Ken Hertz and I hosted our 10th Big Bang Forum this week. Big Bang is where numerous music, media and technology professionals gather to discuss the future and the present. The latest edition featured presentations and discussions about Internet 3.0, 3D printing, Bitcoin and the future of monetary exchange and disruption and innovation in live events.
Ron Bloom, Founder, Chairman and CEO of BiteSizeTV kicked off the session. BiteSizeTV is an online video entertainment network, bringing together, production, programming, promotion and platform, similar to broadcast and cable networks, but BiteSizeTV is served on and through the internet.
Bloom gave a presentation called, "Internet 3.0 -- Hollywood in the Driver's Seat." His premise is that we're in a 3rd phase of the Internet, where Hollywood and media companies are poised to dominate. Internet 1.0, the first phase, was the Enterprise Internet, where "Google became a universal power." Phase 2 is the social web. "Facebook," Bloom said, "was the winner in Internet 2.0."
Bloom's theory is that we need to move beyond the technology and use the technology to build not just an ad platform, but creative star performers and producers. "Internet [TV] channels are not entertainment networks," he continued. "They're ad networks with video. Franchise value lives at the network level."
"To have long-term success," Bloom said, "Internet TV needs to "build a network with artists. Give them ownership of the franchise. If it doesn't work, you let it go. If we can build the platforms and not be ashamed of doing unscripted programming that gives us the best chance of creating new models."
Or, as Ken Hertz said, "Once you find your Mad Men or House of Cards, you're in. It's about living long enough to get there. We hear about the people who won the lottery, but not about all the people that bought tickets."
According to Bloom, "Silicon Valley is fundamentally against marketing. They create something then run like hell to find out how to make money from it. The shift to 3.0 is going to force Silicon Valley to start marketing." He did allow that Apple is one Silicon Valley company that really gets it, saying, "Apple's infrastructure allows it to sell hardware. They're one of the great marketing engines on the planet."
Cathy Lewis, CMO of 3D Systems, was the second guest presenter. She gave everyone an overview of the current capabilities of 3D printers, as well as what's on the horizon for this fast-moving technology. It's a safe bet that most of the people in the room at Big Bang were unaware of how far this technology has advanced. Lewis said that, "Most people hadn't heard of it until 2 years ago, when we got into the consumer market."
Photo Credit: Subhashish Panigrahi
In essence, 3D printing is on-demand manufacturing, whether done on a home printer that today costs as little as $1300, or in a manufacturing center on a $1 million machine. "3D printing," she said, "won't eliminate manufacturing; it's going to augment it." Lewis' presentation showed the most prevalent current applications for 3D printing: aerospace, automotive, patient-specific medical devices and consumer products: clothing, toys and a very cool guitar!
3D printing at home is a reality now, but it's expected to grow dramatically in the next few years. In a follow-up conversation with Lewis, she told us that a wide variety of items could be 3D printed at home. In some cases, this requires an additional scanning device to scan the object to be printed. In other cases, the printing can be done from software patterns that can be purchased off the shelf.
The future of this technology includes expanded home printing using multiple colors and multiple materials. And commercial applications will go beyond manufacturing plants, including building items to order in space.
Following the presentation on one of the hottest new technologies, Big Bang attendees got an update on one of the most controversial, Bitcoin. Jered Kenna, Bitcoin expert/founder and CEO of digital currency exchange, Tradehill, and his associate Constance Choi explained the background and evolution of Bitcoin.
Their presentation, to some degree, brought Bitcoin out of the shadows. For those who only knew of Bitcoin from the negative press the technology has received, they received more of a long view of this attempt at creating "a new kind of asset."
Photo Credit: Satoshi
As Kenna and Choi put it, "Bitcoin is an open source payment system. It creates a freedom of transaction for you to control your money system. In a way, it's like email. You don't have to pay a post office to send email. Bitcoin is the same thing. It's open source." They continued, "It's decentralized, like a service such as Uber, Lyft or Air B&B. Bitcoin is a protocol, just as important as HTML."
They demonstrated the process of buying and paying with Bitcoin. They also showed graphs of the value of Bitcoin over time. In the beginning, each Bitcoin was worth about 5 cents. The value rose as high as $260, but the value now sits at about half its peak, $135 per Bitcoin on the day of the presentation. Kenna pointed out that the first Bitcoin purchase ever was a pizza, which at today's value, would make it the world's only $1.2 million dollar pizza.
Choi said that the idea has always been to "be able to transact online without giving up any personal information." Still, as she and Kenna acknowledged, the US Government has gotten involved. Worried about the potential of dubious transactions, the feds stepped in and demanded that people verify their identities. "Expect," said, Choi," the same amount of scrutiny that you would if you opened a bank account."
An attendee asked the essential question, "Will this be an investor based system, or will it be targeted towards retail transactions?" Kenna admitted, "It's too early. We don't know. But there are some brick and mortar stores that accept it, especially in the Bay area." "Also," he said, "among the companies accepting Bitcoins now is Amazon Fulfillment Services."
The final segment of Big Bang X event was a panel with Jordan Glazier of Eventful and Bruno Natal from WeDemand about disruption in crowd sourced events and ticketing. Ken Hertz summed up both services' core business as, "helping musicians use their otherwise unused inventory. Essentially, it's found money."
Glazier described how Eventful built a platform called Demand It to help create a way for artists, agents and managers to identify and find their audience. "We're creating new ways to impact the world," said Glazier." He talked about how Eventful has advanced beyond its initial focus on music. In addition to concerts, they now help arrange film screenings and other entertainment events.
Natal told attendees that WeDemand was started in Brazil as a reaction to unique problems in scheduling concerts in that country. WeDemand was seeking a crowd-funded service to create a "real-time routing tool." Natal continued by saying that WeDemand has also evolved as it's seen new opportunities. He explained, "It's changed from being just about crowd sourcing to be about big data."
The panel on disruption in the live events business was a microcosm of the Big Bang sessions itself. What started out as a music-centric event has evolved into much more -- a bigger picture forum, which encompasses all of the changing gears in the industry -- from digital media, to tech, to entertainment, to the startup world.