When I first arrived at Shop Talk I didn’t quite know what to expect but was quite impressed with how immense yet organized everything was. Every process seemed to be well thought out and the flow of massive amounts of people to and from the numerous rooms and areas appeared seamless.
I took the opportunity to attend the opening day pitch competitions on Sunday. I found the audience voting method to be a refreshing addition to the judge panel only format that dominates most pitch competitions. I had a chance to speak with a few of the Founders of several companies pitching that day. Les Karpas of LexSet, Kobi Wu of VisuWalland Sebastian Mueller of Rapitag were a few that I had extended conversations with. They all had positive things to say about the process of pitching at Shop Talk.
A Lot at Once
With 4 and sometimes 5 different tracks there were plenty of options for those who wanted to hear from a variety of speakers. There were often speakers who I wanted to see that were all speaking simultaneously.
Not Exactly What I Hoped For But…
As the Founder of a shopping list app with an integrated marketplace, I was looking to meet big box brick and mortar retailers, brands, and connect with other tech companies that I could potentially form a mutually beneficial partnership with. I was also hoping to speak with venture capitalist firms that were interested in investing in companies like Speed Shopper. I found that the majority of companies with exhibits at Shop Talk were e-commerce, Artificial Intelligence and data analytics companies. The Venture Capital firm that we had the opportunity to meet with was primarily focused on financing and investing in companies that needed help paying for data centers and purchasing expensive hardware. Although nothing fruitful came from our VC meeting, the opportunity to meet with Venture Capital firms was an incredible advantage that Shop Talk provided over other conferences I’ve attended.
My Conversation with the Founder and CEO of Shop Talk
As I was walking towards the Shop Hop activities near the Venetian casino floor I noticed that just ahead of me was Anil Aggarwal, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Shop Talk. I took the opportunity to initiate a conversation with him. I gave him praise for putting together such an outstanding event and asked him about the difference between Shop Talk and the conference his company will be hosting in September called Grocery Shop. Although he was currently in the company of 2 other gentlemen, he took the time to respond to my questions and was quite personable and descriptive in his reply. From our exchange I got the impression that Grocery Shop will be similar to Shop Talk in who they have targeted to attend, except the focus will be on grocery stores as opposed to general retailers. Based upon my conversation with Mr. Aggarwal, I’m eagerly looking forward to being a part of the Grocery Shop conference as well.
A Few Observations
I saw various companies centered on helping retailers collect customer data and put that data to use. In addition we saw many companies with the focus of processing payments electronically via online marketplaces. After much discussion with the various exhibitors and attendees I was given the overwhelming impression that many in attendance felt as if the future of retail is going to involve a lot more data analytics and artificial intelligence and a lot less human interaction. Startups were unfortunately excluded from being able to schedule meetings with retailers and brands, however there were other methods of facilitating those meetings.
Good Networking Opportunities
I had many meaningful interactions while attending Shop Talk but there were a few in particular that stood out to me. For example, I spoke to someone who worked for a company that had been earning billions for quite some time. He told me that his company was there because recently smaller companies with innovative technology had been disrupting there revenue. Having recently acquired one of their disruptors, they were there to scout the competition in addition to promoting their core business. In that moment it occurred to me how so often the word “disrupting” is used by companies claiming to have a new innovation that could potentially take customers away from their larger competition. But my interaction with this person, who I will keep anonymous, put the whole concept of disruption and what it really means to disrupt an industry in perspective. It appears that when you start to take money away from the big companies that’s when you get their attention. Prior to that you are just another minnow in the Shark Tank.
Great Hospitality and Fun
The networking opportunities were plentiful. Free alcoholic beverages, lunch and small snacks were provided. There was no shortage of free coffee.
There was a free Shaggy concert with an open bar and tacos. There were caricature artists, fortune tellers and an appearance by the oddly intuitive Bumby’s.