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Report on UVA Venture Summit – First Day

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The University of Virginia Venture Summit attracts venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from across the nation to Charlottesville, Virginia, to discuss innovation and novel solutions for the marketplace. This third annual summit meeting included participants from academia, financial institutions, international corporations and state government. The Panel Discussion, “A Conversation on The Rise of Social Media”, was excellent. The panelists were Tobias Dengel from Willow Tree Apps, Doug Garland, former VP at Google and Yahoo, and Gail Horwood, VP, Digital Strategy & E-Commerce, Johnson & Johnson. The enormous growth of social media was of course acknowledged and it was also agreed that the mobile market (smart phones and tablets) has far overtaken the laptop and desktop as the communication instrument of choice. Globally, this market segment has achieved unsurpassed success. Indeed, in some rural areas of third world countries, smart phones are the only method of advanced communication. This opens the door then, to e-commerce, education, and telehealth through mobile apps. Panelists agreed that the role of social media in health care was growing significantly. The traditional medical corporation faces challenges as it changes gears and starts to embrace the social media concept. Instead of marketing “one to many”, it must start marketing “one to one”. Going direct to consumers is a big step, and difficult for an organization used to traditional marketing techniques. Developing an authentic voice is critical as it strives to become consumer-centric and conversational. Privacy concerns are paramount and must be addressed. However, social media is about transparency, and so the corporation and its employees must be prepared for this through awareness and education. Also, the traditional corporation must learn to be flexible. The world of social media and social media marketing is changing daily. Industry policy changes and possible regulatory changes demand flexibility and adaption. But the acceptance of social media is necessary as its continuing rise is inevitable. The first day of this conference ended on a positive note, with both corporate entrepreneurs and venture capitalists looking forward to productive new relationships.

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