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Walking The Talk In Silicon Valley – What Mattered At The 2014 LAUNCH Festival

I spent the first half of my week in the land of the nouveaux riches and the fail-backwards-wannapreneurs, the starving startups and the über (Pun!) rich venture capitalists, the land of income gaps and the building of bridges for such; it was an experience that was well worth having and well worth sharing.

Jason Calacanis is a VC mogul, an entrepreneur, and blogger, but most important, he is a man with an opinion that he is happy to share, like most of his big-player pals. Jason built an empire, and for 3 days a year he opens it up to us. Startups attend for free, the rest of us pay our dues. Startups spend the days prior inventing and building, VC’s meeting, and then in a grande finale they sign checks. Just like the one for $50,000 to two young adults from Warsaw who looked like deer in headlights on stage, not knowing what just happened to them over the past few days;  from arriving, to forming a company, to getting checks from Jason and the (rather mesmerizing) leader of the cult-VC pack, Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank Etc) with 9,000 attendees watching their acceptance speech. They told us they will now move to the US.

On the same day that a Google glasses wearing female was attacked outside a bar (‘Glassholes’ they call them) and Mt. Gox came tumbling down, I saw a shocking amount of both, ladies wearing Google glasses and Bitcoins being freely distributed. Inside the conference grounds, one can’t help but contemplate about how the inside connects to the outside, if some of the tech ideas will connect with anyone but the developers who created them, if some of the checks written will help or hinder the growth of those companies, if the billionaires use the tech for good movement like Fortune 500’s used green-washing. Yet Marc Cuban put it the best way, and I drank his thoughts like Kool-Aid; being asked about what makes him happy, he surprisingly mentioned his role on the popular TV show Shark Tank, which could be seen as a total sellout (not that Cuban needs the implied money), he said (I am paraphrasing): “Shark Tank reaches whole families, kids to grandmas, generations of all income levels. They start talking about entrepreneurship, about ideas and how they can turn into money. The show brings the American Dream back up front and center within our society at large. It makes me proud and happy.”

At Launch you will witness a spirit of anything is possible in a fast paced environment that is comparable to a campground smack in the center of a Formula 1 race, only that hot dogs are being switched out with farm-to-table food fare and the exchange of High Fives with that of large checks. Here are the companies that took the stage at Launch, which made the biggest impact on me, and I predict will make the biggest on mankind in the coming years (None were part of the Launch competition, its winner was Connect, which is quite cool as well):

1. Google’s Ara Phone

Of all the companies you pick Google? Really? Indeed, my thoughts exactly, but stay with me here: Google showcased their Ara phone (used to be Motorola‘s prior to the acquisition) and it will disrupt entire segments and industries. Modularity meets 3D Printing, Open Platform meets Affordability, the list goes on and on. Already a staple of internet phone geek chatter over the past months, it was astonishing to see the Ara prototype being assembled on stage, click by click, snap by snap. A vision turned reality. Developer Conference is taking place this April and by next year’s Launch conference we will all be sporting one, but none will be alike.

Google_Project Ara

GoogleProjectAra_FINIEN

2. The Cardiovascular Innovation Institute’s 3D Printed Heart

We can 3D print a superior human heart. And that is ‘the easiest organ to bioprint‘. You should be able to get yours within the next 5-10 years. Mind, blown. The app startups that took the stage thereafter suddenly impressed less by the minute.

3. Knightscope’s K5 Autonomous Robot

He predicts and prevents crime. And he’s scary to your privacy, but there is no doubt you will meet K5 soon, and he might just save your life. Lose your privacy, have your life saved. A risk worth taking?

Below you can see a graphic showcasing 20 of the 40 companies that launched at the festival this year and (if you have really good eye sight) the money raised by attendees in the short 3 days for each, outside of the added funds during the final ceremony. Very few of them will have lasting impact, but as Jason put it prior to announcing the award winners, no one, not even the judges really know who of them will turn into the next WhatsApp, SnapChat…or Dropbox, which was not deemed worthy an award at Launch a couple of years back.

Launch_Leaderboard_FINIENLaunch walked the walk, the money talked the talk, and all of it happened while the many homeless outside the venue had no idea that they too will see the benefits of what Jason has put together. They just saw the Teslas pulling out of the lot.

See you next year at Launch. Call me on my Ara phone to Connect.

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