Let's Brainstorm

July 16, 2009: 8:30 AM ET

Tech gathering brings together best of tech and digital Hollywood.

Next week Fortune Magazine continues a nearly annual tradition, its mid-summer Brainstorm conference. We'll gather some of the smartest, most connected and powerful people we know in the technology and entertainment industries to talk about where we are and where we're going.hd-brainstormTech Check out the agenda to see who'll be with us.

We began almost a decade ago in Aspen, Colo., then moved for a year each to San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, Calif. We'll convene this year in Pasadena, close to CalTech, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (whose director, Charles Elachi, will appear), the Idealab-Overture axis of the Internet world and yes, Hollywood, no slouch when it comes to using technology. A brainchild of the consummate technology writer and networker David Kirkpatrick, Fortune started this conference as a way to literally brainstorm with our community of sources and the companies we cover about what should appear in the magazine. We liked the format so much that now there are two Brainstorms, Tech and Green. We appreciate the power and privilege that come from bringing together a unique group of the some of the mightiest companies in the industry alongside some of its smallest -- the biggest spenders and sellers, if you will, rubbing shoulders with the trend setters.

You'll be hearing a lot more on this site and in the pages of the magazine (and on Twitter: #brainstormtech) about our brainstorming exercise in southern California. As a co-chair of the event -- together with Kirkpatrick and Fortune Assistant Managing Editor Stephanie Mehta, who oversees technology coverage – I have a full plate of panels and interviews. Here's a sneak preview of what I'm planning to cover. I'd value your input before, after or during the conference on email (alashinsky@fortunemail.com) or on Twitter (@adamlashinsky).

Marc Andreessen. I'll interview Fortune's current cover boy on the conference's opening afternoon. Andreessen is a survivor. Having co-founded Netscape, he easily could have been a tech-industry one-hit wonder. He isn't. He's a deep thinker and a big personality to boot. I plan on asking his thoughts on a few topics you wouldn't think he'd have strong opinions on, like economics. He does.

Startup Idol. Okay, we're not the first conference to borrow the concept from the popular TV show. But we're going to be the best. Three prominent VCs (Bill Gurley, Ron Conway and Dana Settle) will comment on and question five entrepreneurs who are "singing" for their supper. The audience will crown the "Idol" that's most deserving of funding. The startups are going to be interesting and surprising. And newsworthy. Oh, and controversial.

eBay CEO John Donahoe. He goes by the handle Dennis the Menace in eBay's fun-ish culture that harkens to its beginnings as a marketplace for tradables. Yet Donahoe has had the grownup job of repositioning an Internet phenomenon that lost some of its shine along the way. In his nearly 18 months at the helm of eBay Donahoe has begun to sell off some of predecessor (and California gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman's acquisitions, including the planned spinoff of Skype. He has largely kept a low profile in the press, given his long list of things to do. Until now.

Twitter's Biz Stone. Right after last year's Brainstorm I wrote about Twitter when it was still in its gee-whiz phase. More recently I've argued that all the noise about prodding Twitter to reveal its money-making plans is just that, noise. For all that, Twitter actually is making progress on being a business. It just hasn't spoken out much about it. Co-founder Biz Stone is a deceptively clever and wryly humorous spokesman for the company. We'll see if he's ready to live up to his nickname, which, though it doesn't stand for "business" is what we're going to talk about Thursday afternoon.

Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks Animation and Mark Hurd of Hewlett-Packard. The odd couple of the conference? Perhaps. One is a storyteller and dream spinner, Hollywood to the bone. The other is a by-the-books sales and finance man, a GE type (who never worked at GE) transplanted to Silicon Valley. The common thread: Dreamworks has built its animation-creation system on HP technology. We'll find out how the entertainer and the technologist see the future – and the economy.

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About This Author
Adam Lashinsky
Adam Lashinsky
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune

Adam Lashinsky is a San Francisco-based editor-at-large for FORTUNE, covering Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Lashinsky joined FORTUNE in 2001, after two years as a contributing columnist. Prior to joining FORTUNE, Lashinsky covered Silicon Valley for TheStreet.com and The San Jose Mercury News. A Chicago native, Lashinsky holds a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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