You Have to Cross Boundaries to Build Cities

Photo credit: Sarah Sharif
Photo credit: Sarah Sharif

Each March, the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference transforms downtown Austin as the interactive, film, and music industries converge to discover, discuss and debate. Creating a cross section of industries and expertise provides real and unique value that results in an inspiring and often overwhelming few days.

The opportunity to bring people together inspired me and Jay Boisseau to create ‘The Future Of’ event where for one day – March 11 – in one room at Galvanize, 31 experts and 16 startup founders across sectors and across industries gathered to focus on how emerging tech can solve global challenges that are being felt on a local level.

We covered topics such as The Future Of: Food, Smart Cities, Energy, Education, Mobility, Tech & Social Impact, Quantum Computing, and a general overview of a Connected World. Experts in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and 5G, focused on how technology could contribute to the betterment of society.

City leaders such as San Antonio CIO, Brian Dillard and Veronika Reichboth with the City of Hamburg, Germany paired with civic investors including Liz Sisson, Urban.Us and community builders like Lindsay Clinton with NYEDC as well as Andre K. Fowlkes with Start Co and smart city experts Ruthbea Yesner with IDC and Dustin Haisler with eRepublic. The framework inspired a natural dialogue with industry innovators Marc Oshima with AeroFarms and Gregg Hansen with GM, Daniel Giblett with Valen Energy as well as AI experts Usman Shuja of SparkCognition and Ganesh Padmanabhan with Cognitive Scale.

The event also featured a global startup showcase that included SXSW Pitch winner Twenty Tables. Led by Reeperbahn Startup Pitch, the global nature of the showcase attracted startup founders from Germany, Austria, Taiwan and Japan. Lovot, from Tokyo, showcased their adorable plush-toy robots designed to make you hug more.  Founder Rolf-Dieter Lafrenz with Cargonexx  presented digital solutions for the trucking industry. Each startup addressed a societal issue and then presented a technology-enabled solution.

Jay Boisseau, co-organizer of the event, summed up the ethos for the day, “The challenges we face in the 21st century are often related, spanning energy, mobility, sustainability, education, and more. The transformative potential of AI, 5G, IoT, and other emerging technologies is huge. Through discussion, education, collaboration, and smart planning, even complex technologies be harnessed into powerful solutions for complex societal problems.”

Attendee Amy Atchley shared her experience at the event “So far lots of buzz words to connect the dots and get you thinking, but the most provocative topic I heard today was … “Why do we stop dreaming?” Never stop!” Education innovator Adam Lupu inspired that comment and asked everyone in the room to play more and use creativity as a tool to solve big problems.

As the world becomes more digital, convening people in a shared location really matters. Technologies exist to help us address our world’s biggest challenges. But the potential of tools like AI, IoT, 5G and others are only realized when people begin collaborating and exchanging expertise in a new way. We have to learn to cross the boundaries and bring different industries and sectors together. If we do, we have to work faster and have a lot more fun doing it.. And we can’t forget to dream. It is our job to envision the world we want to see, believe that it is possible, source the technology to make that vision come to life and then work together to create a better future.

Learn more about The Future Of event and the experts who helped to define the day by visiting