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Cucalorus Connect Kicks Off With Tech Talks

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Nov 8, 2018
A group of panelists Thursday discuss the gig economy during a discussion at the annual Cucalorus Connect conference. (Photo by Christina Haley O'Neal)
Technology is changing the way people work, find work and how companies operate, according to speakers during the annual Cucalorus Connect conference.

Cucalorus Connect is underway with a host of events and talks scheduled throughout the two-day technology and entrepreneurship conference, which takes place Thursday and Friday at Cape Fear Community College's Union Station as part of the overall Cucalorus Festival.

“For me, it's all about that economic development angle of developing the talent, developing the assets that we have, attracting additional investment of capital and attracting additional talent to the area and talent that also leads companies to build on those sectors," Randall Johnson, president of the Cucalous Connect Executive Board, said of the conference.

Johnson said this year, the Connect Conference is anticipated to bring between 200 and 250 people, but the numbers may grow over the course of the event.

This year's event spans five tracks: Gigtech, Healthtech, Fintech, Community Brew (craft beer and food system topics) and Startups. 

Keynote, panel talks and breakout sessions with presentations on a range of topics are all part of the lineup.

In one of the breakout sessions Thursday, KWHCoin, which recently set up shop at tekMountain, detailed some of the projects it has been working on globally around renewable energy.
 
The company is using blockchain technology and digital currency to try and address the issue that millions of people around the world don’t have access to energy services.
 
“Our customer is in some of the most remote areas of the world,” KWHCoin CEO Girard Newkirk said.

Thursday's events also included a panel discussion on artificial intelligence and the gig economy, moderated by Mona Badie, CIO and chief digital officer at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

Badie said changes are happening in the workplace, and artificial intelligence is expanding possibilities in a way that seemed impossible a few years ago, shifting the way people work and the work they do.

And the gig economy is providing a free market system that undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and focus on a lifelong career, she said.

With the help of technology “now there are platforms such as the one we have ... we're helping to provide a liaison between your job,” said Mark Steiner, co-founder and CEO of GigSalad.

Steiner was joined on panel by Pat Petitti, co-founder and CEO of Catalant, and Robert Preville, co-founder and CEO of KWIPPED.

"The enabler of the gig economy is technology," Preville said.

“When you have that very specific need for specialized skill sets, specialized equipment or tools ... I think the gig economy plays very relevant role ...," he said.

(Preville owns the Greater Wilmington Business Journal with publisher Rob Kaiser. Preville and Kaiser are part owners of KWIPPED.)

“I think of the gig economy as like the empowerment,” said Petitti, adding that’s allowing people to have more control over their lives.

Susan Ellis, director of corporate social innovation and brand at SAS, is slated to deliver the conference’s keynote speech at 4:30 Thursday. (For coverage of Ellis’ talk, check out the Business Journal’s afternoon email newsletter Friday.)
 
Friday’s lineup includes discussion on topics such as the future of financial services and emerging trends in financial technologies, the future direction of health care technology in the area and artificial intelligence in the workplace

For full schedule details, click here.

Business Journal Editor Vicky Janowski contributed to this report.
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