First things first: let’s have a quick look at the Bits & Pretzels’ speakers list…
Sir Richard Branson, Ilse Aigner, Mitchell Baker, Daniel Graf, Steve Hafner, Leila Janah, Heiko Hubertz, Riccardo Zacconi, Jochen Schweizer, Judith Williams and more. The list goes on and on; it’s more than 300 names long. There’s Christof Mascher, Raphael Fellmer, Mike Butcher, and Stephen Schambach, there’s Christos Tsolkas and Robin Wauters. This September’s Bits & Pretzels will be crowded with the most successful. Still, if there’s a name among them – on that list of 300+ rich and famous – that has to be mentioned, that should never be omitted, or happens to be the most important there, it would be Kevin Spacey’s.
Kevin Spacey will be there.
A Fitting Role
This is the moment some readers are scratching their heads, thinking: “But wait. No. Wait. Tell me: what is KEVIN (!!!) SPACEY (!!!) doing at a startup-centered – a business-centered (!!!) – conference in Munich? Has he become an entrepreneur? A businessman? An investor? If so, what kind of investor is he?”
Well, the short answer is: Yes. He has. He’s become an entrepreneur, a businessman, and an investor. This started quite a long time ago, in fact, as his first business investment can be traced back to 2000s. All things considered, inviting him to give an opening speech at the largest European startup conference of 2016 – and then to sit with its participants for a short Questions & Answers session – comes as natural as, for example, inviting him to reprise his role in House of Cards’ next season. (Not to mention all the other hundreds of reasons.)
So what kind of entrepreneurship is Kevin Spacey’s into, then?
Enhanced Storytelling? Kevin Spacey Knows the Answer!
While most readers will know him for one or more of his films, American Beauty being my personal favorite, with The Usual Suspects, Se7en, and L.A. Confidential as close runners up, or for his latest role as Congressman Frank Underwood in the Netflix’s first original series, House of Cards, Kevin Spacey is also an established – and well-established – tech investor and speaker. His latest important investment is in WoofbertVR, a virtual reality tech startup. His latest big tech-focused speech – the one at the World Economic Forum in Davos – saw him speak about “the art of storytelling and its role in the future of technology.”
In his own words, Netflix “did it right” with House of Cards, but the next step for storytelling is its digitalization. According to the actor’s predictions, the next big consumer media trend – big enough to surpass Netflix’s distribution model’s success – will be the “immersive storytelling,” “immersive” meaning – in this case – VR tech-and-gear-enforced. Thus, his investment in WoofbertVR: a startup dedicated to bringing art galleries from all around the world to the realm of virtual experiences. “WoofbertVR partners with the world’s leading museums to share their collections through VR technology and leading-edge interpretive modes,” we read on their website. “Bringing history to life with 21st century innovation,” it follows, “WbVR is reshaping the landscape of storytelling and revolutionizing the way the world looks at art.”
WoofbertVR is not the last of his VR tech investments, either. The actor has also invested “an undisclosed amount” in Wonder, a gaming/tech/virtual reality startup based in Venice, California, currently operating in stealth mode. While no further details are present at the moment, Wonder’s website mentions “a brand new mobile hardware platform with a relationship to VR and a targeted focus on the gaming demographic.” With investors such as Nolan Bushnell (Atari’s founder,) Allen DeBevoise (Machinima’s founder,) Arian Foster (a 4-time NFL Pro-Bowler,) Owen Van Natta (Facebook’s former COO,) and David Stern (NBA Commissioner,) we can be sure that Wonder’s team is holding something up their sleeves. One can only wonder what.
(And it looks like investing in WoofbertVR was a good bet, too, since the startup has released its first virtual products to a great critical and public acclaim: not universal, but great nonetheless, with dozens and dozens of positive reviews all around the web.)
The Old Vic
Yet Kevin Spacey’s ambitions don’t end at investments. He’s also an entrepreneur himself. Kind of, at least, as he is an artistic director. Or, rather, he used to be. In 2004, he assumed the role of artistic director in one of London’s oldest theaters, The Old Vic. Before stepping down in the middle of 2015, he experienced both success and failure, the former much frequently, as with his staging of Shakespeare’s Richard II and Richard III. An example of the latter, however, is the (in)famous Resurrection Blues’ setback in 2006. During this period, he’s co-worked with big names such as Robert Altmann, Neve Campbell, Judi Dench, Elton John, Sam Mendes, Matthew Modine, and many others. In an interview for “New York Times,” he said that, while working at The Old Vic, he was having the time of his life with the people he came to love and appreciate and that all the attention they received further strengthened their bonds, “galvanizing” them and making them last.
Bits & Pretzels Appearance
To sum it all up, it would appear that there’s nothing really so exceptional to Kevin Spacey’s appearance on a startup-centered conference in Munich, not to mention to his opening speech and the Questions & Answers session to follow. Yet such a conclusion would be a mistake: what is exceptional to Kevin Spacey’s presence at Bits & Pretzels is Kevin Spacey himself. With a long history of great speeches, his artistic director’s experience, and interests in the newest, futuristic technologies, he’s the perfect choice. There can be no concern about his qualifications. The answer is simple:
Kevin Spacey will deliver.
As he’s used us to deliver.
The festival’s full agenda can be found here.
Bits & Pretzels is 25-27 September 2016, Munich’s International Congress Center.