Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, VT iDirect
Recently I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Inmarsat World; a combination of two large scale events into one mega-event. The annual Inmarsat Global Partner Conference was combined with the Inmarsat Developer Conference to bring together a wide range of Inmarsat people, manufacturing partners, channel partners, developers, new start-ups and end users. To be in a room with 1,000+ people of that quality was an absolute privilege.
In summary, it was an absolute revelation.
There was the usual content you’d expect from any large-scale show like this. The CEO perspective, the future plans, the market overview, the new technology, the success stories, etc.
There were also some incredible presentations from outside the satellite communications industry, which included some very valuable lessons to learn; one from Jonas Kjellberg, serial entrepreneur and one of the creators of Skype, and another from Jean-Francois Clervoy, Astronaut with 3 space shuttle missions under his belt.
Both presentations left the audience inspired and with some big questions to ask themselves. As an aside, it was amusing to hear that when Clervoy was on the space shuttle his U.S. counterparts couldn’t get their tongues around his name. Did they learn his name, practicing the phonetics and French intonation? No; they renamed him “Billy-Bob!”
But looking beyond the usual content you’d expect, there were two things that struck me.
Firstly it was the amount of faces I didn’t recognize. I am used to attending industry conferences where you recognize the majority of faces and can probably walk into any bar in town and see someone you know. Here in Portugal’s stunning conference centre, there was a sea of unknowns. By the end of Inmarsat World I’d managed to get around and meet a lot of these people, but even then, I was only scratching the surface. The majority of the unknown faces were from technology partners that are doing some amazing things, using Inmarsat as a medium, but also using the Inmarsat ecosystem as a way of reaching a wider audience.
There were people who were transforming the fishing industry, there were people who were at the cutting edge of wearable tech, there were people blazing trails in the sensor industry and I could go on. And on. It wasn’t a case of “What’s your new product?” like at most satellite shows, but it was a case of “You do WHAT? Wow!”
Having the opportunity to discuss completely new use-cases and emerging technology was a real privilege. This was further reinforced when I flew back and walked into another conference hotel on Thursday – back to the same old faces. It’s a great thing to have stability and a close community like the satellite industry, but it’s also extremely refreshing and invigorating to be exposed to whole new worlds.
There was also something else I experienced at Inmarsat World, something deeper. I felt a real sense of community at the conference. The Inmarsat ecosystem is something truly special with collaboration and partnership at the heart of so much of what happens. To combine an event which is historically dominated by sales teams and another event which was always predominantly engineering teams was a stroke of genius. To have the mixed community in one place was a real opportunity to do things and take part in discussions that simply wouldn’t happen anywhere else.
When you combine fresh ideas, new talent, a collaborative environment and inspirational leadership you know good things are happening and the future is bright.
I can’t finish this piece without mentioning “The Pitch.” The Pitch was an opportunity for some of the small start-ups and newcomers to pose their pitch to the wider audience that hadn’t had the chance to visit the start-up zone. Imagine Dragon’s Den with the audience as the Dragons. Now consider a three-minute limit. And then picture a group of Portuguese schoolgirls with large drums waiting in the wings. The idea was genius in its simplicity – when the three minutes are up, the drums begin. The pitches were smart, punchy and eye-opening. They were also entertaining as the three minutes drew to a close; I’m sure one or two of the people pitching dragged it out slightly just to give the drummers of Toca Rufar the opportunity to give it bigguns!
All in all, Inmarsat World opened my eyes, challenged my perceptions and gave me food for thought. It was an amazing event and if it’s repeated, I’ll certainly be signing up for the 2018 event at the earliest opportunity.