The GeekWire Sports and Technology Expo, held last week in Seattle, was an unusually intimate affair. This phenomenon may have annoyed the GeekWire staff, but it increased the opportunity for attendees to engage with the personalities speaking at the event, and with each other. In my opinion, the crowds attending GeekWire’s various events have grown so large over the years that the ever increasing noise levels prove too distracting for networking and engaging with others. And that is the primary reason I attend GeekWire events, or any event for that matter – to network with those I haven’t seen in awhile and to make new connections.

To be fair, I did not arrive at this year’s Expo until 1:00 pm. The morning crowds could have been huge for all I know, but I arrived to find a fairly subdued atmosphere. It was almost academic; from the nature of the speeches/talks to the deep amount of attention attendees were paying to those speaking, I felt like I was at a symposium instead of an expo. And so not only was the environment ripe for engagement, it was also ideal for soaking up what was being discussed and actually learning something from these industry leaders. It seems others felt the same way:

So, you ask, what did I learn from this year’s Sports and Technology Expo?

  1. Top Golf is King. Co-chairman and CEO Erik Anderson participated in a lively Q&A with Geekwire’s Taylor Soper. The main takeaway? Top Golf is a behemoth and only getting bigger with the addition of a host of new acquisitions and the launch of its own media company. As a passionate golfer, Top Golf is an inspiration to me in that it is one of the few robust money making endeavors in a struggling golf industry. It has captured the interest and attention of an audience that is more about entertainment and looking good on Instagram than it is about actual golf, but who cares? This audience wants to have fun and interesting experiences that don’t take five hours to complete – so count me in! Top Golf is a juggernaut that could eventually cross industries into other sports, such as baseball.
  2. L.A. Dodgers versus Y Combinator? Who knew the Dodgers founded a startup accelerator in 2015? After listening to its CFO, Tucker Cain, speak about the reasons behind it, the engagement thus far from the startup community and the results, it made perfect sense. To learn more about the Dodger’s accelerator, click here.
  3. The NFL, CTE and Vicis. Can a startup company based on science developed at the University of Washington save the game of football and the NFL? That’s the way I see it, at least. Minus a huge technology breakthrough, or a complete shift in the way the game is played, football seems to be a dying sport. It is not sustainable, so long as those that play it can look forward to a future of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (concussions). And quite honestly, though the Vicis Zero 1 helmet features the best in design and technology, there is nothing a helmet can do to stop one’s brain from moving around inside the skull.
  4. Kids, concussions and  Head injuries are not limited to football. They are common in soccer, lacrosse, hockey and baseball. Does that mean kids should stop playing these sports? No! It means parents need to be vigilant in working with coaches so that everyone understands the warning signs and knows what to do if a player is suspected of having a possible concussion. Fortunately, one startup company, HitCheck, is making that easier with the world’s first mobile sideline concussion test, which takes only minutes to conduct. I can’t wait to see how it evolves.

There were other notable highlights, but none that seemed quite as important from a big-picture discussion standpoint. What really stood out about this years Sports and Tech Expo, as I mentioned in the opening, was the quality of the interactions with the event’s speakers and attendees. I, for one, vote for more intimate gatherings going forward.