Thanks to Women Who Code, I was able to attend and expand my tech knowledge and network at Techcrunch Disrupt, a prestigious conference in Silicon Valley that showcases bleeding edge technology and startups. I was first intrigued by the event after hearing of it from the HBO’s Silicon Valley, and I am thankful that WWCode enabled me to attend.
The conference covered a broad set of tech topics from Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to Fintech, Spacetech, and Startup Battlefield. Startup Battlefield contained shark-tank like reviews from Tech Executives and VCs including Marissa Mayer and Ashton Kutcher. My typical knowledge of data analytics, self-driving cars, and fintech was broadened by the breadth and depth of topics at the panels. Some highlights included a 3d graphics talk with Will Smith, and many robotics demonstrations in the exhibition hall. I also volunteer for an organization with an event in the robotics space and AI space (Robots on Ice), so this was doubly helpful, and would not have been possible without Women Who Code.
Notable speakers at the event that I particularly enjoyed included Michele Romanow - Clearbanc Founder, Daniel Faber - OrbitFab CEO, Simone Giertz - Queen of Robots, Aicha Evans - CEO of Zoox, Will Smith - Actor.
Many of the speakers at pre-IPO companies discussed the choppy IPO market. The CEO of Postmates leaned into the IPO discussion to say that Postmates would IPO when it made sense to IPO. On the topic of pre-IPO dollars, Michele Romanow brought up good points about how narrow the pre-IPO money was targeted. “Did you know that 80% of VC dollars are deployed to 4 cities?” This was a thought-provoking statistic provided by Founder of ClearBanc, Michele Romanow.
Moving from Finance to Space Tech, I learned from OrbitFab about the technology limitations in space. Daniel Faber discussed one of the largest limitations of space travel is that getting fuel out of the Earth’s atmosphere is limited. They presented a product that could help create universally applicable space gas stations. "Once you get to orbit, you are halfway to the rest of the universe." -Daniel Faber Founder of @OrbitFab
Although Space Tech was very visible at TechCrunch, I also noticed many booths and attended talks on Tech related to my interest in Robotics. The Queen of Robots, Simone Giertz, was interviewed on her new product as well as her youtube channel focused on amusing robotics failures that she cleverly coded and built to fail in precise ways for entertainment. I learned more from Simone Giertz about what it took to create Truckla (a Tesla sedan converted into a truck), and the experience of her growing youtube presence, and her personal health battles. She was inspirational and motivating. "If what you want doesn't exist, make it yourself," said Simone Giertz as she was discussing making a Truckla from a Tesla.
Following Robotics, I was also inspired to watch a few talks on autonomous vehicles and current technology constraints of self-driving cars. Aicha Evans of Zoox provided an interesting perspective about what it will take to have fully self-driving cars, widely available. With the recent challenges the industry has seen slow development, her perspective shed light on ways the industry can leverage current city and auto technology. "We first have to integrate [AV's] with existing infrastructure... in the future, we may see only autonomous vehicles, but it will be because we earned it," Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox.
Women in Tech Role Models Up Close
Next, I watched the classic Startup Battlefield. I was motivated by the exceptional panel of successful women in tech and VC. I was able to see TrapticInc kickoff the Final StartupBattlefield with impressive judges Marrissa Mayer, Ann Miuro Ko, Ashton Kutcher, Mamoon Hamid, and Matthew Panzarino. Seeing Marissa's precision, technical depth, and executive demeanor in action was uplifting.
Startup Exhibition Hall
My last takeaways from TechCrunch were visiting the ambitious Startup Exhibition area. In this area, I leveraged the opportunity to speak with companies creating AI & robotics for translation, dancing robots, and intriguing VR companies from Asia. I got to meet dozens of founders, discussed future tech in VR, Blockchain, and accessibility of code for kids with Piper.
Thank you Women Who Code!
Overall, I feel lucky to have been chosen by Women Who Code to attend TechCrunch Disrupt 2019. It was a career pivoting experience to be so close to great tech role models, and network with other technologists. I am ecstatic to have made connections that will help both my tech career and my tech extra-curriculars. I was pleased about the connections I made and lessons learned for my role as a contractor at a search company as well as my volunteering for Robots on Ice. I highly recommend that other women work with Women Who Code to attend these kinds of events.
Follow me on twitter at SarahFeldmanSF