A conference in a castle was just too good an opportunity to pass up, RapidMiner ran their annual conference Wisdom in the beautiful city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. It’s been over a year since we started working with this toolset in earnest so a good time for one of us to go and meet the founders, many of their new US based management team and network with other partners and customers.
Nothing beats a fabulous venue for a conference, the castle perched on a hill in the centre of the Old City, the city of Ljubljana and Solvenia are all idilic. Day 1 of the conference included a small group of about 60 people, 15 partners and 45 in the technical training and certification stream. The casual nature of the environment and spaces created opportunities for chatting informally in the breaks as well as fabulous glimpses of the view. Outside was sweltering so the thick stone walls and oversized open windows allowed some respite from the 30+C heat. All very beautiful.
I have been to many a vendor conference in my day, from massive Oracle Worlds and IBM events through to smaller user group centric events – none as small or relaxed as this. There was a dog – Chief Furry Officer – and a mixture of RapidMiner staff from Germany and the USA. I was disappointed their new CEO wasn’t in attendance.
Everyone I met was open and spoke English – one of my minor concerns had been language. The Boston conference had been canceled so this was their one and only for 2015. There was no vendor hall and only 1 delegate tried to sell to others – he didn’t like me saying ‘I am not here to buy from you’ very much. So the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed.
Day 1 – Partner event and dinner
Our small group of partners got on famously, it was fantastic to have this opportunity to meet ex-RapidMiner employees who are now partners and companies who have become partners for a range of reasons. We had the new license and pricing model presented to us, revised messaging and competitive selling positioning. It was refreshing to speak with both founders, Ralf and Ingo, and learn about their journey from OpenSource roots to a commercialised product. Ingo having moved to the USA post capital raise and the growth of the company as a result. I also met a range of recently ex-Tibco management team members who now form the basis of the RapidMiner management team.
Post partner event both streams came together into RapidMiner’s form of Who Wants to be a Millionaire or Who Wants to be a Data Miner. Three contestants were given a challenge to resolve using RapidMiner, one of the three had only first touched the tool a week before in anticipation of this conference and she did really well. It was as a laugh anyway.
Next I was invited to an hour long session with a small group of customers, Ingo, Ralf and the Product Managers for RapidMiner including their Chief Product Officer, Lars. It was great to have this opportunity, we had some new roadmap aspects revealed to us and were questioned on these feature sets and their worth to us as customers. For me, meeting these amazing customers was fantastic. One who works in fraud detection, one who works in allergy research and another who works in marketing for one of the worlds largest brands.
Finally, we ended Day 1 with dinner which was held in the Castle’s courtyard restaurant. The catering team cooked me a lovely meal after I enquired as to what I could eat so I did feel spoiled. Here I met the only Australian at the conference and spoke with some local Slovenian data miners so learned a great deal about the local start up scene and culture.
Day 2 – Presentations
There was a single stream of presentations. The majority of speakers were giving customer presentations, the quality of these was exceptional. Case studies provided significant insight into analysis, prediction and real world solutions materialised utilising RapidMiner as the analytics toolset. Two of the presentations were on medical insights from medical practitioners who employed data mining techniques to solve major cost challenges such as reducing repeat emergency department visits or repeat admissions due to misdiagnosis.
Around lunchtime the new flagship product version was released along with various announcements on new features and OpenSource support strengthening. You can read all about it here. OptimalBI made the big screen as Lars was announcing things.
While RapidMiner claim there were over 125 people in attendance I only every counted 70 at one time. So the group remained small. The agenda was rather packed so people drifted out as the day went on and by the close the room was quite empty. It closed quite abruptly and I was whisked off to be interviewed for the 2016 conference promotion video. A few of us gathered for a drink in the Castle bar since the conference formalities had finished.
For me all up, it was a lovely experience. I really enjoyed the networking with such a small group. I learned so much about how to be a RapidMiner partner and their revised business model and operating model. It wasn’t about the product for me, but I know my team will enjoy some of the opportunities we will have as a result of my attending. Will I go to New York in 2016? I’m not sure yet. It won’t be in a castle! I do however write this from our wonderful villa in Tuscany! I’m very relaxed indeed.
You can read our previous RapidMiner blog posts here.