How Google Fiber Inspired The Creation Of One Of The World’s Top Tech Conferences
SEP 20, 2016 16:16 PM
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How Google Fiber Inspired The Creation Of One Of The World’s Top Tech Conferences

By Drew Hendricks

Kansas City: home to Jazz, the Royals (2015 World Series Champions) and BBQ.

For the past few years, it's also been the envy of the tech world with first access to Google Fiber..... eliminating all perception as just "flyover country".

Having initial dibs on this gigabit speed internet not only helped elevate KC as a top tech hub, it brought jobs, startups and created a buzz that can't be quantified.

This journey all started with a challenge from Google: "What would you do with internet 100x faster?"

Selected among 1,100 applicants for first access to this service, the burgeoning city came together to brainstorm the possibilities of a hyperspeed internet:

"What could we build if there were no constraints?"

The conversation among business and community leaders went beyond bandwidth: what elements held back the creation of new ideas and entrepreneurs? Aversion to risk is widely accepted as one of the biggest barriers to innovation.

By shifting the culture towards making risk acceptable, could new innovations have a chance to germinate & flourish?

What if the community had a chance to hear from people who took on some of humanity's boldest challenges? Could that inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs to go out and change the world?

It was this big picture, long term thinking that spurred the creation of Compute Midwest, which has since become one of the world’s top tech conferences.

"I loved Compute Midwest. It showed me there is plenty of innovation in places you might not expect", said Robert Scoble, Entrepreneur In Residence at UploadVR and speaker at the conference in 2015.


Robert Scoble speaking at Compute Midwest. Photo credit Simon Kuo

Over the past 5 years it’s put the "world’s most ambitious ideas" front and center, creating a prime gathering spot for influential tech innovators from around the globe, like:

- Andy Grignon (built first iPhone for Steve Jobs)
- Alexis Ohanian (Reddit Co-Founder)
- Cynthia Breazeal (Robotics Pioneer & Jibo Founder)
- Jenny Lawton (Former CEO, Makerbot)
- Stephen Wolfram (Founder, Wolfram Alpha)
- John Underkoffler (CEO of Oblong, Built Futuristic UI in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report)

...and more, including leaders from SpaceX and NASA.

Learning how these speakers overcame challenges to create breakthrough innovations "can change the way you see the world", said Compute Midwest founder Michael Gelphman.

"When you learn how NASA sent a 2 ton rover to Mars, it makes it seem like almost anything is possible," he added.

The core DNA of the conference is ideas. It's purpose: "like Willy Wonka's factory....to create an unforgettable journey for the mind," Gelphman says.

The event has certainly executed on that vision over the years, creating a eclectic mash up of emerging trends like: Self Driving Cars, Virtual Reality, Elon Musk's Hyperloop, Robots, 3D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, Bitcoin, Quantum Computing and more.

In 2016, almost 1000 business leaders, startups, engineers and investors will converge in Kansas City on November 2nd to hear from 8+ world class speakers, including: Bibop Gresta (COO of Hyperloop Transport Technologies), Jordan Evans (NASA's Mars 2020 mission) and Bob Metcalfe (co-Inventor of Ethernet).

What started out as a play by for faster internet and making the broadband market more competitive ended up creating an idea that could inspire more ideas.

It's true that Google Fiber was the start of something big, connecting machine to machine.

But in this city so well positioned for a bright tech future, it became so much more than that.

It sparked the genesis of Compute Midwest - connecting remarkable people and revolutionary ideas, becoming one of the world's greatest tech conferences along the way.

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