This year’s Northside Festival is bigger and better than ever. Kicking off with Northside Innovation, three days of panels and discussions covering technology and entrepreneurship, the festival has integrated the new luxury hotels The William Vale and The Williamsburg Hotel to host events alongside The Wythe.
Furthermore, Northside Innovation has expanded its curatorial roster, including “You Are Fake News: Truth, Lies, and Politics in the Age of Trump”, a two-day event focused on making sense of journalism and media in 2017, produced by The Intercept and BuzzFeed News.
The TNT Content Stage at The Williamsburg Hotel featured discussions on topics ranging from improv and the “state of play” to “how do we get people to like VR?” Notable speakers include futurist Jason Silva and filmmaker Mary Harron, to name just a couple.
Programming at The Wythe hotel Fortune Venture stage included an eloquent chat with Kathryn Minshew, author of The New Rules of Work and today features a fireside with Kirsten Gillibrand U.S. Senator for New York.
American stock photography company Shutterstock helmed a Masterclass Stage focusing on practical, tactical insights and lessons from designers, developers, and creatives. One of my favorites of the week’s events included a demo at The Shutterstock Stage from Jay Van Buren, co-founder of Membit, a unique Augmented Reality product with a patented Human Positioning System. Van Buren spoke about the interaction people people and places, saying that places make us who we are. “I was here,” he said, speaking to a very fundamental need to connect with a location. The Mimbit product itself is integrating virtual art and surprises throughout the festival, truly merging the physical and virtual world in a groundbreaking fashion. Be sure to look for the beer tree in McCarren Park!
Other highlights thus far included a presentation from David Shing, AOL’s Digital Prophet, who spoke adamantly about the art of storytelling and the importance of using technology to emotionally connect with each other. “People just want to be told stories,” Shing said to an over-capacity crowd at The Wythe hotel ballroom. “Stuff that sells to the heart and makes sense to the mind.”
Surely, there were panels and discussions that focused more on startup culture and fundraising, including Wednesday’s panel on early stage capital featuring VC Anthony Pompliano who spoke to a seemingly ubiquitous idea of the startup world when he said, “I don’t bet on tech, I bet on people.” Trite? Yes, perhaps. Though he backed himself and elaborated to say that Uber wouldn’t have happened without their initial core team. “You can’t give someone a piece of paper that explains if you push a button a car shows up and make them a millionaire.”
All in all, the first two days of Northside Innovation was very impressive: heavy hitters, robust schedule, beautiful venues… It’s difficult to say how much of this growth and improvement over years prior is the result of partners like TNT, Shutterstock, Fortune, and BuzzFeed, but it doesn’t really matter. If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from the program it’s that storytelling is the core of all media and medium… Whether it’s a 6-second snap or a 360-degree VR experience, the story, the message comes first. And Northside Innovation certainly succeeded there.
Northside Innovation continues today across multiple venues and the larger Northside Festival continues with music events and a Bedford Avenue block party through the weekend. For more information and a schedule of events, visit NorthsideFestival.com