Speakers talk AI, privacy, basketball, aging, unicorns and more – GeekWire

GeekWire Summit speakers, clockwise from top left: USAFacts founder Steve Ballmer, SPD Chief Carmen Best, Microsoft President Brad Smith, and Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra. (GeekWire Photos / Dan DeLong)

Steve Ballmer came out of his chair over his enthusiasm for new Microsoft devices. Brad Smith took a more measured, but equally determined approach, in reiterating his stance that Microsoft would stand up to protect its employees if the government tried to come for Dreamers who are tech workers.

The former and current Microsoft execs are just two of the personalities who shared anecdotes, insight, enthusiasm and concern for a wide range of topics from the stage during day one of the 2019 GeekWire Summit in Seattle on Monday.

In fireside chats, power talks and on panels, this is just a sampling of some of what we heard from our guests.

Fireside chat: Steve Ballmer, co-founder, Ballmer Group

Steve Ballmer. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “I’m OK if we don’t get things totally right until version three, as some of you may know. It’s terrible to get things right by version three, but if they make $10 billion a year after that, it’s really OK.” — on USA Facts being at version 1.5.
  • “Oooooh, Todd. A LOT of things, Todd.” — to GeekWire editor Todd Bishop, on what he’s learned from his wife, Connie.
  • “The balance of long-term strategy and product development and how it fits with short-term accountability, you always have to have a long-term plan. … In basketball, every 24 seconds you get a grade. … The level of accountability is higher in sports.” — on what he’s learned in the NBA.
  • “Bill [Gates] is both the smartest person I’ve ever met in my life and also most competitive.” — on learning from his old boss.
  • “The new Surface lineup is amazing! In the area of competitiveness, go, Microsoft, go!” — on the state of Microsoft today.

Panel: Security or Surveillance State?

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “I imagine Google has more information about you than the Seattle Police Department EVER will.” — Carmen Best, chief of the Seattle Police Department
  • “We want to make sure that whatever technology we’re using, that we’re not abusing it in any way.” — Best.
  • “What we really need is a quick, big piece of regulation, and that is not easy to get across.” — Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.
  • “I don’t think it should ever be about how to stop technology and innovation. How do we put in place the rules and limitations and regulations that will allow for those technologies to be used in the best possible way?” — Jayapal.

The Audio Revolution: Podcasting and the Future of Media

Steve Henn and Phyllis Fletcher. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “What’s the equivalent of thumbing through your Instagram feed in audio? It really doesn’t exit.” — Steve Henn, former tech correspondent for “Planet Money,” who now leads content strategy at Google, on Podcast searching capabilities.

Power Talk: Leroy Hood, SVP and chief science officer, Providence St. Joseph Health

Dr. Lee Hood. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “I’m now 15 years younger than my chronological age, and it’s going down.” — Hood referring to a battery of tests that come up with a “biologic age” based on body health. His chronological age is 80, but based on the tests, he says his biological age is 65.

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft

Brad Smith. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “It’s fair to say that artificial intelligence will reshape the global economy over the next three decades probably more than any other single technological force. Probably as much as the combustion engine reshaped the global economy in the 20th Century.”
  • “This resonates with the public. When they look at the tech sector and they see us creating machines that can make decisions, they come to it with a point of view and it’s less than shear enthusiasm.”
  • “What is the biggest software related issue to affect the Puget Sound in 2019? … Software that pilots couldn’t turn off.”
  • “Does the future belong only to the companies and countries that have the most data? If so, we have a very big problem.”
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Panel: The VC View

Amy Bohutinsky, Hope Cochran and Dana Settle. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “You always have to make sure your business choices are incredibly rational, and you don’t get caught up in any hype.” — Hope Cochran of Madrona Venture Group, on what to tell companies ahead of potential recession.

Panel: Meet the Unicorns

Dan Lewis. (Dan DeLong / GeekWire Photo)
  • “I’ve been scared since I started.” — Eugenio Pace, CEO, Auth0, on whether it’s scary to have billion-dollar valuation.
  • “As a founder and CEO there’s a really strong sense of urgency and I definitely don’t ever wake up and think, ‘well we made it.’ — Dan Lewis, CEO of Convoy.
  • “Start earlier. I would have told myself to start Outreach five years earlier. But here we are.” — Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach, on advice he’d give to himself at the start of creating a company.

Power Talk: Marc Lavallee, executive director R&D, The New York Times

Mark Lavallee. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “What does Netflix say? Their main competitor is sleep. In some ways I would say our competition is apathy and people who don’t want to be curious about the world. I know that’s very lofty but I would say that’s our Netflix-style answer.” — on who The New York Times competes against.

Fireside Chat: Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra

Rohit Chopra. (Dan DeLong / GeekWire Photo)
  • “I see the smoke signals now of really some troubles with Big Tech. … Do we live in a country where you can start a business to challenge them, or do you just have to start one to eventually sell and surrender to them.”
  • “Oh, I would have more than one. I think it’s very important for them to remember that they were part of firms that were challenging the status quo. And I think we should want to live in a county where you would want to do that. — on advice for tech execs.

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