For Ericsson’s ultra-exclusive client confab, no venue in Miami would do. So the telecomm giant built its own.
A three-day gathering of top Ericsson clients, VIPs and notables concludes Tuesday inside a custom-designed hexagon of a pop-up building, rising 40 feet tall off the South Beach oceanfront and next to one of its fanciest hotels. While guests of the Sweden-based company’s “Nest” conference on urban reinvention bunk at the posh W Hotel, executives opted to bypass the resort’s luxe conference facilities in favor of one they created themselves.
“All these executives go to amazing hotels and amazing spaces all the time. We were looking to create a really unique environment to help them leave behind the challenges of the day and look to the future ,’’ said Jeremy Foster, the conference’s director. “We coined the name ‘Nest’ to talk about a place where it would be safe for us to bring together thought leaders and captains of industry to discuss issues openly.’’
The gleaming all-white and windowless structure houses an auditorium for about 120 participants to watch presentations on urban planning and technology by Buzzcar founder Robin Chase, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Freakonomics author Steven Lewitt, actor Forest Whitaker, and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, according to an online summary of the event, which is officially called “Nest: the Networked Society Forum.”
For the Nest, the temporary aluminum-walled structure took three weeks to build for an 72-hour working lifespan. This is the second Nest conference by Ericsson, after Hong Kong’s inaugural event in 2011. San Diego and Boston were both in the running for the North American Nest event, an organizer said, but Miami won out for its proximity to Latin America.
While Ericsson is best known locally as a former title sponsor of Key Biscayne’s annual pro tennis tournament, last year Sony bought out Ericsson’s share in the joint venture that backs the event.
The Nest hexagon was designed to be used again: it will separate into parts small enough to be shipped overseas in four cargo containers. Eventstar Structures, a high-end Miami tent maker, constructed the building, which sits next to the W at 2201 Collins Avenue.
Inside, a wide ribbon of a video screen encircles the entire interior, offering 360-degree viewing of images managed from two control rooms housed in cargo containers outside. The vinyl-coated walls were designed to withstand Category 1 hurricane winds, and insulate participants from exterior sound. Workers are set to begin dismantling it by Friday.
“It has all the things a conventional building has,’’ said Alain Perez, president of Eventstar. “But it’s a pop-up.”
Sunday and Monday’s events were closed to the press, though an Ericsson blog offered a brief summary of Whitaker’s remarks Sunday evening. The blog described Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg talking to Whitaker about the actor’s charitable work in Uganda and the Sudan. Whitaker discussed the power of Internet access in the poorest reaches of the planet. “When you log onto the computer, you say, ‘I exist. I’m important. I’m part of this world,’’ the blog quoted Whitaker as saying.
Nest will open the doors to its hexagon Tuesday to industry analysts and reporters for a day-long program that mostly features Ericsson executives discussing topics related to the future of cities.
Perez and Ericsson both declined to say how much the structure cost. An event permit filed with Miami Beach says the conference itself has a budget of $750,000, or about $250,000 per day. Foster, the conference director, wouldn’t comment on the figure, but he described the custom-made conference center as a crucial element of the gathering.
“We believe it’s important to engage with our customers that way,’’ he said.