DLD (Digital Life Design) 2015 took place in Munich, Germany on January 18-20, and hosted over 150 speakers and 1000 attendees. As I’ve covered everything from tiny to massive, I’ve seen quite a variety of tech industry related conferences, and DLD is truly something special.
While there are heavy TED overtones to the program, Steffi Czerny and Hubert Burda curate and present a gathering that belongs at the top of the conference circuit. It must be said that the timing and location of this event are absolutely ideal, as the World Economic Forum‘s annual meeting kicks off the evening that DLD closes, and event organizers tag on to Davos’ draw and appeal.
One particular standout to me was the programming of the DLD schedule. They open on a Sunday, starting midday with tours of various museums and cultural landmarks of Munich. I was fortunate enough to join the group that toured the Residenz München, former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs of the House of Wittelsbach. To say that this place had a few pieces of eye candy would be selling to way too short. Keeping an eye on the time, I was able to attend approximately half the tour before departing to the HVB Forum, just a short walk away.
Kicking off your event on a leisurely Sunday afternoon is a great way to ensure your attendees are relaxed, invigorated, and receptive. Now, while I’ve seen and photographed Yossi Vardi a number of times already, I’m coming to think that Mr. Vardi might have missed his true vocation in life. This man is comedian from start to go. I’ve never seen another presenter so comfortable on stage, and so ready to make an audience laugh. He opened with a short anecdote about spotting a man asleep in the front row at a conference he recently spoke at. He broke off from his speech and asked the man next to the sleeper to wake him up. The man from the audience replied, “You put him to sleep…you wake him up.”
The first (half) day saw a number of key industry figures take to the stage, opening with perhaps one of the most notable, Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz. Likewise, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick presented Uber, along with his vision of european expansion, noting that Uber could create more than 50,000 new jobs, so long as Europe plays along.
And then a musical interlude. Having studied opera in my university days, I’m always a sucker for a good musical performance, and bringing Gabi Holzwarth to the stage was absolutely perfect. I truly believe that there’s a huge synergy between technology and music, and I’m always delighted to see a performer fuse the two together. Gabi plays an amplified violin and ads her own touches to a number of current radio hits. Complimenting her incredible playing, her dress was absolutely stunning, and she presented herself like a true rockstar.
Dinner that evening saw me splitting duties between the Franziskaner and the Kaiser Salon in the Residenz München. At the speakers dinner, DLD lined up two musical performances. I wasn’t there for the first one, but the two opera singers from the Salzburger Festspiele hit it out of the park with two solos and a duet. I can’t confirm this, but I’m pretty sure I saw Arianna Huffington shed a tear at the beauty of the aria, and the moment. Hats off to Ms. Czerny for the programming. I didn’t see a grumpy face there all evening.Day two saw a plethora of activity on stage, with Rocket Internet CEO Oliver Samwer extolling his virtues early in the morning, but if I’m honest, there was one true highlight to my day – Giorgio Moroder. Now, I wouldn’t exactly expect the entire tech industry to know who Giorgio is, but he truly received a hero’s welcome when it came time for his chat with Troy Carter. It’s not too often that you get to speak to a man who defined an entire genre of music, so I took the opportunity to say hello and thank him for everything that he’s done. He’s an incredibly nice guy, and although he was due on stage in 10 minutes, had a chat with me about who I am and what I do, and even asked me who and what some of my current favourite works, artists, and DJs were. Bravo Giorgio.
And mirroring day 1, day 3 was a half day event, with the program concluding at approximately 1pm. Just enough time to attend the event, wrap up those networking conversations, and (possibly) still check in at the office on a Tuesday afternoon. As Davos was kicking off that evening, you could feel it in the air, as a number of attendees were arranging car pooling, and/or “What time do we need to get to the train station?”
And this atmosphere left me with a feeling. Kind of like the feeling I get every New Years Day when my annual Almost Famous viewing commences. One of the reasons I love what I do is that the tech conference circuit is almost like a rock show circuit. There are the regulars that you see either speaking or attending at just about every one of these events, and over the years they’ve become an extension of my family. Their role may be this or that, and my role is the photographer, the guy who makes them look their best. So it’s always a joy to arrive, the main event, a party (and often after-party) to be reckoned with, and then the inevitable “see you at the next one,” attitude that always sinks in at these things. Perhaps it was the large contingency heading to Davos, but this feeling was quite pervasive in Munich.
As Penny Lane says, “if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” Or, in the case of us tech conference regulars, “if you ever get lonely, just open up a browser and visit your friends.”
Enjoy, and until the next shoot – Dan