There has been a lot of buzz (#DEW2016 was the top trending topic on Twitter in LA last Wed) and commentary about the success of this year’s DEW, an event we started three years ago with the lofty goal to “provide a first-class event for innovators, creators and content owners to build the partnerships necessary to monetize digital content across platforms.”
No doubt we had a lot of highlights this year with some of the biggest brands and digital influencers speaking at the event, as the event saw a significant rise in attendance that brought a young vibrant presence with creators, innovators and startup founders mixing with the crème of the crop of Hollywood executives. Topics like the “Future of the Ownerless Car” and the “Augmented Human” were discussed alongside the “Future of Next Gen OTT and Monetization.”
Perhaps the biggest indication that we are in a truly exciting and transformational time was the final session of the day with Disney’s Chief Strategy Honcho Kevin Mayer, arguably one of the most powerful executives in digital entertainment today. During his tenure, Mayer has overseen Disney’s strategic acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Club Penguin and Maker Studios and oversees the Disney Accelerator, a program designed to accelerate the growth of startup companies from around the world.
The session was held in the DEW Innovation Lounge, following a day where 12 innovative startups slugged it out with pitches before leading VCs and investors, including Mayer, who joined as a judge for the final pitch sessions. Speaking before a standing room only crowd, Mayer discussed the important role that startups play in the entertainment ecosystem and engaged in a discussion with moderator Mike Vorhaus of Magid Advisors about a range of topics including the Disney Accelerator, emerging businesses new to Disney’s portfolio and evaluating new technology and business models.
What struck me as I looked around was the genuine energy and excitement in the room as startup founders, creators and innovators stood alongside media executives glued to the stage as Mayer gave us a straight talk on how one the of the powerful players in Hollywood views the important role of startups and innovation and the growing connection between Silicon Beach and Hollywood.
When the DEW Startup of the Year was announced (a unique live-streaming service Parachute TV — Periscope’s first TV channel), Mayer invited the startup’s founder, Jon Erlichman, to join the stage engaging him in discussion with insightful questions about Parachute and the challenges of launching a digital entertainment startup on a new platform like Periscope. At one point, moderator Mike Vorhaus of Magid Advisors asked Mayer if he had any advice for Jon to which Mayer responded with his advice that startups find a business model that works and stick with it.
That Disney and Mayer have such an interest and commitment to innovation and the startup economy says a lot about the bright future of digital entertainment and the tremendous growth we are seeing in LA as the bridge strengthens between Silicon Beach and Hollywood. These are exciting times as the many pieces that make up the digital entertainment ecosystem come together pointing to a digital future filled with opportunity for creators, innovators, content and technology companies alike.