Five Days of Learning, Playing, Connecting & Digital Innovation
By Eric Wright
What began as an Austin, Texas music festival back in 1987 has grown to be the top revenue-producing event for the Austin economy. Using a play on the Alfred Hitchcock film “North by Northwest” and dubbed “South by Southwest” (SXSW), the organizers initially saw it as a regional event. But when over 700 showed up, they considered it a sensation. Fast forward a few decades and SXSW has added a technology-focused interactive festival and today it is one of the nation’s signature gatherings.
Much like the fan base for Orlando City Soccer Club, which only the likes of Phil Rawlins could see the magnitude and potential of a few years ago, the tech and start-up community has been growing at an astonishing pace in the region. Some of the primary facilitators who have been working to promote the synergy and sharing within that community, believed that one of the missing ingredients in the secret recipe of turning this area into an attractor of technologists and entrepreneurs was a similar significant, multi-day event.
Building on the base that the area is already famous for – not only the largest modeling and simulation cluster, but a thriving game development sector and perhaps the most technology-rich group of theme park and entertainment specialists in the world – that time had come. So, OrlandoiX was born.
“OrlandoiX (OiX) stands for Orlando Interactive Experience,” shared David Glass, the
event’s executive producer. “Our goal is to bring together creators and users of popular and emerging technologies for collaboration and inspiration. OiX will showcase advancements in interactive media, digital arts, and entertainment technology.”
The festival is a five-day affair, featuring nationally recognized keynotes, panels, exhibits, and entertainment that showcases leading advancements in these areas. It is being described as “The largest brain trust of knowledge and connections that can be reached in one week. No other event attracts this many technology-astute early adopters from disparate, yet complementary verticals, including game developers, designers, producers, creative technologists, animators, artists, programmers, tech enthusiasts, venture investors, digital entrepreneurs,” and the list goes on.
“If you look at any of the well-known cities or ‘talent magnets’ for young people and the creative class, they do things like OrlandoiX,” observed Craig Ustler, the driver behind the downtown Creative Village project and a board member of OrlandoiX. “You need events like this to let other people know that your community values the creative class and tech crowd.”
Continuing, Ustler added, “To me, we are sort of approaching a point where we are on the cusp of becoming a great tech city. Another way to say it is that we are reaching a tipping point. I feel that OrlandoiX will help push us over the top and continue to build our momentum.”
For Glass, “The optimal outcome is an economic development outcome. The whole idea is to draw people from out of the market here.” Ustler interjected, “Regional winners and losers of this century will be judged based on talent, smarts and intellectual capital. If your region does things to attract smart and creative people and make them want to be there, you win. Otherwise, you will be left out.”
Originally Glass, publisher of the digital Florida Technology Journal, hoped to draw some 50,000 attendees and twice that number to the downtown venues as a part of OiX. Those plans had to be scaled down when the organized team decided to simplify logistics and move everything under one roof at the Orange County Convention Center. The idea was to ensure a seamless experience for attendees in the event’s first year
But make no mistake about the potential. This year, Jacksonville’s “One Spark” drew some 260,000 people. It was designed to allow Starters/Creators from six categories (Art, Education, Health & Science, Music, Social Good and Technology) to showcase their projects and experience crowdfunding in-person. It seems obvious that OiX could geometrically expand beyond 2015.
Daryl Holt, OiX Board Member and VP and Group COO at EA Tiburon, was quoted as saying, “Central Florida is on the cusp of something special with our continued growth in digital media, complementing our dominance in modeling, simulation, and training. It makes complete sense to invest in a premier event like OrlandoiX right here in our own backyard, to not only continue spreading the word about what’s happening here, but to solidify that Central Florida is ground zero for exponential growth and innovation.”
David Glass, the architect of OiX, was an early convert to the power and potential of technology, especially from a creative standpoint, from high school onward. He not only excelled at it, but his father was in broadcast television and radio, which as he admitted, “Rubbed off on me.”
One might think that the clear path would be from high school to perhaps Georgia Tech, just north on I-75 from Warner Robins where he grew up. But instead David got into an apprenticeship program with J.C. Penney in high school and did so well they wanted to groom him for leadership, moving him to their flagship store in Atlanta. “I went from wanting to be a technologist in multi-media, to being a buyer and merchandiser for J.C. Penney.” However, the company was struggling at the time and some of the leaders he admired encouraged him to look elsewhere.
So, believe it or not, he answered a classified ad for a carpet cleaning business. It afforded him better money, while he pursued his education. Soon he went to work for a startup in the same industry and the company grew from six employees to 120 in two years and he learned all aspects of the business. He then launched his own company in 2001 and after 9/11, moved the company to Tampa, and quickly grew it into a $1.3 million firm with 17 employees. However, the pace and demand was getting to him and he wanted to get back into the technology sector, so he sold the company.
From there, he began producing B2B educational events, mini-trade shows and eventually a publication focusing on small business CEOs. “Around 2007, I became connected to the Tampa Bay Technology Forum,” Glass recalled. “I was able to dial into the start-up tech community and more and more, that became our focus. We then started doing tech events, which were by far our best attended events, and we started shifting from print publication to a digital online platform, Florida Technology Journal. Almost every business started struggling in 2008 except the tech industry.
“I covered all of Florida, but my focus was on the High Tech Corridor. I found that I was getting a lot of receptivity in Orlando and discovered a sweet spot in the digital media, gaming and simulation sectors.”
Soon, Glass was so networked into the technology and innovation leaders in Orlando, he decided it was time to relocate here. Spearheading the kinds of events and meetups that became his signature and facilitating the burgeoning tech and start-up community, the momentum continued to build. He and others realized it was time to take the quantum leap and pull together a festival that would be uniquely Orlando, which could capture the attention of the world. Now, OrlandoiX will be a reality.
OCTOBER 2–6, 2015 | ORLANDO, FLORIDA
OrlandoiX is a five-day series of conferences and exhibitions showcasing advancements in entertainment technology, interactive media, digital arts. Five power-packed days of speaker sessions, immersive exhibits, game play, entertainment and networking events.
Visit Orlandoix.com for schedule and more information.