Landing an event of this magnitude for a second consecutive year is a big deal for NJIT and the city, as both are looking to increase their stature as a tech center. The event is expected to be formally announced later Wednesday.
Pete Erickson, the founder and CEO of Modev and the creator of the event, said he is confident VOICE 2019 will attract more than 5,000 attendees from more than 20 countries.
Last year’s inaugural event drew nearly 3,000 — twice the number Erickson had hoped for. This year, due to the emerging nature of voice-activated technology, Erickson feels the conference will be able to nearly double all of its key metrics.
“This space is moving so fast — just in the past year,” he told ROI-NJ. “You’re going to see a huge leap in terms of where this market is. This conference will reflect what’s happening.”
Erickson, speaking from an Alexa conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee, points to Amazon as a prime example of growth.
“Amazon now has in excess of 10,000 people working on Alexa,” he said. “During last year’s conference, I think that number was about 3,500, so they’ve tripled the number of people working on the product.
“As you’ve seen, Google has jumped in, in a big way. Samsung’s in the game now and so is Microsoft. This market is moving so fast and VOICE Summit in 2019 will reflect the growth of that market.”
And, while last year’s event went a long way in introducing voice technology and its many potential applications, Erickson said this year’s conference will make a point to demonstrate how voice technology already is having a major impact in many sectors.
“We’re really going to make a push on the verticals: health care, transportation, fintech, retail,” he said. “The vertical industries are really going to be out there. We want to show the practical nature of voice. Our programming will reflect how these various industries are taking advantage of this new technology, this new voice opportunity.”
While the announcement of the event will be the first official call for sponsors, speakers and attendees, Erickson said the conference already has lined up a number of partners during the planning stage.
Amazon will return as a diamond sponsor, one of more than a dozen the conference already has lined up. Erickson said he expects to have more than 100 sponsors, or more than double the total from a year ago.
And Dave Isbitski, the creator of Amazon Alexa, will return as a keynote, too.
“We will have plenty of more announcements of sponsors and speakers ahead,” Erickson said. “Today, we just want to open the process.”
Erickson said the announcement will open with a special promotion. The first 500 people to register will will be able to do so for $100, nearly half of the $195 list price, if they use the promo code “First500” Erickson said.
Erickson, however, does not want cost to prohibit attendees, especially at the student level and those in underserved communities in the tech world.
“This conference is very committed to inclusion,” he said. “We have set up a corporate sponsorship for scholarships at the conference to help align companies that are seeking to improve diversity and inclusion with an opportunity to sponsor recipients to the conference.
“We actually anticipate a thousand of our attendees will be scholarship attendees through our corporate sponsorship program.”
Selecting Newark and NJIT to host last year surprised the tech world as the city beat out New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles for the honor.
Returning to Newark, Erickson said, was never in question.
“We had a lot of feedback from sponsors and attendees that the Wellness and Events Center was a really great venue,” he said. “People were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the venue, the quality of the keynote stage, the ease of moving around, the traffic flow in and around the WEC center.”
Erickson said organizers were thrilled to work with NJIT and the city of Newark, too.
“NJIT was a great host,” he said. “The support that they have given us — and it’s continued into this year — really made the decision easy. We’ve already started our planning calls with them and we’re really gearing up to grow the event.”
NJIT President Joel Bloom said the school is thrilled to be part of VOICE again.
“Newark has become a tech hub, and NJIT is one of the top polytechnic universities in the country,” he said. “So, there is no better location for a conference on what arguably is the hottest and most rapidly evolving technology today.”