Business, City Transformation, Creativity

It’s a high-tech invasion — conferences such as Brand Camp promise to spark innovation


Over the next few weeks, some of high-tech world’s brightest minds will be … in Detroit. Online entrepreneurs, Web developers, Internet intellectuals – whatever you want to call them, they are all calling our city home for a day or two.

1 - brand campTake next week as an example. Jack Dorsey – the creator of Twitter and CEO of mobile-payments company Square – will be hosting a business roundtable called “Let’s Talk Detroit,” featuring business owners including Just Baked’s Pam Turkin and Peacock Room/Emerald’s Rachel Lutz.

That follows his appearance at Techonomy, a conference that focuses on “the role of technology and innovation in boosting American economic growth, job creation, and urban revival,” according to organizers (we’ll be there; look for our reports next week). Other speakers include Chad Dickerson, Chief Executive Officer of Etsy and Rodney Brooks of Rethink Robotics.

And there’s one more to add to your calendar. On Oct. 22, locally based branding expert Hajj Flemings and technology savant Delane Parnell are partnering to present Brand Camp ’13, which brings together three concepts in a smart way. They goal is to find the ideas that come when you mix technology, design and branding in one room.

Because you can call it “Detroit 2.0” until you’re blue in the face. Because you can spread stickers with how much opportunity there is here. Because you can Instragram our greatness to your heart’s content. But until the rest of the world hears that message, you’re not going to change any minds. That’s why you need branding … that’s why it’s a cool addition to the mix, says I.

2- brand campYou want big names? Brand Camp has ‘em. Alexis Ohanian is one of the top-notch speakers scheduled for that day, and I’m thinking he’s a must-see. Ohanian is best known for co-founding the social news website reddit, helping launch travel search website hipmunk and starting social enterprise breadpig.

Oh, and if you cannot catch his ear, there will be more than 500 other high-end business developers, designers, investors and creative types coming together that day. (Oh, and a few sponsors: NEI, MEDC, IBM, Automation Alley and Bizdom to name a few.)

But it more than just a bunch of keynote speakers talking down from the daises. Rather, there are will be panel discussions where real talk is valued. There will be places for regular conversations, small hidey-holes where a group or just two people can connect offline. The idea is to create a place where transformations can occur over coffee, said Parnell, creator of “Fifty Founders” and a regular these days on this blog.

Since its beginnings in 2008, Brand Camp has been working hard to create a community of innovators – people who want to see Detroit start and feed a revolution here, Parnell told me this week.

“This is an event that changes perceptions about Detroit in the tech scene,” Parnell said. “People want to come to Detroit and want to see things happen in this city and this region; that’s why we’ve been able to get the level of people who said they would attend.”

3 - brand campBut don’t feel like if you don’t know how to write code that you cannot sit beside the brains who will be in the room. All ages, ethnicities and expert levels are needed to engage; new ideas don’t come out of hanging out with all of the same people all of the time.

“You’re going to gain insight on the things that you need to know to grow and build a business. Whether you’re technical or non-technical,” Parnell said. “These lessons are just so well versed you can use them in any industry.”

Because who better to tell you how to jump start your fund-raising efforts that someone whose website has gone from his parents’ basement to be a million-dollar company? Or how about someone who failed so often that people wrote him off – and how he’s heading an investment firm with Roger Penske?

Maybe you’re considering working with one of the many up-and-coming business incubators around Detroit. Well, kid, you’re in luck. Brand Camp will have people who can talk to you about the advantages and disadvantages of just such a situation.

That’s what makes Brand Camp so useful, Parnell said. Things won’t be all rosy glasses and sugar-coated daydreams. There will be reality-busting, soul-crushing stories of defeat and despair. And that’s part of starting anything great. And that’s always been part of the Detroit story. We’re ok with discouragement; in fact, we probably thrive off of it more than any other city.

So if you want to perfect your pitch…if you want to think like an investor and get into that mindset for your future business…if you want to talk to the writers, reporters, doers and dreamers in person and ask the burning questions of the day…then you need to get thee to a conference like Brand Camp, Let’s Talk Detroit or Techonomy … and soon.

“There’s so many topics that we’ll cover there’s no way you won’t walk away without any insights or feel like you didn’t learn something that day,” Parnell said.

To register, click here.


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