The Jenius was at the TecnoFeria yesterday and has one word to describe it: paltry. Coming on the heels of My recent post about events, let's analyze what happened... or didn't happen:
1) Sponsors: The primary sponsors were SAP (pronounced "sap") and the SBDC, the event organizer. Some local firms also sponsored, some of whom didn't show up. Sponsors who get the publicity and don't show up, unless they have a validly powerful reason, are cynical opportunists of the pathetic state local tech events are in: they garner what publicity they can, but save the money and time of dealing with the event itself. Educators they are not and some would applaud them for doing this. The Jenius would have those lamebrains and their supporters deported for having "pocket-length" vision, i.e., can't see past their own pockets. Slackers such as these are not, never have been and never will be, the pillars on which to build a truly global industry.
And yet, the lack of sponsor support bears review. The problem stems from a widespread and deeply-held lack of perceived and actual value as a result of sponsoring a tech event. Improve the quality of events in terms of industry content, ability to attract prospects and clients, increased networking potential and bottom-line results (sales, contracts) and tech events will once again attract sponsors. Is it easy? Of course not. Yet it can--and will be--done.
2) Content: Well, let The Jenius see... the SBDC gave a lengthy, nostalgic chat that enveloped the audience in the warm spirit of 1998, with its glittering promise of low-cost websites generating sales every minute like a cash machine. SAP did its usual polished job of presenting SAP. And LasFinanzasPR.com (Disclosure: The Jenius is a consultant to LasFinanzasPR.com, making them Jeniuses-by-association) presented a basic tech planning/selection/implementation outline. With the exception of LasFinanzasPR.com--and The Jenius will accept the possibility of bias, but points out that LasFinanzasPR.com offers accounting and financial management services, not technology consulting--the other conferences were essentially sales pitches: the SBDC in "use me mode," and SAP is "buy me mode."
Now, the SBDC is allowed to make pitches because they are eager and willing to provide a service that costs the user nothing and can actually be a remarkable source of help. But SAP, faced with the opportunity of leading the market, chose to pander to it, even though the market at the event was really not good for SAP.
3) Attendance: Peaked at about 450, far from the expected 800. And of that "crowd," from one-third to almost one-half were students, a good market for the SBDC, Interamerican University and banks (credit cards, anyone?), but bad for the true Internet businesses that were exhibitors. As expected, plenty of morning attendees, but once lunch ended (free finger food and beverages was a very nice touch), the drop-off closed the event.
4) Venue: A Coliseum is bad, very bad, for an event that doesn't jam the place wall-to-wall. Puerto Ricans equate "atmosphere" with trading skin flakes as they move around, so unless it's crowded, it ain't "happenin'." The Jenius called people and warned them away from the event because His contacts would be arriving after 1 PM. By that time, the event would lose most of its value as an information and networking possibility. The Jenius understands that donating the use of the venue was a good offer, but unless the event can take advantage of the donation, it simply complicates future efforts to stage similar events.
5) Publicity: The staple of sponsor attraction, The Jenius can't really rate this aspect with any sense of certainty. However, almost a dozen of His contacts in the Internet industry, media and government were not aware of the event as late as May 9th.
What's been done has not built for the future. What's being done is repetitive, dull and uninspiring. We know growth will not happen given the present set of efforts. It's time to launch more focused, more inspiring, more visionary and bolder efforts to educate, galvanize and guide Puerto Rico's Knowledge Economy Leaders into a global player category. Now.
The Jenius Has Spoken.