–I love the formal style of handing over business cards here in Hong Kong. You carefully offer your card two-handed and accept the other person’s card, also two-handed. It means that you actually have to engage with the person you are meeting for the first time.
The RISE team and I have been handing out a lot of cards in the last few days as we have prepared for RISE. We have met amazing startups and ambitious entrepreneurs who are intent on building the future. I have been blown away by the energy of the startup scene in Hong Kong and the growing buzz around the region for RISE.
There are more than 525 startups coming to RISE. They are the lifeblood of our events and we want to give them the best networking experience possible. Our Office Hours, famous pub crawls, Night Summit parties and dinners are designed to help achieve that.
This is our fourth international event this year – in our first truly global year – and we have been humbled by the reaction of attendees in Las Vegas and Northern Ireland, so far. We like to think that this is because we do conferences a little differently.
We use data science to make networking better and we hire computational physicists, statisticians and people who know a thing or two about machine learning and AI. We design algorithms that take into account who you are and who you might benefit from being on a pub crawl with or in a meeting with.
Many conference organisers fret over manually curating seating plans, compiling speaker lists by hearsay and handpicking invites for networking events. Manual approaches in particular begin to fail as conferences scale because the permutations tend towards infinity. But compliment them with technology and you can fundamentally change conferences.
We’ve used this engineering serendipity approach to create our flagship Web Summit in Dublin, which last year attracted over 22,000 attendees. In its first year, 2010, only 400 people came.
Now RISE is breaking all attendance records for a first time event with 5,000 attendees.
In large part this is down to the infectious enthusiasm of our co-host Casey Lau, arguably Hong Kong’s leading start-up evangelist/advocate. He has been running a fantastic series of events in #RISEweek and RISE will feature the Breakthrough HK pitch event for Hong Kong startups.
Our gatherings are far from perfect. Each event is a new operating system, so to speak. This year at RISE we are trialling Mentor Hours where entrepreneurs give back to startups in dozens of scheduled short meetings.
Mentor Hours illustrate a truth at the heart of getting the most out of conferences – being open to meeting new people – whatever the circumstances. I believe that when people come away from events, what they often remember and value most are the connections they make and the people they meet.
The desire for human to human interaction is still incredibly powerful. It might seem counterintuitive in the age of the machine, but human to human means more now than ever. Humanity’s greatest achievements have been made possible through gatherings of people generating the connections and serendipity that accelerate real-world change.
That’s why we spend a great deal of time thinking how best to put people together so that they can spark off each other, create and innovate. That’s what makes us unique. I hope you’ll join us somewhere soon on our journey to make conferences better. And to those of you coming to RISE, perhaps we’ll get a chance to exchange business cards. I hope so.