Wiz Nordberg

The upcoming Second Life trade show is generating all the buzz of a real-life trade show. I’m expecting to do plenty of networking and even a couple of deals.

Virtual world, real deal

This morning I was chatting with fellow Second Life entrepreneur Liam Kanno “in-world” about his upcoming show.

About six months ago, before I became “a virtual entrepreneur”, I was searching for other people who were tackling real-world business needs in the virtual world of Second Life. Using Second Life Search, I found one of them, the V3 Group. I teleported over to their offices and met Liam Kanno.

I never know what to expect from “virtual companies”. Some are just part of the game. Others are real attempts at building real businesses. I suspected Liam was in the latter category and, wow, I was right!

Next week, Liam’s company is producing the first real Second Life technology trade-show, the International Technology Expo at Silicon Island, or the ITE, as Liam calls it. Our company, Cattle Puppy, will be there, along with 50 other vendors.

The list is impressive, including such companies as Dell and Sun Microsystems, as well as Australia’s “Hope Capital” and their securities exchange division, The World Stock Exchange. I’ve been to a lot of real-life trade shows, and the ITE has all the buzz of opportunity they generate.

We expect to do a lot of networking, and end up striking at least one or two good business deals. It reminds me of the good ol’ days of Comdex.

I spent a half hour this morning talking to Liam about the show. It turns out that all of the work for the ITE has been done in the last 3 1/2 months by Liam and his partner Kelly Emms. It’s an impressive effort. The ITE conference centre has three huge floors, a photo-op area, and a speakers area where Jim Parkinson, VP of Collaboration and ISV Engineering at Sun, will be giving the first lecture (at 5am on Saturday April 21, Melbourne time).

I asked Liam how much time it’s taken him and Kelly to build the property and organise the event. His answer was “hundreds of hours”. I think he may be underestimating. Every time I log into Second Life, Liam is there, busy as can be, and has been for the past three months. But, that’s what it takes.

Liam says the idea for the conference came from his own early attempts to find resources in Second Life. While he said most of the effort was “organic”, he obviously has the commitment necessary to take a vision and turn it into reality. It’s obvious it’s been tough work. Liam said that the biggest hurdle was “to get large corporations to buy-in and sponsor us and pay real-life money to support our efforts. To date there has been no financial support.” He also noted that the most supportive vendors have been the small to medium-sized vendors who have a real stake in Second Life.

In many ways, this feels almost like a grass-roots effort where many interested parties dedicate time and resources to a shared goal. But, the presence of major players such as Sun and Dell point the way to a coming wave of stronger corporate support. When Liam told me that many vendors needed some convincing to “have faith in the ITE as an event,” I can see his point, at least from my initial perspective on the event months ago.

When I first met Liam, and even when I saw the first “conference venue” he had built, I wasn’t sure what might happen. Many people believe the old myth “build it and they will come”.

However, if you visit Silicon Island today, you’ll see something that feels so real, so vibrant, that there should be no doubt that Second Life is clearly the “virtual conference technology” of choice for the future. The ITE is one of the best examples of how a virtual world can create opportunities that aren’t possible in the real world due to geographic and time-zone constraints.

Visit Silicon Island and the International Technology Expo, April 20–22, on Silicon Island. See you there!


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