Behold! CEO Forum Points Way Fwrd (Pt 1)

Illuminating: Master mind Peter Diamandis’ rock star keynote was just one of the big event’s many highlights.

“Minds blown.”

For those of us lucky enough to be in attendance last week at BuiltWorlds’ first national CEO Tech Forum, the inspiration is still echoing in our ears, dazzling our eyes, and firing our imaginations. (For everyone else, stay tuned for video details.)

“When you change the way that you see the world, you can change the world that you see,” said conference keynote Peter Diamandis, speaking last Thursday at the Chicago Athletic Association. Backed by floor-to-ceiling windows that shone Lake Michigan, Millennium Park, and the futuristic Frank Gehry-designed (and SOM-engineered) Pritzker Music Pavilion, the X-Prize Foundation founder challenged the construction CEOs and AEC technologists on hand to prepare themselves for unprecedented disruption.

“Exponential technologies are going to change everything – every aspect of our life in the next decade,” he predicted. “New technologies already are doubling in power every 12 to 36 months. You can look at it as disruptive stress, or disruptive opportunity.”

“Exponential technologies are going to change everything – every aspect of our life in the next decade”

— Peter Diamandis, X-Prize Foundation

Some companies are smart and nimble enough to adapt before it’s too late, while others have their own “Kodak moment“, where they lose sight of what their business is really about. The personal camera giant fought and lost the digital revolution because “it thought it was a paper and chemicals company,” said Diamandis. “But their business was about capturing memories.”

As founder of Singularity UniversityPlanetary Resources, and Human Longevity Inc., the M.I.T.-educated engineer and Harvard-educated M.D. is as accomplished as he is ambitious. And his informed optimism last week was nothing if not inspiring. “We’re building faster computers to build faster computers to build faster computers,” he noted. “So we’re talking about ‘Moonshot thinking’ now. That term comes from my friends at Google. It means thinking about how do we get 10 times bigger rather than just 10% bigger. So, I ask you, ‘What’s your Moonshot?'”

To the moon… and back

For BuiltWorlds, last week was our Moonshot, the first of many, we trust. In less than 48 hours, we presented 50 top-notch, disruptive speakers from coast-to-coast, drawing a star-studded crowd that included Associated Builders & Contractors CEO Mike BellamanThornton Tomasetti CEO Tom Scarangello; Newforma CEO Ian Howell; JBKnowledge CEO James Benham; FieldLens CEO Doug Chambers; Hard Hat Hub co-founder Andy JansenThe Digit Group CEO Paul Doherty; renowned architect and urban planner Peter Ellis; SOM design partner Neil KatzGraycor co-chairman Melvin Gray; VIATechnik founder Danielle Dy Buncio, and many more. (For a complete list of attendees, click here.)

“This was just fabulous,” said Andrew Balster, executive leader at Archeworks, a research think tank described as “part design laboratory, part alternative architectural academy.” Speaking on the logic imperative of materials re-use from “wasted markets“, Balster appeared on a panel alongside Howell, Katz, Branch Technology CEO Platt Boyd, and CannonDesign partner Tim Swanson. Entitled “How Tech is Upgrading the Canvas of Design”, the panel at one point turned to the enlistment of nature as the ultimate design partner.

“I was so inspired by the panel’s discussion of how to incorporate nature more into their designs,” said Rahul Garg, Microsoft‘s Seattle-based lead for U.S. IoT Commercial Business. “That really is what we all should be doing already.”


In his own session, Garg spoke of what he sees as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, which he says we are all already immersed in. The eras of the steam engine, the light bulb, and automated manufacturing all have led up to today, he explained. “Now we have cyber analytical systems and we are bringing the physical and digital worlds together whether by means of people, cars, drones, mobile apps, even smart buildings,” added Garg.

In a later session, Arup Associate Principal David Wilts expounded on that thought. “We have renamed our ‘Smart Buildings Group’ as our Digital Consulting Group,” he noted. “It’s all about the data.” Indeed, and the more sensors deployed and data collected, the easier it is to maintain buildings and infrastructure to extend their life and improve their efficiency.

For example, Garg noted, ThyssenKrupp Elevator now makes Smart Elevators. “They have reduced site visits with cloud-based, dashboard performance data that allows users to anticipate when a service repair is needed before breakdown occurs,” he said. “That allows users to order parts in advance and have them in place when technicians arrive on site to install then.”

Data pros and cons

Of course, with so much information available now to so many people in so many ways, cyber-security also was a hot topic at CTF. In fact, keynote James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge, purposely tried to put the fear of God into his fellow CEOs over lunch. “We’re not just talking about hackers or malicious outsiders. We’re talking about malicious insiders,” he stressed. Like the famous Target cyber-security breach not long ago, “You are just as vulnerable to your service providers and vendors. We have one customer who recently had their outside data center go bankrupt on them! They had to recruit hackers and break into the place in the middle of the night to get their own servers back!”

Benham also cautioned attendees to watch out for fake hotspots set up in airports, hotels and convention centers, places where traveling executives might naturally be looking for free WiFi. He offered more tips, but for starters, JBK referred all to for a checkup. “And if you invest in a cyber liability policy, the insurance company will even send out trainers to your business to help teach your employees and vendors proper practices,” added Benham.


Inspiring panel: From left, designers Swanson, Katz, Balster & Boyd discussed nature with Newforma’s Howell.
  • Listen to the latest #ConTechTrio podcast, featuring several interviews from #BWCTF16!
  • Featured guests include Peter Lasensky, CEO, NoteVault; Peter Grant, CEO, Safesite; Benny Baltrosky, CSO, eSUB; Doug Chambers, CEO, FieldLens; Sean McGuire, CTO, MCAA; Dennis Stejskal, VP Strategy, Sage; and Stacy Scopano, Autodesk BIM 360.




  • Above, speakers Chambers; Grant; John Goecke (StratusVue); and Zach Scheel (Rhumbix).
Virtual highlights: Throughout the event, VRstudios’ Brian Vowinkel walked guests through wild simulations.

Keep your dial set here for much more video and written recaps in the days and weeks to come. After Diamandis’ inspiring call to arms, architect Peter Ellis gushed, “Wow, I thought I was forward thinking… That blew me away!”

We know how he feels.

But trust us, we will relay as much of the energy and insight to you as we can via multiple social media channels. (Did you follow our buzzing Twitter feed last week? Check it out here.) As it were, #BWCTF16 was jam-packed and featured sessions on modular construction, venture capital, urban revitalization, Big Data, and much more.  So, buckle up. This ride is far from over…


Don’t forget to sign up for next year’s CEO Tech Summit, tentatively set for Spring 2017. For more details, including Early Bird Registration deals and discounts, click here.