- were straining to hear the CEO of an Internet Transparency Company on day one speak on why openness and inclusiveness make good business sense. Then his politics stole the show when he informed the assembled journalists the reason the Syrian war erupted into the disaster for a generation was over drought-like conditions in the Sahara Desert and climate change. That’s when I knew I was in for something I never signed up for when I accepted an offer to be a journalist at the Collision Conference, May 1-3 in New Orleans.

Fortune 500 states, “Collision is America’s fastest growing tech conference bringing Fortune 500 companies, groundbreaking startups and world-class speakers to New Orleans.” However, because of left-leaning politics being the centerpiece of this conference, it is now moving to Toronto, Canada, where Prime Minister Trudeau believes in global warming, embraces technology, and more importantly, isn’t Donald Trump.

This window into the “tech-world” should make investors in these companies, economies built on technology, and anyone who believes in the rule of law and contracts to be deeply concerned over the upcoming generation of technology leaders and their enthusiasts. The reality is that technology will not be changing the future anytime soon, if this conference is indicative of apps bought through iTunes or the Android platform running our lives that are big on promises but vague on actual execution.

AN INVITATION THAT PROMISED THE MOON

When I was invited as a journalist to report on the conference it seemed an odd fit because my writings and consulting practice focuses on energy, national security, foreign policy, and California politics. Somehow my energy writings caught the Collision staff’s attention and I received an invitation to attend the conference at no cost. The speakers included people like Al Gore and Wycleff Jean (who was the best speaker at the conference when it came to actual substance). After big promises were made to me about exclusive access to these speakers I accepted the invitation to attend, though I’ve been a strident critic of renewable energy, electric vehicles and the overall concept of clean energy.

Being able to request one-on-one interviews with some of the biggest names in media, finance, technology, A.I., investment management, and clean energy was a unique opportunity. What I planned to write on had to be approved by the Collision media staff. Fair enough, I thought -- and the story I pitched and got enthusiastically approved -- was the problem of 600 million Africans without energy at this time according to the World Bank.

THE INFLUENCE-MAKERS DECLINED

Not one speaker accepted my invitation -- whether it was the President of the ACLU or Microsoft to famous actors and producers. If anyone showed interest, then the rejection came from a series of publicists and media-handlers who had no interest in having their clients interviewed by me. I quickly learned that invitations given months ahead of time were never answered and “promised access,” during the conference was limited to controlled environments through pre-screened questions via public relations specialists or corporate communications departments in multinational corporations. The only time high-profile speakers would take questions were in large groups that were tightly controlled by Collision media staff. It also became clear to me if I’d pitched stories on global warming, technology solving climate change, or how Donald Trump is ruining the world then more than likely my interview requests would’ve been accepted.

The media tent was alerted that the best way to book interviews or gain access to speakers was to use the chat feature on the Collision app. Somehow, I doubt if the Chairman Emeritus of Cisco or the Editor-in-Chief of WIRED magazine checked messages from the Collision app.

BROKEN PROMISES OR OUTRIGHT LYING?

The young millennials in charge of the Collision conference lacked cohesion of purpose for why anyone attended the three-day event in New Orleans. The group from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the cloud architects from McKinsey Management Consulting seemed to be the only firms and individuals selling real services to grow businesses as I walked the convention floor. Outside of enjoying New Orleans’ nightlife, no one gave me a cogent reason for buying convention tickets that started at $800 and went up to $24,000 for the Collision VIP dinners.

The best answer I received for Collision’s existence was from a magazine journalist who traveled the country covering conventions. We also compared notes to every promise made to us by the Collision staff and how none of them were kept. Since truth and morality are no longer bound in reason or history, more than likely these young millennials believed what they told me and other journalists while never actually finding out if someone like Al Gore had any intention of sitting down with the media. Better to show you have a large media profile than find out if what you are saying is true.

THE BRIGHT SPOTS

One millennial gave me hope for his generation’s future and company. His name is Soffonias Gebrehiwot and he is the CEO and Founder of a travel app named, Gage Inc. Soffonias is everything you would want in a young, business leader; he’s smart, dedicated, and with enough business acumen and moxy to make his company profitable. He’s from Ethiopia, graduated with a human design engineering degree from the University of Washington and before starting his company worked for Accenture. He embodies the spirit of anyone can be successful in America while wanting to make travel a way to connect people through local guides using a peer-to-peer platform. Gage Inc. under Soffonias’ leadership believes they can cut travel costs by 50% while changing minds and opinions through world travel. A lofty goal and if anyone can succeed in this vision it is Soffonias.

The company and person that blew me away is a geospatial energy firm, Transect.com, led by Chief Business Officer and Co-Founder Sam Laine. This company literally maps the safest, most environmentally friendly way to lay pipelines that bypasses endangered species, protected wetlands, and any type of affected waterways. Sam was a seasoned professional in his early 50s and was a welcome change from the millennial crowd and older, hostile liberal speakers who made up the bulk of the convention.

FINAL THOUGHTS

No one should accept that technology led by apps, robots, and automation will rule the world or do away with human workers. The Collision staff and participants are possibly well meaning but I’d argue decades away from making this tech-driven future a possibility. Utopian-filled dreams came to mind during my three days covering the event over real-world profits and sustainable business models. It’s no accident the company with the best future was led by an older professional (Sam of Transect.com) that had a real product (geospatial pipeline mapping) that services the largest industry in the world (fossil fuels). New Orleans is an amazing city, but unless major changes take place, I won’t return to the Collision Conference and I wouldn’t recommend the event to anyone unless you had a specific reason for attending.

Roughly fifty journalists -- including myself -- were straining to hear the CEO of an Internet Transparency Company on day one speak on why openness and inclusiveness make good business sense. Then his politics stole the show when he informed the assembled journalists the reason the Syrian war erupted into the disaster for a generation was over drought-like conditions in the Sahara Desert and climate change. That’s when I knew I was in for something I never signed up for when I accepted an offer to be a journalist at the Collision Conference, May 1-3 in New Orleans.

Fortune 500 states, “Collision is America’s fastest growing tech conference bringing Fortune 500 companies, groundbreaking startups and world-class speakers to New Orleans.” However, because of left-leaning politics being the centerpiece of this conference, it is now moving to Toronto, Canada, where Prime Minister Trudeau believes in global warming, embraces technology, and more importantly, isn’t Donald Trump.

This window into the “tech-world” should make investors in these companies, economies built on technology, and anyone who believes in the rule of law and contracts to be deeply concerned over the upcoming generation of technology leaders and their enthusiasts. The reality is that technology will not be changing the future anytime soon, if this conference is indicative of apps bought through iTunes or the Android platform running our lives that are big on promises but vague on actual execution.

AN INVITATION THAT PROMISED THE MOON

When I was invited as a journalist to report on the conference it seemed an odd fit because my writings and consulting practice focuses on energy, national security, foreign policy, and California politics. Somehow my energy writings caught the Collision staff’s attention and I received an invitation to attend the conference at no cost. The speakers included people like Al Gore and Wycleff Jean (who was the best speaker at the conference when it came to actual substance). After big promises were made to me about exclusive access to these speakers I accepted the invitation to attend, though I’ve been a strident critic of renewable energy, electric vehicles and the overall concept of clean energy.

Being able to request one-on-one interviews with some of the biggest names in media, finance, technology, A.I., investment management, and clean energy was a unique opportunity. What I planned to write on had to be approved by the Collision media staff. Fair enough, I thought -- and the story I pitched and got enthusiastically approved -- was the problem of 600 million Africans without energy at this time according to the World Bank.

THE INFLUENCE-MAKERS DECLINED

Not one speaker accepted my invitation -- whether it was the President of the ACLU or Microsoft to famous actors and producers. If anyone showed interest, then the rejection came from a series of publicists and media-handlers who had no interest in having their clients interviewed by me. I quickly learned that invitations given months ahead of time were never answered and “promised access,” during the conference was limited to controlled environments through pre-screened questions via public relations specialists or corporate communications departments in multinational corporations. The only time high-profile speakers would take questions were in large groups that were tightly controlled by Collision media staff. It also became clear to me if I’d pitched stories on global warming, technology solving climate change, or how Donald Trump is ruining the world then more than likely my interview requests would’ve been accepted.

The media tent was alerted that the best way to book interviews or gain access to speakers was to use the chat feature on the Collision app. Somehow, I doubt if the Chairman Emeritus of Cisco or the Editor-in-Chief of WIRED magazine checked messages from the Collision app.

BROKEN PROMISES OR OUTRIGHT LYING?

The young millennials in charge of the Collision conference lacked cohesion of purpose for why anyone attended the three-day event in New Orleans. The group from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the cloud architects from McKinsey Management Consulting seemed to be the only firms and individuals selling real services to grow businesses as I walked the convention floor. Outside of enjoying New Orleans’ nightlife, no one gave me a cogent reason for buying convention tickets that started at $800 and went up to $24,000 for the Collision VIP dinners.

The best answer I received for Collision’s existence was from a magazine journalist who traveled the country covering conventions. We also compared notes to every promise made to us by the Collision staff and how none of them were kept. Since truth and morality are no longer bound in reason or history, more than likely these young millennials believed what they told me and other journalists while never actually finding out if someone like Al Gore had any intention of sitting down with the media. Better to show you have a large media profile than find out if what you are saying is true.

THE BRIGHT SPOTS

One millennial gave me hope for his generation’s future and company. His name is Soffonias Gebrehiwot and he is the CEO and Founder of a travel app named, Gage Inc. Soffonias is everything you would want in a young, business leader; he’s smart, dedicated, and with enough business acumen and moxy to make his company profitable. He’s from Ethiopia, graduated with a human design engineering degree from the University of Washington and before starting his company worked for Accenture. He embodies the spirit of anyone can be successful in America while wanting to make travel a way to connect people through local guides using a peer-to-peer platform. Gage Inc. under Soffonias’ leadership believes they can cut travel costs by 50% while changing minds and opinions through world travel. A lofty goal and if anyone can succeed in this vision it is Soffonias.

The company and person that blew me away is a geospatial energy firm, Transect.com, led by Chief Business Officer and Co-Founder Sam Laine. This company literally maps the safest, most environmentally friendly way to lay pipelines that bypasses endangered species, protected wetlands, and any type of affected waterways. Sam was a seasoned professional in his early 50s and was a welcome change from the millennial crowd and older, hostile liberal speakers who made up the bulk of the convention.

FINAL THOUGHTS

No one should accept that technology led by apps, robots, and automation will rule the world or do away with human workers. The Collision staff and participants are possibly well meaning but I’d argue decades away from making this tech-driven future a possibility. Utopian-filled dreams came to mind during my three days covering the event over real-world profits and sustainable business models. It’s no accident the company with the best future was led by an older professional (Sam of Transect.com) that had a real product (geospatial pipeline mapping) that services the largest industry in the world (fossil fuels). New Orleans is an amazing city, but unless major changes take place, I won’t return to the Collision Conference and I wouldn’t recommend the event to anyone unless you had a specific reason for attending.