Highlights From TechCrunch Disrupt 2016
While several of my colleagues attended TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco this week, I stayed in Austin and followed the action from the convenience of my computer. From afar, four of the speakers and story-lines that I found most intriguing at this year’s event were as follows:
- George Hotz. Building on his successful talk at SXSW in March 2016, Hotz energized attendees with his vision of tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles. His company plans to release a $999 kit by the end of December that will add self-driving functionality to select automotive models. If a relative outsider can beat a host of much more established companies in this race for autonomous functionality, then that’s a healthy development for the tech industry. Although Hotz isn’t quite as much of an underdog as his hacker personality might indicate — investors in his startup include the VC Goliath Andressen Horowitz.
- Stephen Curry. Ten years ago, athletes wanted to be rock stars. Those aspirations have now changed, as the best jocks have their eyes on technology — and more specifically startups. At Disrupt, the two-time NBA MVP talked about his recent tech-focused investments as well as his favorite charitable organizations.
- Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. He spoke in the Bay Area on September 13, a day before coming to Austin to unveil the new DIUX outpost in Central Texas. In both appearances, Carter talked about how the Pentagon needs to embrace the agility and speed to market of entrepreneurs. In both appearances, he likewise urged founders to devote their disruptive brainpower to maintaining America’s military superiority. Who knew that Eric Ries was so influential in Washington DC?
- Neal Stephenson. Everyone’s favorite sci-fi author discussed his new role as chief futurist at secretive AR company Magic Leap. Stephenson told attendees that they should expect (and demand!) the unexpected with regards to the many new experiences that will be possible with virtual reality and mixed reality: “There are these moments that come up from time to time, when a new medium emerges, when nobody knows anything … This is one of those moments, I think.”