1st day highlights - Touch 2020

We covered topics like new trends in retail and eCommerce, UX/UI design, learned about technology teams scaling, moonshots, and got inspired by entrepreneurship and leadership stories. We had 10 keynotes, a fireside chat discussion, and made sure to have some balance with a morning yoga class and a healthy food masterclass.

To everyone that tuned in, I hope you had a great time and were left inspired, full of new ideas and excitement for the future. If you didn’t come along - or you want a recap of what we covered - here is our summary of the day.

Technology, please meet humanity

Emil Asmussen, Creative Director, Virtue (The Creative Agency by Vice)

Emil kicked off the first part of the day with a look at how technology and humanity can have a better relationship. While sometimes technology is thought to separate us from reality and each other, Emil offered a more positive perspective and acknowledged the power of technology to progress humanity and help us build a better future.

He highlighted two projects that he worked on with Virtue, where technology was used to progress humanity. The first was Meet Q - the first genderless voice for AI voice assistants, which was born as a response to the observation that all current voice assistants were gendered. As gender today is becoming much more fluid, why then wouldn't this voice revolution also be a revolution of inclusivity.

We also got an exclusive sneak peek into their brand new project called Tear Down this Wall. As walls are becoming more prominent in the present day (Trump’s wall, border walls in response to the refugee crisis), they wanted to use technology to show what walls really do to society and humans. What happens when you build and tear a wall down virtually with Minecraft Earth? Find out for yourself at http://teardownwalls.org/.

Fashion Reimagined

Kristine Kornilova, Communication Project Manager, Printful

There is no doubt that the fashion industry puts a giant burden on our planet in terms of CO2 emissions, water use and waste production. However, at the same time Kristine noted that there are huge business initiatives for companies to do better as consumers want to shop more sustainably and employees want to work for companies that do good.

Printful wants to be part of the solution. They produce clothes, accessories and home & living items only when the end customer pays for them. Their fulfilment centres are located as close as possible to their end-consumers. And they also have a team working on sourcing only the best products out there. Sustainability is quality in 2020, and beyond.

How world leading fashion retailers use AI to drive innovation during the pandemic

Kostas Koukoravas, Founder & CEO, Intelistyle

The pandemic has resulted in an entire season of unsold stock, forcing retailers to offer discounts and at the same time damaging their margins and cash flows. Household brands that we know and love have ceased to exist, but some brands actually emerged stronger. How did they do it?

Kostas notes that these successful companies focus on three main strategies: 1) they inspire customers, 2) they offer customers a personalized service, 3) they engage with customers across channels and maintain a consistent customer experience. He argues that AI can help retailers improve customer engagement and basket size by enhancing and helping retailers deliver a better, more personalized and engaging customer experience.

His solution, Intelystyle uses AI to analyse hundreds of images to decode what is the essence of good styling. They also make sure to take into account the individual’s attributes like their body type, skin tone, as well as their preferences, to offer a personalized styling service to their customers that rivals a professional human stylist or personal shopper.

Tech at Global Scale - Building Teams and Systems to Serve the World

Joshua Hoffman, CTO, Blendle BV

For our fourth talk of the day, Joshua drew on his experience working as an engineer and technical leader at global companies (Red Hat, Tumblr, SoundCloud).

He first shared his insight about building tech at a global scale, where systems run on real computers, in real data centres on real networks. He led us through several case studies, including America Online, Google and LeaseWeb. He stressed the importance of starting with a clear problem statement, choosing metrics of success, gathering results and iterating on design until a viable solution is clear.

Joshua then looked into what it takes to build an organization and teams that build tech at a global scale. He referred to Conway’s law where the idea is that the software a company creates is reflected in the communication structure of the company and teams that created it. As teams grow in size and become more distributed, communication is critical, and it is also important to have clear standards in place, accurate documentation and a centralized structure. Based on his extensive experience, he also drew out several principles that he found crucial, especially when teams become bigger. A few important points were having a written team charter that outlines the context, scope and mission of the team, having a clear way to measure how the team is doing, and an efficient way to screen for tech skills in new recruits and onboard them at scale.

Type in UI and UX

Riccardo de Franceschi, Creative Director, Dalton Maag

Riccardo concluded our first block of talks with a discussion about Type in UI and UX. Typography is at the foundation of any digital product and service that relies on reading. He discussed the key areas that allow him and his team design the right type for a UX journey and to use it in the best way throughout a UI - from accessibility to variable fonts.

In his talk, he suggested various aspects we can use to our advantage to make the most of the potential of type in UI and UX. He first touched on the accessibility of type and showed how a very minimal change in type can have a significant impact on legibility, likeability and readability for the readers. He then dove into the exciting topic of variable fonts and discussed the potential for the type that responds to the context in AR and MR environments.

Riccardo also looked into the trendy topic of dark mode and showed us how type needs to be adjusted to maintain a consistent optical appearance across normal and dark modes. He concluded his talk by addressing the global potential of type, and the importance of having a deep understanding of different writing systems to then create the same emotional reaction and user experience.

After a lively round table Q&A discussion and a short break giving the audience a little time to stretch, Nutsa Surguladze, the winner of Masterchef Georgia taught us how to prepare Salmon Poke during our healthy food masterclass.

Against all odds - 3 skills in life

Vera Futorjanski, CEO & Founder, Veritas Ventures

Commencing our second part of the day, Vera shared her experience and pointed out what she thinks are the three most important skills in life, not just for entrepreneurs but all people.

(1) Resilience, where we continue working towards our goals even when the world throws obstacles and hurdles our way.

(2) Cultivate relationships/treat all people well, as we really don’t know who might be able to help us in some way in the future or become important in our lives.

(3) Do the hard things, as only when we push outside of our comfort zones we are able to truly grow and learn.

(Bonus 1) Take care of your wellbeing, and don’t be afraid to talk about it with others. People fail and struggle; it is really important to realise this is part of the game and at the same time, make sure we take care of our mental and physical wellbeing.

(Bonus 2) Build your tribe, the people who cheer you on and are happy for your success. Try to be the role model you had or wish you had.

Latest trends in retail technology

Nodari Ivanidze, CEO & Co-Founder, WiFisher LLC

Nodari, the founder of one of the most successful Georgian startups talked about the latest trends in retail technology and discussed how technology is changing the retail business.

Nodari identified the five latest technological trends that are helping retailers connect offline and online, especially important during pandemic times.

(1) Using Data Science for personalisation as personalization is driving retail success and loyalty. For instance, 35% of Amazon sales are driven by its recommendation engine.

(2) Machine Learning for forecasting as accurate demand forecasting supports sustainable consumption and production.

(3) Bluetooth and Wifi for offline traffic analysis as customer traffic analysis support optimized operations in the shops.

(4) AR shopping for better customer experience. Example, AR solutions used by Amazon and Ikea.

(5) Cashier-less stores for convenience which is predicted to re-imagine the retail landscape.

Designing for Collective Trauma: What happens when we all experience trauma together? And how can brands help us overcome our shared sense of PTSD?

Alain Sylvain, Founder & CEO, Sylvain Labs

On an individual level, trauma can crush our sense of wellbeing. But on a collective level, trauma takes on a whole new meaning. When society experiences an event that’s distressing for the collective, our individual stress is topped with a crisis of social identity. Our understanding of the world is disrupted, and our place within it can become lost. We’re feeling that more than ever in 2020 as society reckons with health and economic crises, continued police brutality, the passing of revered cultural heroes, trying new work, life and school routines, and actual fires blazing across the west coast. And that's just scratching the surface.

Can brands have a role in helping society cope with its collective trauma? In this talk, Alain Sylvain explored the science and psychology of trauma on the collective psyche. Drawing from history, pop culture, science and marketing, Alain unpacked what happens when we all experience the same distress - and how we cope. He identified the ways in which brands can begin to design and innovate their products and ideas towards the common goal of overcoming our shared PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and establishing an enduring way to come together, even to a sense of collective euphoria. A few things that we can do is to: 1) create shared languages that bring people together (i.e the black fist for the BLM movement, the power of hashtags), 2) shape gathering places as people want to feel together in the same space (i.e. memorials, online communities), and 3) reframe storied narratives.

The History of DeviantArt: 5 Lessons I Learned from Starting the World’s Largest Art Community

Matthew Stephens, Co-Founder, DeviantArt

Matthew joined us from Austin, Texas to share with our audience the origin story of DeviantArt, which he started in his first year at University in 1999. DeviantArt today is the world's largest art community that artists use to showcase anything from photography, film, digital art, as well as traditional art and literature, and much more. Matthew shared his main five lessons he learned along the way:

(1) Imitate until you innovate. DeviantArt started initially as a clone of similar skinning communities but its pivot into art came later as it was almost fully built.

(2) Focus on the artist, not the art. It is important to not get distracted by the end result and lose focus on the human on the other side.

(3) Harness the squeaky wheels. Make sure you engage with the people that are vocal and give you constructive feedback as it will help you improve your product and change critics into champions.

(4) Promote others and they will return the favor. DeviantArt created a culture focused on supporting and promoting others and wanted the community to feel valued and not like a product.

(5) Plan for the long-term. Realize that what you create today will outlive you so make sure you are proud and sensitive about what you put into the world and the potential long term consequences.

The autonomous vehicle moonshot

Eric Aguillar, CEO, Omnitron Sensors Inc. (ex-Tesla, ex-Google {X} Project Wing)

Concluding our second block of keynotes of the first day, Eric joined us to cover how moonshots create new market verticals, and more specifically discussed the self-driving car moonshot.

Eric addressed the approach to innovation that he’s seen while working for Navy Research Labs, startups, and Google X to tackle the autonomous vehicle moonshot. Google X is an incubator for moonshot ideas, best known for their self driving cars team. For a moonshot idea to graduate from X it needs to go through an innovation process. First, to pass as a moonshot it needs to meet the intersection of being a huge problem, a radical solution and a breakthrough technology, but also be potentially profitable and usable. The idea then needs to be evaluated for feasibility and evaluated in the real world before a product can be built.

Eric covered how the DoD approaches innovation through challenges that the warfighter is faced when enabling autonomous flight. He then addressed how Google X uses its Rapid Evaluation Team to embrace failure and hit technical challenges head-on to identify where innovation is needed. And he talked about the Silicon Valley startup culture in embracing visionary ideas and market opportunity to bring disruption, including the difference between human-centred autonomy and fully autonomous vehicles. Finally, he wrapped up by providing references on derivative technologies disrupting the market as a result of pursuing moonshots.

Mindfulness Fireside chat with Adam Hofmann (Founder, Hofmann Ventures), Parneet Pal (Chief Science Officer, Wisdom Labs), and Sebastien Toupy (Head of Startup Relations, TNW).

To conclude this exciting day, our three panellists came together to discuss all things meditation, mindfulness and wellbeing including the science behind it. They discussed what happens when we don’t pay attention to our wellness. Shared their personal stories and talked about the habits and techniques they’ve put in place to help build their foundations of wellness. Finally, they concluded with a discussion about what role technology plays in wellness.

After another round table, we finished the day as we started, and came full circle with another yoga session.

It was an amazing day and we have even more in store in the days to come. You can check out our agenda for our second day and second weekend here: https://touch.ge/summit/agenda.

While our first day has concluded you can still catch the rest of the talks and connect with our speakers if you have any questions for them. You can get your ticket here: https://touch.ge/summit/tickets and prepare for another day full of new ideas, inspiration and knowledge.

Let’s Touch!

Author: Kristina Redek