Confessions of a VERGE Virgin

VERGE has been dangled in front of me for a couple years, but I didn’t take the plunge until last month, for VERGE SF. Like many things in life, I didn’t get what all the hype was about until I experienced it for myself. I thought it may be just another sustainability conference, which is never a bad thing for a recruiter who looks at sustainability jobs within varying industries.

But I came to find out that VERGE is much more laser-focused than your typical sustainability gathering. You come to VERGE to get deep down in the weeds on cities and the built environment.

I’m excited that I chose to attend, having realized since that the built environment is right where innovation seems to be happening at the most rapid pace. There is a wild race of companies taking their stab at the next big thing and I got to witness that feverish sprint firsthand. As GreenBiz Group Chairman, Executive Editor and conference host Joel Makower puts it, “VERGE is neither a tech conference nor a sustainability conference; it’s something new. For both tech and sustainability professionals, it’s just the right combination of familiar and non-familiar worlds.”

Who’s on First?

Even more surprising was not the what of VERGE, but the who. Professionals converge (pun intended) from the two worlds of tech and sustainability to discuss opportunities to develop ultra-efficient and innovative products, services, and business models for companies, cities and consumers.

You could feel the pulse of the 500+ people in the room, the majority of whom were senior management, with roughly 10 percent being CEOs, 10 percent at the VP level and 22 percent directors. BSR associate and conference radio host Nate Springer recognized this dynamic, “The energy and interaction of the conference was thrilling. It’s one of the few places I’ve seen government, business, and technology truly converge to discuss real solutions for sustainability, clean tech and green buildings.”

Innovation and Implementation Intersect

Chief Sustainability Officers had a solid contingency, including Cynthia Curtis from CA Technologies and Kathrin Winkler from EMC. But these green-team pros weren’t the only ones making an appearance. I sat amidst the likes of VPs and CEOs from real estate holding companies, real estate investment trusts, investment firms, architecture firms and construction companies.

Next page: "The intersection of different perspectives and disciplines"