This year, the world’s biggest software conference brought together over 170,000 attendees to enjoy four fun-filled days of powerful keynotes, networking events, 2,700 sessions and, of course, the parties. It didn’t take Artificial Intelligence to figure out they’d outdone themselves this year. The national park theme tied in perfectly to Salesforce’s new Trailhead branding, centering the event around everyone being a “Customer Trailblazer” – cute. A quintessential national park-style welcome sign greeted those at the entrance, many of whom the idea of “roughing it” is using an iPhone 4s; it was the perfect selfie station for tech pioneers. You could feel the anticipation, the exhilaration, as everyone in uniform – blazers over a T-shirt, in jeans and designer sneakers – migrated toward Moscone West.
#DF16 was not just a conference; it was a community bringing people together to learn, inspire and explore. Philanthropy was at the forefront of the event raising $3 million dollars for the organization RED and $10 million from the U2 concert for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.
And to tie in all of this Kumbaya, Howard Street was transformed into what Salesforce dubbed as ‘one of the most magical places,’ appropriately named “The Dreampark.” Faux green grass disguised the asphalt and bean bag chairs, hammocks, bench swings with open air cabins gave an outdoor, woodsy feel. So if you still didn’t feel like you’d found what you were looking for, you could come here to relax and play games like corn hole, listen to live music, or even meet with French Monks who would teach you how to reduce stress by practicing mindfulness.
The future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the focus of Marc Benioff’s keynote: Einstein. Once seen as futuristic science, Salesforce has now made it “real.” Incorporating Einstein technology into the CRM will make AI mainstream for all companies big and small. Sales and marketing teams will have access to more details allowing them to take a “deeper dive” and connect with prospects and customers in a whole new way. For those who always thought AI was something way off in the future, for Salesforce users, the future is now.
There was big talk about the event’s first ever startup pitch competition, appropriately titled “Dreampitch.” Mark Cuban, will.i.am, Chris Sacca and Shahrzad Rafati judged three startups built on Salesforce’s app cloud. Claire, a chatbot for testing consumer products, won the $150,000 prize along with a spot in the Salesforce incubator also appropriately called, “The Dreamcubator” – no not really.
The biggest in Dreamforce history, the Cloud Expo showcased hundreds of partners all perched at their booths, eagerly awaiting your arrival to give you swag and prizes in exchange for listening to their pitch. Amidst the usual mints, candy, sunglasses, chapsticks and hand sanitizer give-aways, people were flocking to Brightcove’s booth to don Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and to Financial Force and Cognizant in hopes of winning a drone. Capgemini and Amazon Web Services seemed to be pretty popular offering Amazon Echos, and Conversica brought in a decent crowd with a Windows tablet as their prize. But one company whose give-away stood out to me from the rest was Dell… I’m not sure if they were giving away hangover kits after too many whiskies or because of the hours that could be spent drinking in innovation their latest innovation, Boomi. You’re welcome Dell.
Within the Cloud Expo was a section called “The Campground” which was designed to give you actual product experiences, potentially hands on. Einstein of course was a big highlight showing how it integrates machine learning to give sales and marketing teams a deeper dive into their client base. “The Mobile Campfire” offered interactive demos on how to run your business from your phone; I’m not sure if the campfire was intentional or the result of a discarded Galaxy 7. They set up four product theaters for you to listen to customer success stories and Salesforce product experts sat at eight different demo stations to answer all of your questions. Some of the biggest Salesforce company brands like Vineyard Vines (my personal favorite), T-Mobile, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Lilly, Aldo and Farmers Insurance had large demo spaces where you could shop and/or get a hands on feel for their product(s).
Overall I’d say inspiration, empowerment, community and anticipation for the future permeated this year’s conference. I caught up with Salesforce Creative Director Tyler Warrender and asked him about the vision in planning for this year’s event. He said,
“In an essence we create an environment so our customers, partners, sponsors, philanthropists, and community can come together and learn, have fun, be inspired, have fun, and discover whole new ways to succeed. Yes, I said have fun twice. It’s a tech show, but is more fun than Vegas.”
Definitely fun Ty, thanks.
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