Does technology possess a threat to the human race? Should we think twice while posting any of our personal data online? Are the big tech giants really watching us? It seems like a lot of this does depend on us, humans. On September 27-29 2019, a few thousand people visited IT Arena for a chance to learn how technology impacts various aspects of our lives – including security, banking, the automotive industry, as well as unveil the secrets of successful Ukrainian and international startups. Guests had the chance to meet professionals from Microsoft, Spotify, Audi, UiPath, Uber Freight, The Number 1 Agency, etc. Let’s look back at what made the sixth edition of IT Arena special.
Would you change anything?
IT Arena 2019 united 3816 attendees from over 30 countries to discuss products, businesses, startups, and technologies that might be used with a harmful aim such as hacking, spying, data theft, and information manipulation.
“Of course, some of our attendees work day-to-day developing various solutions, products or services. We want them to stop for a moment and think about what kind of impact can their innovation bring to the world. If people use their work with negative purposes, the consequences can be dangerous. Just like it happened with the nuclear bomb,” said Stepan Veselovskyi, CEO at Lviv IT Cluster.
On September 27, the conference traditionally began with the opening ceremony. This time, however, there was no human on stage. A robotic voice self-proclaimed as “consciousness” opened the event and invited everyone to take part in an interactive game. The question “If you had a chance, which you don’t have, would you change anything?” – was the climax of the ceremony. In the game, attendees had to make choices on behalf of a made up character. Fight with a classmate or ignore their stupid behavior, punch a friend or give them a helping hand, steal a candy bar or buy it, and, finally, squash the ant or not. It often happened that the choices of viewers came as surprising or even immoral. In the game’s finale, the “consciousness” made a conclusion: “What lives in humans – will go to technologies.”
The ceremony continued with an inspiring lecture by Arina, IT Arena’s long-loved mascot and AI prototype. “Be it a careless meme or a discovery aimed to save millions – there’s a human behind it. It’s you, your friend, neighbor, colleague, kid who can alter the course of history,” said Arina. “Good or bad tech? It’s up to you to decide. But only if you combine efforts, streamline them in the proper direction and share the responsibility, humanity will stand a chance.”
World’s fastest growing unicorn and a prankster admired by millions
The official program of IT Arena’s day 1 started with a keynote speech by Daniel Dines, Co-Founder & CEO of UiPath, which is claimed to be one of the most successful enterprises in history. UiPath counts over 3,700 customers, most of which register more than $10b turnover. During an inspiring speech Daniel looked back at his startup’s journey and emphasized on the importance of humility in his company’s culture: “We, people at UiPath, had to go through a lot of hardships in the first 10 years. It’s a big gap. For me it was the worst time in my life. I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was trying, trying, and failing. Ideas mean nothing. It’s not how life works. You build a company, you fail, you fail again and then you learn how to fail better. Life is about learning how to fail better.”
Daniel Dines said that he has been educating himself step by step. Every company and person should never stop learning: “The window of opportunity is short. If you have one, you should take it. Also, it’s all about timing. Timing is, unfortunately, luck. Everything you’ll do in your journey needs a little bit of luck.”
When a startup operates only on its own money, the team cannot take big risks. That’s something natural for people, but once you get first investments, something in your head switches and you feel more confident, said Daniel Dines: “People shouldn’t be afraid to share ideas with family, friends or investors. It is necessary to form a team. A startup isn’t just about technology and development, it’s also about building strong relationships around the business.”
At the end of the talk, Daniel concluded: “You build yourself! If you look in the mirror – this is you. If you are humble, you can be bold.”
Saturday morning started with an entertaining talk of Oobah Butler, an extraordinary prankster, an acknowledged filmmaker and content creator. He pulled a con on TripAdvisor, Paris Fashion Week, broke dumb British laws in public, found an army of lookalikes, launched an app where everyone can order a better version of themselves and wrote a bestselling book “How to Bullsh*t Your Way to Number 1: An Unorthodox Guide To 21st Century”. Three of his videos have gone absolutely viral, counting over 160 million views to-date.
Oobah’s talk focused on three of his most famous social experiments: making a non-existent restaurant #1 on London’s TripAdvisor, getting to the top of Paris Fashion Week as a fake fashion designer, and optimizing oneself with the help of stand-ins. Speaking about TripAdvisor’s story, Oobah Butler said that even real visitors of his non-genuine restaurant were pleased with the microwave food he had served them: “Some of my visitors tried to book again which is why I believe that today we trust more what we read online than what we put in our mouth.”
Oobah’s talk made the audience burst out with laughter and kept everyone amused. How does he do it and remains unpunished was probably the question that crossed every attendee’s mind at least once. But whether it’s opening a restaurant in his garden shed, pretending to be a successful fashion designer, or sending fake versions of himself to represent him on public, Oobah steps on the crossroads of comedy and absurdity to comment on the modern post-truth era. “One of the things I love the most about the Internet is the way it democratized creativity. It’s amazing how an idea can transform lives very very quickly. I’m an example in a way,” said Oobah commenting on how technology changed our lives in the last decade.
Stay mindful and build ethical products
Hemant Bhanoo, VP of Product at Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, definitely knows how to calm down in our fast-paced modern life and stop living on autopilot. Hemant’s everyday job is teaching people how to become a happier version of themselves. During the talk, Heman taught the audience the basics of meditation. Everyone present took a few deep breaths and honesty asked themselves: “What is really important for me right now?”. Such exercise helped to concentrate and channel the thoughts to the present moment, also known as being mindful. Hemant explained, “Active mindfulness brings less stress and supports a faster recovery of emotional health.”
It’s not a secret, that investments are a crucial part of every startup. Usually to get noticed by an investor, aspiring entrepreneurs need to constantly pitch ideas, network, and go to events. These rules didn’t work for Stas Matviyenko, CEO at Allset. However, his company raised over $10 million in total funding from top VCs, including Andreessen Horowitz. Stas Matviyenko recommends not pitching, but rather making investors ask you to pitch. “How to get investment? Connect, be cool and enjoy the conversation. LinkedIn is a perfect place for this task,” said Stas Matviyenko, “Don’t ask for investment, but ask for feedback.”
Sharon Lo, Product Manager at Microsoft focused her talk on how the technology we’re building is affecting individuals. “Products we build are going to influence the future and the next generation, and question whether we are changing society for the better,” said Sharon. “You can’t move fast and break things when what you’re breaking is people.”
Oleksandr Konotopskyi, CEO at Ajax Systems, arrived at IT Arena in style – on a helicopter. During a fireside chat, he talked about his childhood, smoothie startups, how to run a $100m business, and where to find the motivation. Over the years, Oleksandr had tried to launch a lot of different startups. At some point, he chose Ajax Systems over a shawarma shop: “When we started, the security niche was almost empty. At first, our systems were completely awful. During 5-10 years we had been testing products in Ukraine. After we finished experimenting, Ajax Systems entered the international market. Right now, we offer over 20 hardware products, producing over 10,000 gadgets which are distributed in 80 countries every day. The scale of the business. That’s why I didn’t choose the shawarma shop.”
Despite the crazy success of Ajax Systems, Oleksandr Konotopskyi keeps on dreaming and looking for new complicate tasks: “I want to create an impact. I don’t care much about money. Ajax Systems are making the world a more comfortable and secure place. I see a lot of big goals to achieve. This is my main motivation.”
Legal tech, eternal stationery, and a trademark bot
A signature segment across all four previous editions of IT Arena conferences was an exhibition – Startup Alley – where enthusiastic entrepreneurs and developers showed their products to keen investors, media, potential clients, and the wider tech community. In addition, 45 startups pitched their ideas as part of the Startup Competition. 10 best startups later competed for prizes at the main stage and in front of a 1000-viewer audience.
Based on the evaluation of the jury and pitching sessions, the first place went to Legal Nodes, a tech solution that helps companies define their legal needs online. The team received $10,000 from CRDF Global & IT Arena, acceleration program from Sector X, travel grant from Cardpay, one-year coworking space for the whole team by Platforma Coworking.
Two startups shared the second place – Nuka and PatentBot. Nuka produces eternal stationery – a notebook with a metal pencil that you can use as many times you want, while PatentBot is another legal tech startup. PatentBot makes the trademark and copyright registration process fast and simple. Read more about the highlights of IT Arena Startup Competition here.
IT Arena is not only about constant tech talks and pitching sessions, but also about networking and having fun. Two busy days of the conference ended with afterparties in the city center. On Friday, everyone was invited to taste local beer at Pravda Beer Theatre, named by The Guardian one of the best brewery tap rooms in Europe. Speakers and executive attendees spent the evening at Tech Lounge, a C-level networking event held at the Park. Art of Rest.
Those who were looking for an energy boost came to Malevich night club. DJ Jochen Miller fueled up the second night of IT Arena 2019. A little bit tech, trance, and progressive sounds combined in total dance floor combustion. The ones who didn’t stay long at afterparties took part in a charity run on Sunday. And a few lucky winners got a chance to have breakfast with the event’s three top speakers – a unique side event that was first introduced this year.
IT Arena has once again become a platform that united representatives of the global tech industry in Lviv, Ukraine. This time the event raised an important question – whether technology and humanity can co-exist. It seems, the answer is yes. IT Arena 2019 surprised, inspired, and didn’t leave anyone indifferent. The humanity of technology is indeed possible and depends on each and every one of us. See you next year.
IT Arena 2019 in key figures