The 2019 Silicon Valley Executive Summit’s second day of programming kicked off with a forward-looking assessment of current consumer trends, and the discussions that followed raised questions about how consumer behaviors will evolve in a 5G-connected world where retail experiences shift and virtual influencers attempt to compete with humans on social media.
The day’s opening keynote featured Bond Capital Partner Michael Brogan, who discussed his firm’s latest iteration of its annual “Internet Trends” report, which is authored by Brogan’s colleague, Bond Capital General Partner Mary Meeker. Meeker started Bond Capital in 2018 after leaving her longtime role at the venture firm Kleiner Perkins, and the Bond has since raised $1.25 billion. The report, which debuted at the 2019 Code Conference, tracked the world’s path to reaching 3.8 billion Internet users in 2018; it also identified 2018 as the first year where US users’ time on mobile devices converged with time spent on desktop computers. All of these trends underscored a challenge to tech companies going forward as they compete in a saturating space and pursue users — often at high costs that need to be reconciled with revenue.
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Proposed solutions to win over modern consumers emerged throughout the rest of the day. Talks included Howie Diamond, a co-founder and managing partner at Alpha Bridge Ventures, B8ta Partnerships Manager Tina Zayas, and Kevin Creusy, the founder and co-CEO at Upfluence.
The first of two panel discussions welcomed AT&T Ecosystem and Outreach Director Faraz Hoodbhoy to the stage with Winfred Chao, a senior strategic partnerships manager for 5G ecosystems and innovation at Verizon, Orange Silicon Valley CEO Mireille Helou, Third Wave Digital Managing Partner Allen Debevoise, and Orange Silicon Valley Business Analyst Katy Hunt.
“It’s about driving business transformation,” said Helou, articulating why 5G is an important space. “It’s about the new digital experience that will emerge.”
The conversation turned to gaming as user case where 5G will provide new opportunities for consumers, as low latency becomes more valuable. The panel also addressed business use cases where edge computing as a service becomes more desirable.
The second panel brought together two successful social media influencers, Jocelyn Chew and Sasha Spillberg, with Eric Galen and Andy Marcus from Group Seven. The group discussed production, contract negotiation, and marketing demands that fall on influencers as individuals instead of agencies and other intermediaries who have traditionally been gatekeepers between talent and corporate brand teams.
“These are one-woman production studios,” Marcus explained, characterizing how Chew and Spillberg work.
Chew outlined how both sides need to perform due diligence when brands and influencers work together to place products or messaging in an influencer’s social media account. The panel agreed that trust is key when expectations get defined so that brands can see good outcomes and influencers can speak authentically to the audiences that they work to cultivate.
The panelists also addressed the implications of virtual influencers, fictional characters that brands render and use as lifelike stand-ins for social media personalities. Though the practice has generated buzz in marketing circles and will likely continue to grow, it’s not reading to be monetized yet, according to Marcus.
In the meantime, human social media influencers such as Chew and Spillberg don’t feel threatened yet.
“Reality still matters for now,” Galen added.