It’s not unusual to go to vendor events which have 50, 75, 100 analysts and bloggers in attendance. Smaller vendors just cannot afford that level of coverage, so I appreciate a “shared service” Judith Rothrock of JRocket Marketing offers her vendor clients. She invites 20 to 30 analysts to an event hosted by a few of these vendors.
I try to go every couple of years – the format is a few hours of slide presentations, a panel with a few of their customers and partners and a fun evening to mingle. She is particularly creative about the evening theme – in 2009 she had a menu which replicated the meal from President Obama’s inaugural dinner.
This year the location was Chicago, around a somewhat predictable Gangster theme. Johnny Rocco, our shuttle driver and “Slippery Sloop”, our guide set the stage with Al Capone and Tommy Gun anecdotes. And uptight analysts gamely got up and danced – if you can believe it to an audience of a fish tank at the Shedd Aquarium!
But there was plenty of serious content. I particularly appreciated Joey Benadretti, President of SYSPRO USA, summarizing results from a MAPI survey on manufacturing trends. In almost a complete reversal of the maquiladora trend where manufacturing moved to the Mexican border, recent US manufacturing has been moving to states closer to the Canadian border. It was eye-opening to listen to Karen Watts, CEO of Apparency talk about the countless forms vets have to navigate and the inefficiencies at the Veterans Administration.
The time with the invited executives was even better.
Kim Pederson, CEO of 1000bulbs, is the epitome of a small entrepreneur who has successfully grown his business through technology. He described his humble start from door to door sales of light bulbs and growth to now a web $100 million business, selling 30,000 SKUs to over a million customers a year. In a one on one, we discussed his global supply chain, and how he transitions his business between industrial and consumer lighting markets (as in holiday lights).
Ned Hunter, a former Naval Aviator, spoke with credibility about the challenges at the VA. Apparancy is licensing some of the IP he had developed to offset the inefficiency: “GS level 4-5 workers were reviewing claims and passing stacks of claims to GS level 12 workers to adjudicate who then passed their work back to a GS level 4-5 to manually key the data into the “VetsNet” system to release an monetary award or appeal letter.”
Mike Murray of Rochester Electronics described components few of us think about. These are “end of life” electronics and dies and other parts where the original supplier had long been out of business, patents have expired, often the design has to be reverse engineered. In a one on one, he described the quality issues that counterfeit components can cause with aging platforms in the aerospace industry.
In reverse, David Ryan of SaaSOptics described a far more contemporary trend – the growth of SaaS and other subscription revenues and a new set of jargon like “MRR Cohort”. His company helps with revenue recognition and invoicing and optimized analytics for tracking key subscription metrics.
Looking back, that was a wide array of topics to have covered in a day. Not your typical analyst briefing but something as an innovation author and blogger just brightened my day.