2019 Emerging Technology Conference Recap

ETCon2019 went wonderfully, with incredibly stimulating speakers and a back-and-forth interactive setup. All of our speakers connected with the crowd and updated them on the latest and greatest going-ons in their industries.

The first speaker at ETCon2019 was Eric Weaver, the CEO and co-founder of Transparent Path, a traceability startup that uses blockchain to improve food safety. He discussed five major problems that the large network of food supply chains has today, including fraud and contamination, and Transparent Path’s solution. “Blockchain,” Eric stated, “was built for a world without trust.”

David Ness, VP of Innovation and R&D at U.S. Bank, spoke about emerging fintech. He discussed the timeline from proof-of-concept to the commercialization of a product and how to make choices based off demographic signals. He cautioned startups against impulsively changing their business roadmap because they are advised to: “[Don’t do it] unless you have a lot of money or a good partnership in place.”

Fiona McEvoy, tech ethics researcher and founder of YouTheData, discussed the ethical considerations of AI in our rapidly changing society. She stated that as humans all have biases, it is inevitable that human-built systems have biases as well. Fiona discussed determining the “right course of action” when it comes to technological ethics, how we can and should be demanding explanations for the choices of AI algorithms, and the hidden costs of discarding menial tasks that can be considered a mental respite, among other things.

Greg Belcher, VP of Strategy and Corporate Development at Exosite, spoke about IoT and blockchain. He mentioned how the interconnectedness of today’s world has made hacking much easier, and how Exosite is taking steps to prevent this. He cautioned businesses against stifling innovation because of fear, but also advised against overcomplicating things. Businesses might not need shiny new technologies like blockchain; the best system for them might be a simpler database or Excel programs.

Vic Miller, VP of Technology at SeekOps, spoke about how SeekOps leverages research from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. He discussed the technology behind the drones his company uses to combat gas leaks, and how their solution has a much lower margin of error than that of competitors’. He reviewed the shifting costs of technologies, future trends in gas leak detection, and what he considers the characteristics of an excellent entrepreneurial community to be.

The next speaker was Senthil Kumaran, CIO of Virtuwell. He informed attendees about the virtual healthcare industry, and the whopping 18% of U.S. GDP spent on healthcare. He discussed exciting new developments in the Medical AI industry, including the first ever FDA-approved medical AI diagnosis. “Machine Learning has enabled clinics to diagnose patients in new ways,” Senthil said. “You can now diagnose kidney disease through a photo of someone’s eyes.

Lastly, Brett Brohl, Managing Director of the TechStars Farm-to-Fork Accelerator, spoke about emerging agriculture technology. He discussed labor shortages in the agriculture industry, how emerging tech creates jobs, and the future of food. Brett also discussed what he looks for in a startup: “[The six things I look for are] team, team, team, product, market, traction.” He followed up with, “[In a team I look for] work ethic, intelligence, coachability, and culture.”

On June 7th, we had seven incredible speakers come forward and share valuable industry insights at ETCon2019. We would like to thank them for their time and expertise. We would also like to extend a special thanks to the University of St. Thomas for sponsoring and hosting the conference.

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