Digital Signage Investor Conference Impressions

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Back at HQ, sipping coffee, after returning from New York via Buffalo from the DPAA conference and then two days at the DailyDOOH Digital Signage Investor Conference.

I had not gone to this event in a few years, as it was started and run for many years by a company that did conferences for a living. It knew as much about digital signage as it did about the agri-feeds business it was doing a conference on, in some other city, the following week. In other words, they knew precious little.

This year, Adrian Cotterill and Steve Nesbit fully took the thing over, and it was infinitely better. Here’s how:

Crowd and Venue: A small, almost intimate bunch. I was expecting a big wedding/banquet room with a bunch of plywood tabletops for 300 people. But it was in a big NYC law office near Rockefeller Center, and I think there was seating for less than 80. So the attendance was capped, the attendance fee sufficiently high to keep away the people who attend these sorts of events to sniff out business, as opposed to learn and share. There were some serious people there with access to big money, as well as a nice cross-section of people from very different sorts of companies. It was the first time I’ve met people from Quividi, Codigo and BlueFox, which was great.

Agenda: The first, full day was dominated by people from the investment business, and there was much more discussion around the advertising buy and sell side of the business, as well as how businesses got re-invented or reinvigorated. My “Your Baby’s Ugly” riff was a bit of a curious interstitial in the middle of sessions that had a lot of charts and projections. I have done a voiceover and posted a video of the presentation, as just reading the slides will not get you too far.

Day two was very good. RDM’s Ken Goldberg talked about how companies can’t stop guzzling their own KoolAid (the first time I have heard a reference to the Jonestown mass suicide in a speech about digital signage). Chris Riegel of Stratacache arguably did the best 30 minutes over the two days with a rapid-fire review of what his company does, its scale, and how he looks at the market in terms of both investment and opportunity.

Who should go: If you are a software or display vendor trolling for leads, I’m not sure this is the event of your dreams. Most of the crowd either funds stuff, or finds people who fund stuff, or have long been in the game and already know the vendors. It is not a target-rich environment of new buying prospects. It would be great for any industry analyst trying to get up to speed on the industry. Great also for new investors. And I think it is really good, almost neutral ground for senior executives in display, hardware, integration and software. You get CEOs who compete eeveryday on business able to sit and chat easily. Some of the monster companies who think they can own this space just by existing – looking at you, Intel, Cisco, etc – would be well-served to send someone senior to sit and listen, and not show up only if speaker slots were part of the deal. NEC and RMG sponsored and had speakers, but they also had stuff to say and didn’t pitch their pots and pans.

Improvements: Minor stuff. It’s not an event venue, so there are kinks to work out on the audio and video presentation side. I would have loved, as would some others, a few tables for note-takers and keyboard tappers. Laps have their limits. I thought the introductions were a little too terse, at times, but understand the thinking around optimizing presentation time. Not sure the Genius thing worked (most of the attendees either don’t want/need technical expertise, or in the case of vendors, already have it).

Worth the big fee?: Yup.

Would I go again?: Hell, yeah.

Side note: Steve Nesbit is now CMO at RMG Networks. The longtime head of Reflect went out on his own maybe three years ago, doing consulting with a few companies, and his time with the RMG team and its investors has transformed into a full-time gig, based in Dallas, where he already lives. Congratulations, Steve. RMG has deep pockets, big scale and a lot of solid people calling the shots.