Defrag Blog

Defrag: Summit or Conference?

by Eric Norlin on Sep.09, 2010, under Uncategorized

I had a really interesting phone call with Sameer Patel yesterday.

The last couple of times that we spoke Sameer had taken to describing Defrag as a “summit-y feel” or “more of a summit than a conference.” Yesterday, when he said that again, I asked him exactly what he meant by that (and now I’m paraphrasing, with permission, of course).

Sameer’s point is that “conferences” (in his mind) tend to focus on “what’s happening now.” As a result, they end up with a lot of very practical case studies on stage. This, of course, can be a very good thing — as it helps mainstream adopters with their implementation plans. In the “conference” context, putting vendors on stage to speak can be a VERY bad thing, as too often the vendors simply pitch their solution for today’s problem.

“Summits” on the other hand have an entirely different modus operandi. At a summit, you are quite naturally peering into the future, looking at what’s ahead, trying to think strategically about what’s around the corner. To Sameer, this has historically been what Defrag does (he’s been to two Defrag’s now), and I think he’s right. In the summit context, putting vendors on stage isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually a necessary thing. The reason is this: we’re speaking to futures; to things that more often than not, don’t exist in any mainstream sense yet. As such, the people that are working on futures tend to be the visionary vendors.

This is not to say that we want vendors on stage at Defrag pitching their product — quite the opposite. We want visionary innovators on stage helping us figure out what’s over the horizon. Now, of course it’s implied that if the CEO of a startup is speaking broadly to some problem, then it’s most likely that his company addresses it — but that’s precisely WHY they don’t need to get on-stage and pitch.

It’s actually pretty amazing how many times Sameer and I will start talking about a specific company, and then both agree that Defrag really isn’t their ball of wax. Why? Because they’re a vendor that’s focused on a very mainstream problem, and therefore probably not as likely to see the value in being at Defrag. And that’s cool. In fact, I’d have it no other way.

The upside to all of this is this (another point that Sameer made): Where do CTO’s, the guys that wake up every day and fight just to keep things running, go to really get their head above the struggle and think strategically? Where do they go to overcome simply focusing on the implementation of today, and see the possibility of tomorrow? There really isn’t much of a place for them to do that (in an intimate, highly networked fashion) anymore. Or, at the very least, those places are shrinking.

I think Defrag has a toe-hold on getting the CTO that needs two days to see things differently to attend. I know that we’re working to lock that down. If you’re a CTO at an enterprise, and you want to come think about what’s around the corner, I hope that you’ll choose to join us….at Defrag - the summit. ;-)

Update from Sameer: He thinks that “what’s around the corner” is still pretty mainstream and being addressed by other conferences, and that Defrag is much more along the lines of what’s potentially disruptive in the 2-4 year timeframe (something not being addressed by other shows). I’ll defer to his judgement. ;-)

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