Get your head in the game

High-speed hacks and hustle at Geekend 2018

IT'S plainly obvious that the techies have taken over the world, and the rest of us have some questions:

Where, exactly, does virtual reality exist? What the heck is an “intrapreneur?” And what does brewing beer have to do with open source code?

These answers and so much more can be found at Geekend 2018, where the biggest brains of Savannah and beyond intersect Friday and Saturday, Feb. 2-3. Leaders in tech, gaming, education, design, engineering and business will drop knowledge about the “innovation economy” that rewards entrepreneurship and creativity—and that’s not futurespeak, because that reality is already here.

“This year, we’re really focusing on real products, companies and experiences,” says Aleshia Howell, co-chair of Geekend’s executive committee.

“This isn’t about the abstraction of tech—you’re going to talk to people who have taken their idea to market, who built the software, who founded the company.”

Geekend 2018 commences Friday morning with a keynote address from Savannah’s own yellow-suited disruptor, Savannah Bananas owner and Doing Business Differently author Jesse Cole, followed by breakout sessions on the latest in Augmented/Virtual Reality with Task Creatives’ founders SuAnne Fu, Aram Cookson and Kelly Carlton.

In the afternoon, Homebrew creator Max Howell talks about his wildly popular package program (it helps Mac OS install easier; no actual suds involved), and LaunchPath founder Gray Somerville explains the concept of intrapreneurship and how encouraging rogue entrepreneurs within established companies helps everyone win.

Day 2 wakes up with the formidable #MadeInSav panel that includes PERC coffee king Philip Brown, Mamie Ruth fashion maven Emily Bargeron and Smoke Cartel visionaries Darby Cox and Sean Geng.

Later, IBM’s Devin O’Bryan lauds the importance of emotional intelligence in the cold tech world, and for those who are all about the BitCoin, dataheads Justin Pounders, Lior Weinstein and Tavonia Evans provide a crash course on cryptocurrency.

Hungry start-ups can find advice on funding and an opportunity to swim the sharks at Pitch Circus, where six tech start-ups dealing with everything from agriculture to healthcare compete for $5500 and in-kind services.

Gamers score big at the indie game arcade and awards ceremony, and Howell says that she and her Geekend cohorts are intentionally placing a heavier focus on video game development than ever before.

“The game community is becoming really important to the nation’s social fabric,” points out Howell, who is the co-founder of Codebase, a local iOS app development house.

“A lot of people see gaming as a pathway to empathy, creating so many points of view for players to experience. It’s a new generation of storytelling.”

Geekend takes place at local gamer HQ and innovation incubator The Guild Hall, and its surrounding courtyards, garden and restaurants, with the exception of several keynote lectures at the nearby SCAD Museum of Art.

The two-day conference has been hosted by the Creative Coast since 2009, back when the Next New Things included the importance of branding and advice on how to start a blog (insert laugh-cry emoji here.)

But the times—and tech—keep on a’changing, and the conference has kept up with the burgeoning fields of AR/VR, internet marketing and accessible coding skills as it showcases the local talent making marks in the new economy.

“Geekend is the largest, longest running annual tech conference outside of Atlanta. It’s a great way to show the region some of the incredible work being done here by cutting edge firms,” says Blake Ellis, Executive Director of the Creative Coast, the non-profit that encourages and supports entrepreneurship.

“What I find incredibly exciting about Geekend is that this year, it is a community-led effort by people who are really redefining The Creative Coast and also Savannah. Our chair, Aleshia Howell, while new to Savannah, has dove into the work and helped steward this year’s event. Plus, Geekend organizers Malcolm Howard, Murem Sharpe, Yvonne Jouffrault, Patrick Bentley, Jose Mallabo are all people really helping shape Savannah in a particular way that deserves to be amplified and uplifted.” 

Howell reminds that up-and-coming generations are growing up immersed in technology, and today’s apps, software and games are going to bring even more innovation to the future, whether kids consider themselves techies or not.

“Everyone thinks you have to know how to code—that’s not true,” says Howell. “And coding in the way we think of it now is going to change in the next five years anyway. Computers are going to do that for us with the advancement of visual intelligence.”

She adds that innovation transcends tech itself, and its effects are ubiquitous.

“Geekend is for everyone,” she avows. “Even if you’re just curious, it’s good to know what’s coming for the global economy.”