“Predictions about technology increasingly become predictions about what disrupts our lives,” said Erik van Ommeren, Research Director at Gartner, during this year’s edition of DigitalK, one of the biggest technology, entrepreneurship, and marketing events in Southeastern Europe, which took place on June 8-9 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Every session of the event seemed to prove his words while making it clear that the future of technology is already here — artificial intelligence is no longer a buzzword borrowed from sci-fi movies. It is here to stay and change our everyday lives.
Organized by Capital, one of the leading business publications in Bulgaria, and the two venture capital funds, LAUNCHub Ventures and NEVEQ, the conference gathers around 2,500 business and marketing professionals and entrepreneurs from the region every year. Together, they map the impact new technologies will have on various spheres of our lives, from finance and transportation to productivity, culture, entrepreneurship, and education. Progress has been a partner of the event for several years now.
This year, the event featured an impressive lineup of globally renowned speakers. Brock Pierce, chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, presented on how the proliferation of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies will democratize access to capital. For the first time in the history of blockchain technologies, more startups are raising funding through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) than through venture and stock investments. The Bitcoin business model falls into the popular trend of offering a decentralized, shared economy application that enables people to make a profit from monetizing their resources. Other companies operating with such business models are Uber and Airbnb.
Artificial intelligence and IoT were among the other hot topics on the event’s agenda. Evan Nisselson, general partner at LDV Capital, talked about the “Internet of Eyes” and the importance of vision for the success of AI. Autonomous cars, for example, can’t exist if they cannot see. Nisselson showed on the screen a miniature camera, as small as a dot on one’s finger, which, he believes, will replace doctors’ stethoscopes. When swallowed, it can generate data about the patient’s current health status through its AI-enabled vision. It won’t be long until all this becomes an inseparable part of our daily lives. According to one of the next speakers, by 2020 the average person will have more conversations with chatbots than with their spouse.
A big chunk of the event’s agenda was dedicated to entrepreneurship. Parallel to the regular speaking sessions, there was a startup contest running. Several fireside discussions and speakers explored the challenges and opportunities facing companies starting up. You didn’t have to be an entrepreneur to get inspired by Adeo Ressi, CEO of the Founders Institute, who delivered one of the most engaging and passionate talks. Kicking off the event on its second day, he inspired everyone in the audience to believe there was an entrepreneur living in all of them. Through a set of instructions, including how to find your calling and how to attract supporters for your startup idea, he encouraged everyone in the audience to start a company now. Whether you planned to start a company or not, Ressi’s talk provoked you to think of the areas in your life where you want to have an impact and leave a trace.
In conclusion, DigitalK was a solid reminder that technology world is speeding so fast around us that just in several years’ time we’ll communicate, work and live in a totally different way. As we think about the cognitive-first future before us, the key takeaway of the two days was that the technologies of the future are already here. It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing more of them in our everyday lives.