Business

Once upon a time at Brand Camp…

Hajj Flemings has done something unique for the fourth time in a row. He has managed to once again pull off one of the premier social media conferences right here in the heart of the Motor City.

The annual Brand Camp University happened last week in the beautifully renovated entrepreneurial hub, the M@dison Theater Building downtown. Business owners, startups, social media aficionados and digital newbies all gathered to learn about, share and glean tips on personal branding and this thing called digital.

“I believe digital technology is going to energize our local economy,” said Flemings, personal brand strategist and CEO/founder of Brand Camp University. “Michigan is buzzing with high-tech jobs and with the entrepreneurial passion in Detroit – we are primed for a come back. The Silicon Mitten Movement is happening.”

The conference theme this time around is Innovate, Build + Grow Detroit. It’s a noble and challenging aim for sure, but not so with the help of the brainpower gathered for the event. All of Detroit’s challenges weren’t solved in one day, but at least there were conversations of substance and intense learning at the same time.

The social media crowd is sometimes accused of not being able to hold a real face-to-face conversation with a human. While there was a whole lot of tweeting going on, one of the coolest happenings here were the introductions and interactions among attendees.

All day there was a palpable optimism in the air. Detroit is on the rise – digitally and otherwise. The folks in attendance were all ears as presenters from across the country spoke of opportunity, overcoming challenges and making the most of the next wave of innovation – online.

Flemings sees this conference as a way to “change how people build, launch and grow ideas using technology.” For entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs (those working for others), the event had something for everyone.

A-list speakers from here in the “D” and from across the country included Brad Feld, co-founder of Foundry Group/author of ‘Startup Communities;’ COO of Startup America Partnership Kathleen Warner; Slows Barbecue owner Phil Cooley; social media strategist and author C.C. Chapman; the world’s fastest paralympic sprinter, April Holmes; IBM Worldwide Social Business Evangelist, Louis Richardson, and Michael McGeary, co-founder of Engine Advocacy.

Widely popular online, the event trended regionally and nationally on Twitter and on other social media channels.
The general sessions included wide ranging information on brand management all the way to specifics of using social media to make change happen in a thriving community like Detroit.

One of the highlights of the day was a Fast Pitch competition featuring local and regional companies. Each did a mini version of his or her dog-and-pony show to a panel that included judges from Dell, StartUp America, Union Square Partners and our own Detroit Venture Partners.  For anyone with an idea in search of funding, this was a highlight of the day.

All of the presentations were great, but in the end the winner was the captcha killing, Are U A Human. A captcha (for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) is a program that can generate and grade tests humans can pass but current computer programs cannot. For example, humans can read distorted text but current computer programs can’t.

Proving every idea can have its day, a pair of high school students behind the rising beverage brand, 313 Energy, also joined in the fun. 313 Energy drinks are made up of Taurine, Vitamin B and antioxidants. For each can sold, the company gives 10 cents back to the city of Detroit. They offered an interesting process and a glimpse into what it really takes to wedge funding dollars out of venture cap firms.

While Brand Camp University happens here once a year, the effort to Build, Innovate +Grow Detroit is ongoing. Fleming says, “We are going to start building our Detroit community of entrepreneurs and startups by providing programming and engagement opportunities.  Our first community event will be in November.”

To get involved and stay connected with Detroit’s digital future, visit the Brand Camp University website or stay connected via Twitter at @BrandCampU or on Facebook.

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