Conferences are back, and they’re bigger than ever! We heard whispers that this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt, hosted in beautiful San Francisco, would be their biggest yet. Attracting thousands of founders, investors, innovators and the occasional PR professional, Disrupt was truly an arena for the tech community to flourish. This was my first time at a conference of this caliber, and I didn’t really have any expectations. My goal was to network, listen and learn. But what I got out of it was so much more.
The startup landscape is constantly evolving, with the industry facing unprecedented challenges over the last couple of years. While TechCrunch tailored several sessions and breakouts to various industries, including fintech, SaaS, security, and even space, artificial intelligence was by far the star of the show. Every session that involved AI in some capacity was packed full of eager founders listening desperately and typing frantically—as if to capture every word of advice and ultimately get that VC money.
Now, Every Startup is an AI Startup. And That’s OK
Anthropic co-founder and CEO Dario Amodei presented “Letting AI Find Its Best Self,” where he explained that what we know about AI today is merely the beginning. (He’s also good at keeping a secret. Just a few days after his talk, Amazon invested $4 billion in his company.)
I was excited to think about how the limits of AI are endless, as founder after founder explained why their “AI startup” was going to be the next best thing. In fact, Startup Battlefield, a highly competitive pitch-off that took place over three days, proved just how innovative companies can be with AI. The winner was BioticsAI, a built-in AI-based platform that plugs into an ultrasound machine to prevent fetal malformation misdiagnosis. How incredible is that? While some people fear AI’s potential, I found after watching what these companies are capable of, we have a lot of greatness to look forward to.
The Women of Disrupt
Whether you are a woman in tech, a woman in venture capital, a woman in PR or simply a woman, it’s challenging for the ladies out there. We want a seat at the table, and we’ve earned that seat, but society unfortunately makes it difficult for the seat to be available. That’s not to say we won’t make it happen, but rather find ways to come together to support each other or, perhaps, make our own table.
My colleague and I attended an all-women's breakfast hosted by MAKERS, where we had the opportunity to sit with women from around the country. We enjoyed breakfast and networking while we listened to powerful women in leadership give their POV on topics such as AI and what it means for women, and ways we can accelerate equity for women in the workplace and beyond. We were tasked to answer the question, “What motivates you, and how do you use that motivation to create change?” It was such an introspective moment for me as I listened to these women describe their passions, their purpose and their goals. I left galvanized to understand my own drive and more inspired than I’ve been in a really long time. Women are fierce, women are curious, and women are powerful.
One Disruptive Week
After long days of session-hopping and fun nights of networking, the conference quickly wrapped. I met some incredibly intelligent people and listened to their stories and many, many startup ideas. I heard from some of the most influential people in tech and learned a LOT about AI. I watched companies battle it out for $100,000 to make their dreams come true. I even got to watch Shaquille O’Neal give away a signed basketball jersey to a fan while he talked about his passion for education and investing.
Most importantly, I left inspired. Who would have thought that a conference for tech founders and investors would have sparked such enthusiasm for my future?