Silicon Foundry’s John Zamora recaps his experience attending SOCAP 2022 and TechCrunch Disrupt 2022 conferences and shares his impressions with us. As a Principal at Silicon Foundry, John partners with corporate Members to navigate opportunities in financial innovation. He brings a background in global development, investment management, strategy consulting, and early-stage fintech operations.
This past October, I had the pleasure of adding two new lanyards to my collection: SOCAP (aimed at engaging the social entrepreneurship and impact investing community) and TechCrunch Disrupt (focused on highlighting disruptive technologies). These conferences typically draw attendees looking to build solutions to massive, complex problems or invest in “the next thing.” Fortunately for me, both happened during the same week and right across the street from each other, highlighting the value potential of creating impactful outcomes by working collaboratively across interest groups.
At Silicon Foundry, we partner with organizations that leverage technology to drive innovation and impact. While SOCAP and TechCrunch catered to both of these audiences, one central reflection was the missed opportunity to see more overlapping conversations that merged these two groups.
At SOCAP 2022, where I spent most of my time, the theme centered on increasing collaboration, recognizing the need for stakeholders across sectors to work together to resist and repair global injustices, address the climate crisis, and build better systems for all. Located at the Yerba Buena Arts Center, SOCAP’s themes included Justice, Reimagining Systems, DEI, Power & Capital, Climate Action, Accountability (in impact investing), and Advancing Democracy.
After years of conferences put on hold, it was refreshing to be back in person, meeting others passionate about the problems they are solving and searching for partners to help them achieve their vision. At panels, lunches, and happy hours, I met with many social entrepreneurs, impact investors, leading philanthropies and foundations, and government bodies and policy advocates.
My conversations were diverse and impact-driven. I connected with a fintech founder based in Uganda on a mission to unlock the economic potential of African SMEs, a UNDP leader focused on a new program scaling digital solutions across member countries, and a strategist at the Celo Foundation (which is building the world’s first carbon-negative financial system), to new a few. It excited me to learn from and connect impact-driven attendees with new opportunities (often with the corporates and investors in our network) where I could see potential synergies.
Ultimately the call to action at SOCAP 2022 was clear: greater collaboration across sectors and industries is needed more than ever in the social enterprise and impact investing community.
TechCrunch Disrupt Reflections
Meanwhile, across the street at the Moscone Center, the atmosphere was noticeably different at TechCrunch Disrupt. A massive Expo Hall on the ground floor welcomed ~10,000 guests, containing booths where organizations could demo their latest products and services. Introductions and conversations were shorter and more direct. The agenda was diverse — tackling emergent topics like the metaverse, cryptocurrencies, tech-driven biology, space, and the creator economy. I listened in on panels discussing issues like “Using AI to Cut Meeting Costs and Time,” “Demystifying Web3,” and “How Banks and Fintech Startups Can Effectively Co-Thrive.”
Like my experiences at SOCAP, I enjoyed connecting with early-stage founders and operators passionate about building transformational solutions. However, I observed one difference in the contrast between approaches to technology. At SOCAP, technology is an infrastructural tool to carry out a more critical impact-driven mission. At TechCrunch, the focus was on the cutting edge — often commercial, application-level technologies that enhance or create new user experiences.
With a mix of live pitch competitions and panels that included celebrity speakers inside and outside the tech and VC world, TechCrunch curated an energizing environment that is classically associated with Silicon Valley.
Leanings & Takeaways
While each conference had excellent programming that drew in inspiring attendees, I wonder what beneficial outcomes could have been achieved if there were more intention to merge these two communities.
- How might a serial fintech founder at TechCrunch and a financial inclusion advocate at SOCAP see their goals differently after having a conversation?
- How might TechCrunch’s live startup competitions (geared at more traditional investors) resonate with a SOCAP grant-maker or philanthropist?
- How might a career global development consultant at SOCAP see the challenge they aim to solve through new disruptive technologies unveiled at TCD in spaces (like artificial intelligence, robotics, or quantum computing, to name a few)?
In my role at Silicon Foundry, I partner with leading corporates, governmental bodies, and impact-focused organizations as they navigate the complex, evolving, and often siloed tech and innovation ecosystem. Working across a diverse range of industries, we aim to create opportunities that keep our Members ahead of the innovation curve and introduce new and out-of-the-box ideas from our expanding network of founders, investors, and corporate innovators worldwide — including our first Africa-based Member in 2022.
As we enter another year of exciting progress in social innovation and technology advancements, I hope to see more organizations and innovators increasingly keep in mind that new opportunities and impactful outcomes can be achieved by leveraging and learning from each other.