Tech Day 2017

by Kevin Oh

I recently had the opportunity to represent one of Nulab’s apps, Typetalk.

I donned my Nulab tee and hoodie, strapped on the goldenrod “Tech Day Exhibitor” bracelet, and walked into the sprawling space. At first, I saw the big names - AWS, American Airlines, Vimeo. I continued to the rear end of the space, where we had a table. Japanese candies, t-shirts & totes, business cards, iPads, Macbook Pros with our apps on full-screen - we’re ready.

10AM rolls around and the visitors start coming. Tweens start sniffing the air for free merch. Businessmen representing B2B companies do a long of hand-shaking. Booth “exhibitors” all seem apprehensive. The horde of attendees begin inching towards our eye-catching purple backdrop.

“Hi, we’re Nulab! We create collaborative apps for modern teams!”

A few of them nod, grab a t-shirt and some candy, then beeline to the next booth. I overhear an attendee say, “I come to just one of these a year to grab merch, and I never have to shop for clothes.”

I silently roll my eyes, my cynicism peeking its head. I remembered my past experiences at similar trade shows and grit my teeth for the cringey, gimmicky commercial showboating to come. My time spent in university businesses classes left me with a revulsion for terms like “weak tie” and “elevator pitch”. And here I was, preparing to use elevator pitches to build weak ties and build interest among Mark Cuban wannabes. Well, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly - that’s legitimately what I thought I’d be doing.

But I was completely wrong. The vast majority of visitors to our table consisted of entrepreneurs, freelancers, students, and teachers with a sincere interest in learning more. Ambitious students, in formal dress, with a genuine interest in what our apps did and how they were built. Some visitors were happy with their existing solutions - which is great! - but others seemed intrigued by the way our apps worked to solve many of the frustration points they faced in their work. I ditched the elevator pitch I had prepared almost immediately and just simply began to have earnest conversations with them about their current tools and processes. It was awesome.

A few hours in, and I had spoken to over twenty people or so. I decided to take a walk around to see what the other booths were about.

My god. I saw a furniture company offering a wooden block that had a touch interface and embedded LED lights that made a basic 8-bit display so you could check weather, email, etc. One company aimed to revolutionize vibrators. A dog-walking business. A company selling little anthromorphic robo-assistants. Huge companies and small, 6-man teams.

And while there was certainly those “gimmicky” booths (one booth offered cronuts to those who won a Pachinko game - 😂), what I actually saw dispelled years of perceived elitism and pretense. The commercial showboaters were the vast minority. Everyone else: people having real conversations that lasted for more than just 30-seconds to a minute. Strangers coming together to discuss perplexing new technologies. It was a sight to behold.

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