The central theme of Dublin Tech Summit Virtual 2020? ‘This is the next normal rather than the new normal’. DTSVirtual 2020 was born out of necessity, as COVID-19 made large scale in-person events impossible, but echoing the stories of presenting companies, it adapted and pivoted to survive.

Adaptability

Adaptability was a central feature, with insights and stories from some of the world’s most innovative companies. The forced rapid adoption of large scale remote work was common. Video conferencing platforms are here to stay, with large scale roll-outs in companies of all sizes globally, redefining how we all work together. Harry Moseley, CIO at Zoom, helped lead this rapid change, noting years of growth occurring in a matter of months for Zoom: “Video is the new voice, and it’s here to stay”.

While remote work, video conferencing and online collaboration have all been integrated into our lives rapidly, there were also several other important issues raised by many of the speakers. These new issues were direct consequences of our new digital adoption, creating problems in the areas of data security, data privacy and both employee & employer adaptability.

To adapt, people are sharing ever-increasing volumes of personal information and data, while relying on companies to protect this information. Data privacy was a core talking point, built around the cornerstone of GDPR, but with indications that GDPR is only a starting point. Policy must be enhanced, improved and also be adaptable, integrating innovation in this space.

Cillian Kieran, CEO & Founder of Ethyca, discussed the future of improved privacy: “Data Privacy is not a box ticking exercise. It’s about building a trusted brand”. In particular, a panel on “The New Normal: Fraud, Fintech & the Future” showed some tremendous new financial security tools, including spotting rogue behaviour through comparison to a user history, statistical validation of actions and adoption of new flexible payment options with insights from finance leaders including Mastercard, Ripple, Chargify and KPMG.

A list of featured speakers at DTS Virtual

Flexibility, Education, Collaboration

The rate and volume of changes humanity have been forced into is significant, with huge changes occurring over the last few months. It was heartening to see plenty of discussion of the effect of these changes on us as human beings. A session on the skills you need for the ‘New Normal’, was enlightening while highlighting core human-focused aspects. The panel, including Skillnet Ireland, PGi, Pluralsight & Siemens, discussed many of the skills you would expect including leadership, digital literacy, resilience and effective talent management; they also highlighted the need to assess skill sets. “Don’t assume people are comfortable working remotely, skills in presenting and communicating are vital going forward”. There’s a growing need to ensure people’s skills and understanding match the ever-changing demands of our current situation.

On an industry level, the ‘Five Driving Forces that are Redefining Industries’ talk by Rajesh Krishnamurthy, CEO of Expleo, provided a great roadmap for adaptation. He highlighted the five forces driving technology forward: Technology Leap, New Business Ecosystems, Reimagined Operations, Personalised Experiences and Environment & Regulations. A great panel on pivoting entitled ‘Ready-Set-Pivot’, discussed the harsh realities that faced many start-ups in early March, in particular the travel sector. Panellists highlighted the adaptability and speed of change employed by start-ups and signalled it as a vital skill for all industries going forward.

On the Irish front, in addition to some fantastic insights from NearForm Technical Director, Colm Harte, on the development of their now world-famous contact tracing application, the vibrant start-up & technology ecosystem was celebrated with a great panel on ‘Dublin & the Tech Ecosystem’. The panel highlighted Dublin’s core strengths in collaboration, innovation and the power of its global network, the likes of which all cities envy, but it must be strengthened. Contributors from Dublin City Council, Clinishift, Consensys, Dogpatch Labs & Tech Ireland celebrated some of the best of the Dublin ecosystem. Patrick Walshe, CEO of Dogpatch Labs, said it best; “Collaboration between start-ups, corporates, and key stakeholders in the tech ecosystem is crucial to accelerate Ireland’s future in global #innovation.”

A screenshot of a panel discussion

Start-ups were also a focus on the interview of Tim Draper, Founder of Draper Associates, a world leader in start-up funding. Interviewed by Emmet Ryan of the Business Post, Tim highlighted what he looks for when evaluating start-ups, saying “Beyond the tech & founder background, it’s how will this product transform the world if this company becomes big? How will it enhance the lives of people & businesses?”. The themes of impact, collaboration and community ran through the whole event, being highlighted as necessary parts of our collective future by Mark Surman of the Mozilla Foundation who said: “We all need to work together for the next era of technology”.

Technology Adoption

There were several vibrant discussions around the future of technology with topics including Cloud, Email, Security, Personalisation and 5G. Bryan Che, CSO of Huawei, showed the rapid global growth of Cloud markets globally, but particularly in China, with “Growth in the cloud market in China up 800% in 3 years”, indicating similar paths for other regions. 5G technology, while controversial for all the wrong reasons, is a huge part of our digital future. A hugely insightful dive into the technology on the “What is 5G and how will it transform the world we live in?” panel, gathered players such as Ericsson, Spirent Communication and Mobile PCMag. It was clear that controversy aside, 5G will play a vital role in global business, with most tech companies integrating 5G aspects into their future projects. Personalisation was also a key aspect discussed throughout the day, with both legacy and future technologies moving towards a more user-centric & personalised approach. Len Schneyder of Twilio noted that the future of email (& technology in general) could be found in the adoption of “personalisation, security and relevance”.

It wasn’t all just business integration, ‘the new normal’ and COVID-19 adaption, with sustainability a core aspect of many companies’ efforts. A fascinating look into the future of product design and online shopping came in the form of two great panels involving Etsy. The first, ‘Product Development & Emerging Technology’ with Kruti Patel Goyal, CPO of Etsy and PJ Hough, CPO of Citrix, showing how these world-leading companies are integrating emerging technologies into their product development processes, with a strong focus on sustainability. The second panel, a standout of the day, was a panel discussion on ‘Shopping for Sustainability’ with Chelsea Mozen, Director of Sustainability at Etsy and Mike Mulligan Head of Product at Zalando SE. These leaders in sustainability tackled the growing need for global sustainability, including climate with Mike Mulligan stating; “When you meet the standard, you must then raise the standard.”

This focus on climate and other issues beyond COVID-19 were very much welcomed, with many speakers highlighting the vast need to utilise the new processes, speed of adoption and innovations deployed for COVID-19 to tackle what is still the world’s largest issue of climate change. The lessons learned during our ‘New Normal’ can and should be used to tackle the worrying ‘Next Normal’ we face due to uncontrolled climate change. This should be embraced as a new area of opportunity best summarised at the event by Patrick Flynn, Vice President for Sustainability at Salesforce when he said: “The climate emergency is both the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime. It requires us all to aim high and build a better society, together”. And with the success of the Virtual Dublin Tech Summit, the numerous digital adoptions made to tackle our ‘New Normal’ and hopefully the future success in beating COVID-19, we can be a little more confident in the world’s ability to tackle the next normal and its challenges.

Dr. Colin Keogh

Colin loves Startups, Innovation and our great city. He is co-founder of The Rapid Foundation, Sapien Innovation & TeamOSV. He is a postdoctoral Engineer by day, Innovator by night working with Companies, Universities and Groups to improve their innovation potential.

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