WebCongress, a two-day digital marketing and media conference, kicked off Thursday with some sage advice — from a 13-year-old.
“Get a head start. When I’m 23 I will already have 10 years experience starting companies,” says Jordan Casey from Waterford, Ireland. He began learning to code when he was 9, and has already launched several video games under his Casey Games company. Most recently he launched TeachWare, a cloud-based “modern student management” platform. He is the youngest app developer in Europe, according to Apple.
Jordan says being a young tech entrepreneur has its perks: Not only did he get a head start, but his age draws media attention to his products. He’s become a geek celebrity so he gets to travel to great places where he is asked to speak, he says. But there are disadvantages, too, such as finding the balance — work, school and playing with his friends. He also said he is not always taken seriously by investors — but that’s changing.
Jordan is a young member of the digital generation or Generation C, a generation that Bing Chen, a YouTube executive, says cares most about creation, curation, content and connection. Reaching that market was the focus of most of the speakers and panelists presenting at WebCongress, now in its second year in Miami
Speakers from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Blackberry and others and executives from brands such as the Miami Marlins addressed the trends and shared advice to the audience of several hundred marketers, social media specialists, developers and entrepreneurs at the James L. Knight Center. There were some common threads: Social media is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Advertising must be personal, targeted and tell a story — brands that get this now will end up on the right side of history. And it’s all about creating content worth sharing — even going viral — but that’s not as easy as it sounds, and takes strategic planning. (Hint, beyond cats, it’s often the how-to videos that do well.)
“The most important way to make an ad is to not make an ad. You tell stories, you don’t sell,” said Chen of YouTube. He shared the example of Dove. Its sales rose 1 percent — a third of its annual growth — after just one YouTube video.
About 40 percent of YouTube’s users access videos via mobile, and projections show mobile taking the lead in a few short years. By 2020, the number of mobile devices is expected to be 10 billion, said Cindy Krum of MobileMoxie. We are on the brink of a mobile explosion — and consequently an explosion of big data — and it goes way beyond phones with Google Glass and watches and other devices coming aboard, she said. “You should be gathering as much data about your customers as you can — even if you do not know what you are going to do with it yet because it’s cheap to store.”
Later in the day, the discussion turned inward – about developing our local tech community. More regional collaboration and a focus on developing our talent pool are important ingredients, the panel said. “There needs to be a lot more involvement of private companies in the ecosystem,” said Auston Bunsen, CTO of 1sale.com. Yet many don’t know about the successes we have had, the panel noted. “Believe in Miami, put your foot down as an entrepreneur and build your company here,” said Juan Diego Calle, CEO of .CO Internet.
Ouali Benmeziane, founder and CEO of WebCongress, started the conference in Spain several years ago and now has teams in Spain, Colombia and Miami. He plans to bring more workshops to Miami in addition to the annual event.
Day one closed with presentations by Venture Hive startups and an “App Circus,” a global contest held in multiple cities. After the companies presented their apps, the judges named Hair Construction’s app, StyleZ, the winner. The app, which provides a menu of modern hairstyles to choose from and connections to stylists in your area that have the recipe to give you that hair style, and Hair Construction disrupt a very traditional industry, Nabyl Charania of Rokk3r Labs, one of the judges. Then, many of the attendees headed to the free TigerDirect Tech Summit and Holiday Party that lasted until midnight at Marlins Park.
WebCongress continues Friday at Venture Hive with small-group workshops on topics such as SEO for Mobile, Workshop Analytics and Real-Time Cross Marketing.
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.