Carolyn Gerin is the Co-Founder of WedTech Summit — the first wedding conference and community uniting big brands and startups, and the technology that drives the wedding industry. Their 2016 summit is later this month so we sat down with her to talk about taking WedTech on the road (hello, Maui!) and how the organization is helping the two worlds to collide with inspiring results!
What was it about the wedding industry that pulled you in?
I was running a creative agency in downtown San Francisco and was as far away from the wedding industry as anyone could be. I hadn’t really looked at the wedding industry as an industry until I got engaged and had to navigate through the process of planning a wedding. By no means did we plan anything traditional (my husband and I are both creative-out-of-the-box type thinkers) but still, the experience was eye-opening.
After it was all done and the dust settled, I had some time to reflect on my wedding experience and wanted to share it with other brides who were looking to break the mold as well. So, the first product of my marriage was The Anti-Bride — a chronicle of my totally non-traditional and super out of the box approach.
When did you realize that the worlds of technology and weddings were colliding?
I’ve always been ‘tech adjacent’ (to decode the tech-talk, in San Francisco, that means ‘not an engineer’) and been on the fringe of the tech community for 20 years. My experiences working creatively with teams in the startup world, I really got an education in tech and started to understand the technology driven side of businesses. I also was definitely seeing how technology could save time by creating efficiencies in workload and work style but also create noise.
Coincidentally (or not), the Anti-Bride books put me in the middle of the wedding world and I had the opportunity to serve as a Senior Editor for Destination I Do Magazine! I was there for 7 years and, again, learned so much. My creative brain looked for the connections between my two worlds but couldn’t find a space where the two really intersected. And when you find out that the wedding industry is a 330 billion industry, you get curious and start digging.
Two years ago, my husband and I were sitting on the couch and he suggested that we somehow merge the two worlds: wedding and technology. So I called a good friend of mine to talk it through and one thing led to another. I ended up meeting my co-founder, Michael Cole of BlogHer, just 2 months later and it was total kismet. We saw that there was movement in the what we deemed the “wedtech” space and thought we should plant our flag
What is the WedTech Summit?
The WedTech Summit is the first wedding conference and community that unites big brands, startups, and the technology that drives the $300 billion wedding industry.
Even though there are still people still just see the wedding industry as all glitz and no guts, we see it as an industry with dozens of market verticals, unique B2B and B2C relationships, and modern technology applications that are changing the way an age-old tradition is being executed. We absolutely love how all of these creative people who are driven to solve problems are literally revolutionizing an industry and we are so excited that so many of them are participating in our summit.
Tell me about WedTech Summit. Who needs to go? What can they expect?
Wedding professionals, hospitality companies, entrepreneurs in the technology space, investors, media representatives and developers all are invited and are coming! Because WedTech has both a B2B and B2C audience, we have VC’s coming to see who’s in leading the pack in terms of innovation, we have small businesses looking to learn how to be more of Lean Startup with Agile techniques, we have thought leaders from some of the coolest SaaS platforms as speakers, and we have businesses specifically looking to grow their brands within the WedTech space. Depending on where you sit at the table, small or large business, hospitality brand, investor or even engineer, the WedTech Summit has something that any and every wedding professional is interested in.
Who are you most excited to see at the event?
I am excited about a lot of people but we have a pretty amazing line up this year including Rachel Hollis (Founder of Chic Media), Harmony Walton (Founder of The Bridal Bar), and Ian McFarland (Founder of Neo Innovation).
You’re based in the heart of the tech community in San Francisco. What drew you to taking WedTech Summit on the road and planning an event in Maui.
A lot of people have been asking, “Why go from San Francisco to Maui? Isn’t San Francisco and Silicon Valley the epicenter of technology?” The answer is yes and no. We had two successful conferences in San Francisco where we started forming the community which is, by design, niche. San Francisco’s technology community is very and (sometimes unfortunately) is more focused on finding the next Instagram and not nurturing the niche markets.
Hawaii, in contrast, has a very engaged wedding and hospitality audience and Hawaii is to weddings and hospitality as Vegas is to conferences. We are being welcomed with open arms by the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation, Blue Startups, Hawaii Angels and The Maui Mayors Office of Economic Development. We actually opened a company there, and have two super connector, multi-hyphenate business partners Scott Johnson and Sean Michal Hower who live there year round as well as a hands on advisor, Tambara Garrick of the Maui Wedding Association.
How do you see WedTech Summit and the world of #wedtech growing together?
Our niche community is growing rapidly and has representatives from every vertical: banking, transportation, engineering, and even manufacturing. Our goal is to incubate future wedtech apps and platforms, continue to build the community, and also serve as an educational platform and nexus for wedding technology worldwide. And hosting the WedTech Summit in Maui this year is the stepping stone to accomplishing all of that. We are actively working with our mentors and advisors to bring those two worlds together and help it scale. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have headquarter their wedtech business in sunny, glorious Hawaii?
What gets you up in the morning?
My daily mission is to live by the principle of inspir-action: to inspire people to take action. The WedTech organization, summit, and community is driven by the thought that we could help others innovate, create jobs or even just inspire someone to make a valuable change in the technology that doesn’t add to the noise. If we can help save innovators and their companies time and money by tangibly demonstrating how to be more efficient with the technology and platforms we showcase (like Aisle Planner!) then we are adding value and not adding to the tech hype.
When I receive a message on LinkedIn from a small wedtech app company in India or Eastern Europe that wants me to know about their platform, invites me to be on their beta team (or sit on their board), wants to join our community and earmark them to speak at the next Summit — it makes my day. It also proves that our message and mission is spreading and that is really exciting!
Register for WedTech Summit 2016 — visit wedtechsummit.com today!