Silicon Rally: Bay Area Startups Host 'Open House,' Will Share Innovation Secrets

What began as a mountain bike jaunt between two Bay Area pals -- Mediabrands’ Brian Monahan and Federated Media’s John Battelle -- will launch what its organizers hope will become the media industry’s next “conference-as-festival” happening. The event, dubbed OpenCoSF, will turn San Francisco’s media tech community into a giant open house, with some of the newest and most innovative startups playing host to visitors curious about what makes the community such a hotbed for creativity, entrepreneurism and game-changing technology development.

“It all started on a mountain bike ride,” recalls Monahan, who currently is managing partner of Interpublic’s Magna Global unit, but is a long-time Bay Area digital media exec who has worked for several divisions of Mediabrands’ operations, including head of the IPG Lab. In those roles, Monahan said he frequently gets requests from out-of-town visitors asking him for an insider’s tour of what makes San Francisco such a hotbed for media innovation. When Battelle shared that he had the same experience, the two began to plot a festival that would bring visitors to town to get a firsthand, immersive experience, and OpenCoSF was born.

The two are on the board of media technology trade group sfBIG, which is one of the official organizers of the new event, along with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s office.  Sponsors include Silicon Valley Bank, IPG Mediabrands and Universal McCann, with support from Federated Media, sf:citi, GoLightly House, 215McCann and Anthem Worldwide.

Battelle’s BattelleMedia LLC is producing the event, which kicks off the evening of Oct. 11 with a plenary event at which Battelle will interview Bay Area luminaries including Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. Investor and philanthropist Ron Conway and GitHub Founder Tom Preston-Werner will talk about what makes San Francisco such a breeding ground for media technology innovation.

On the following day, Oct. 12th, registered attendees will have the opportunity to visit the neighborhoods and offices of upwards of 100 media technology entrepreneurs, who will play host in ways the organizers aren’t even sure of yet.

“The world doesn’t need another conference in a windowless conference room,” says Monahan -- noting that the format was based on popular industry festivals like SXSW and Sundance, which take over communities, and spill over into nearby venues and even the streets.

“On Oct. 12th, 80 of the most innovative companies in San Francisco are going to open their doors to the public, and we’ll see what happens,” Monahan explains. “The idea is for them to share what they’re doing, how they’re trying to change the world, and importantly, why they’re trying to change the world.”

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