Above All Human 2014
This past week I got the opportunity to attend the inaugural Above All Human conference, held in North Melbourne’s Arts House Meat Market. Here are some thoughts & reflections I took out of it.
- There are lots of conversations we’re not having as an industry. Ethics, diversity and responsibility often end up subservient to pragmatism, profit, and monoculture.
- “Solving a problem” is a very broad statement. Some people’s problems are finding shoes that fit; others are finding capital to finance their businesses in places with no banking infrastructure. Others just want to find cool links on the Internet.
- Just because people are internet-famous and can start cool businesses, doesn’t guarantee that they have insight to share.
- Listen to people who are not like yourself, and you will learn.
Morning keynotes Perhaps I was just more awake in the morning, but I felt it was the best part. The morning keynote-ish talks were awesome, and I’ll give them some air time of their own.
Diversity of speakers One of the organisers’ stated goals was to have a diverse lineup, across genders & cultures. I think they did a great job of that. The only piece missing were older people. There is a wealth of wisdom in the older voices in tech that would have been great to see there.
The venue all the tech conferences I’ve attended in Melbourne have been, sadly, a touch on the bland side. But the Meat Market was a great venue, and the mingling space outside the auditorium was a fun place to hang out, chat, and get refueled.
VC panel I was really interested in the questions being asked of the VC guests - about diversity in VC funding, approaches Australian companies can take in a smaller pond of money, and why an “exit” is pretty much the only strategy VC seems to be interested in.
Their answers? “I’ll fund what appeals to me”, “maybe you should just go to the Valley”, and “because 1000x, duh”.
A sad irony that those keen to invest in “innovation”, etc. feel no need (or interest) to innovate their own practices. What would disrupting the VC space look like?
YC Office Hours This was a strange segment - designed to mimic the YC pitching sessions, but on stage in front of an audience. It felt a bit like free advertising for YCombinator, and (even more oddly) most of the pitching companies didn’t seem that interested in their advice anyway. If I’d made any of those companies I suppose I’d be defensive of my baby too - but it made for a strange (voyeuristic?) experience.