#Asia Remember us for our failures, not our pseudo-successes.


The true essence of Echelon lies in trying new things, even if it means more failures. As Yoda once said, ‘Do or do not, there is no try.’

Let's face it, I will one day be as old as this guy. But just as wise? Who knows.

As Echelon Asia Summit draws nearer, I was reflecting on how we have evolved Echelon as a team, and how we’re making this conference matter more for the community, to folks just like you and me. To me, Echelon has always been about a formation of communities, coming together, and moving forward. From investors to startups to corporates, it’s a melting pot of different communities coming together for a common cause; the greater good of SEA’s tech ecosystem.

Yes, there are a myriad of tech conferences all around the world. Forget the world, the region is now full of them. It seems like the sexy new thing to be a community player and supposedly bring people together.

For me, I personally feel that Echelon will need to maintain the fundamental nature of why such a platform exists, not focus on raw numbers or meaningless metrics (XXX attendees, YYY exhibitors, ZZZ speakers, QWE yet-another-vanity-metric). We want to focus on things that matter for the ecosystem.

So let’s not waste each other’s time. We are just about halfway into the year, and we have seen numerous tech conferences and meetups. We do not want to just do things differently – we want to go big on what needs to work and what needs to change. Rather than wait for it to happen, we have decided to take the risk (and potentially fail hard) and be that change.

So here are our five beliefs which we heavily focused on addressing with this year’s Echelon Asia:

No more panel discussions!

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We are trying out a new model this year with no panel discussion, because we feel like there is a lack of constructive discussion that goes on in them. Most of the time, panel discussions exist to fit as many ‘award-winning’ speakers in one room, but insights and conversations suffer as a result. Fitting everyone on stage is pretty useless if the audience just gets jumbled insights and overused quotes at the end of the session. We wanted something more personal and impactful instead, so we went with firesides and centre stage presentations for this year.

Too little, or too much exposure?

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Most tech events around the world have similar characteristics; for the most part, they’re well known and visible. However, the genuinely interesting ideas, such as Saturday Kids’ student Chen HaoHiroshi Saijou’s Motobots, and the unique startups that come from rather diverse backgrounds often fall under the radar. This year’s Echelon is about building the next generation of tech titans, so we’ve allocated spots for these opportunities to happen. Other conferences will have the same tech personalities, which is not a necessarily bad thing – but for us, it’s not a selling nor a focus point. We have been criticised for not having “relevant” faces in our speaking line up, we want to give more people a shot at showcasing what they do.

It’s 2016, and we are WAY Behind in Gender Equality in Tech

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Gender equality balance is there, though it’s not just about finding women, but about showcasing how successful women in tech have powerful and impactful perspectives. And while getting the number up to 50% is the eventual goal, the struggle to reach that is evident. We tried, but we failed. We will continue to try harder. However, by having more women entrepreneurs and rising tech symbols in Echelon, such as AngelHack’s Sabeen Ali and SoGal Ventures’ Pocket Sun, we’re definitely going to see a change in attitude and the numbers would automatically improve. So we’re definitely going to keep pushing for that 50% goal, not just this year, but till it becomes a reality.

Quality over Quantity – Always!

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Some people like to go for quantity over quality. I am disgusted to admit this, but we have been guilty of that before. We need to go beyond just numbers, and find the right people. You can grow an event size by inviting random clowns who can waste a good fireside chat, or you can make sure those who genuinely want to make sh*t happen are there. No one’s going to improve an event by just seeing a spike in numbers of attendees or speakers – we want people who stand out to BE there. We have made the stand to make that a serious focus – quality people, not bullshit vanity metrics about how many thousand people walked around an area of space over a 48 hour period.

Let’s Cut the Fluff

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Painstakingly curate companies, bring them together, don’t let companies buy their way into the event. Echelon isn’t just some tech conference you can throw your money at. We focus on the TOP100 great companies, who gave us their time and energy to join our qualifiers, so we too give them opportunities to pitch their startups and be exposed. After all, it’s important that companies go through rounds before and have a detailed assessment to make sure they have the quality and tools before coming into Echelon.

Additionally, we have an obsessive focus on networking and matchmaking. One in five companies actually go into further funding after these conferences and get their name out there; it’s massive opportunity for startups – and we’re happy to provide that for them.

To End,

The main essence of Echelon is simply this: we don’t want to fall into the hype-driven vanity metrics and funding rounds. Let’s go big in ways that matter. Ultimately, we’re providing tools and experiences to make connections, well-curated content and more cockroach startups. Doing new things can result in failure, and if so, this is our “horrible” opening act.

We rather be remembered for our failures than our pseudo-successes.

Welcome to Echelon.

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