The 7 Most Fascinating Tech Talks of Propelify Innovation Festival

From left to right:
Indicative Chairman Andrew Weinreich, Propelify Festival Founder Aaron Price, Indicative CEO Jeremy Levy

From left to right: Indicative Chairman Andrew Weinreich, Propelify Festival Founder Aaron Price, Indicative CEO Jeremy Levy

Indicative visited the 2018 Propelify Innovation Festival on May 17th. The event featured leaders in tech, media, and government talking about how technology will impact our world. We rounded up the best of the tech-driven talks.

1. Deciding by Data

Becoming a data-driven company is about two things; technology and culture. That was the message of Indicative CEO Jeremy Levy’s session on “Deciding by Data,” which is also the theme of podcast he hosts.

Levy first touched on the commoditization of data that’s made data access easier for every business. He cited how 1 gigabyte of storage used to require a contract with a large company like IBM. Now, that same gigabyte can be bought for pennies online. As data becomes more and more available and inexpensive, more businesses can truly embrace a data-driven culture.

But to become truly data-driven as a company, Levy said, “You need someone who’s an advocate who’s in charge.” He added that without a “champion” of data, businesses tend to get stuck in their ways, driven instead by flawed gut instinct.

2. Future of Skills

Today’s workers don’t have the skills to keep up with tomorrow’s jobs. That was the theme of the “Future of Skills” talk by Pearson’s Leah Jewell, the managing director of career readiness and employability.

Jewell’s talk was based on Pearson’s research project by the same name, which explored the skills that will be needed most by 2030.

One of the issues causing the skills gap, Jewell noted, is that many employers no longer believe that a degree is a sign of job readiness. Part of the solution, she said, is for employers to get better at mapping job requirements to specific skills that they outline clearly in job postings.

“When they start to define the skills, they can more concretely explain that to the learner,” she said.

Jewell added that employers are also in a position to accept alternate education certificates, which could help open doors for those who were unable to gain skills through traditional schooling.

“The key is not who delivers it, but who endorses it,” Jewell said of unconventional skills certificates. “That’s why I keep coming back to the employer.”

3. Fighting Fake News

David Mikkelson has been tracking down Fake News before it was cool. Mikkelson, the founder and executive editor of the urban myth-busting site Snopes, sat down with Inc Executive Director of Editorial Jon Fine for a conversation about how to fight fake news.

Snopes is already a part of Facebook’s effort to provide more information around news articles on its platform, and Mikkelson believes that adding context can go a long way in fighting fake news.

“I think there’s a lot to be done around interconnecting information, to make it harder to see things in isolation,” he said.

Platforms need to be careful about how they tell their users that certain information is false, Mikkelson acknowledged. He referenced Facebook’s previous policy to label certain articles “disputed,” which had been shown to have the potential to backfire.

One audience member asked if AI will take over all the jobs in his company over the next ten years, but Mikkelson said much of fake news busting still requires human interpretation. AI is not yet advanced enough to take over those roles, he said.

4. Future of Cannabis

Panelists of the Future of Cannabis discussion talked about how they walk the fine line of regulation in their businesses.

“Once you are in the cannabis business, you are in the business of regulatory compliance,” Lauren Rudick, an attorney and member of Hiller, PC, said. Not only do these businesses have to openly break the federal law that prohibits the sale of cannabis, but they also have to be well-versed in the wide-ranging state-specific laws that allow some cannabis businesses to operate.

All the panelists envisioned a less-regulated future for their industry, having already seen stigma diminishing toward the drug.

Zeyead Gharib, CEO of Harvest Direct Enterprises is taking it a step further.

His company plans to create consistent cannabis-based products that are delivered through medical devices, like pill capsules or inhalers.

“You can have your daytime inhaler, your nighttime inhaler, your, ‘I’m going out to party’ inhaler,” Gharib said. Delivering the drug through an inhaler, he believes, will help the drug become even more accepted.

5. Data Privacy for the Modern Small Business

Data security is like having an alarm system for your home. Dell Inside Regional Sales Director Burt Powers shared tips to help small business owners protect themselves from digital theft and scams.

Powers advised that businesspeople should always use a Virtual Private Network when working on a public Wi-Fi network, like in a coffee shop. The VPN acts as a “shield” around your data. Without it, Powers warned, anyone in the coffee shop could see your data.

He also emphasized that businesses need a data recovery plan, just like they would have a recovery plan for their home. It’s not just cyberattacks business owners should plan for — it’s also natural disasters. Which means that your backup hard drive shouldn’t always be right next to your computer.

6. Diversity in Blockchain

Amy Vernon, a founding member of the Crypto Working Group, came up with the idea for this talk when attending another panel where Kelcey Gosserand, who has founded communities around blockchain like Trellis and women + blockchain, was the only female speaker. Vernon realized the panel did not reflect the diverse group of people she knew were working in blockchain technology.

The panelists also discussed the diverse group of people that can benefit from blockchain technology. Leah Callon-Butler, the CIO and co-founder of Intimate.io pointed out that her company’s target customers — people who work in the adult industry — often find it hard to get loans from banks because “banks impose moral judgments on them,” and call them high risk.

“I don’t know what made the banks the moral arbiters of society,” Callon-Butler said. “And crypto can solve that, which is really cool.”

7. 5 Steps for More Customers

The first step to getting more customers is creating “Bat Signal Branding,” according to Todd Giannattasio, the founder of Tresnic Media. Like the bat signal, marketing needs to resonate with the person it’s meant to reach. “When they see it, they think, ‘yes, that is us,’” he said.

Giannattasio’s advice centered on developing relationships with prospects, rather than curating purely transactional experiences through tools like email. Your call to action should feel like a natural extension of your content, which is focused on speaking to your audience.

When content resonates with a prospect, it’s what Giannattasio calls, “disruptive inbound.” It’s so compelling, that as someone scrolls through their phone, the content forces them to “stop their thumbs in their tracks,” Giannattasio said.