Web 2.0 Summit now courting clean-tech start-ups

Conference theme reflects the "greening" of Silicon Valley, using the Web and tech to address environmental and social challenges.

The Web 2.0 Summit--a conference of the Silicon Valley digiterati--seems to have changed its theme from "monetize the Web" to "save the world."

Tim O'Reilly, one of the Web 2.0 Summit organizers, on Monday posted a blog with details on the fifth edition of the conference coming up in November and its Launchpad event for start-ups.

The concept is to break out of the Web-only worldview and see if the ideals of the Web, like collective intelligence and innovation, can be applied to the world's woes.

"In an era of looming scarcities, economic disruption, and the possibility of catastrophic ecological change, it's time for us all to wake up, to take our new 'superpowers' seriously, and to use them to solve problems that really matter," O'Reilly wrote.

For its Launchpad event, the conference organizers are looking for start-ups in alternative energies, social entreprenuerialism, microfinance, developing economies, political action, and renewable technologies. Crossover with the Web is a bonus, but not a requirement, O'Reilly said.

The overall conference's theme is "The Opportunity of Limits," or finding business opportunity in social and environmental challenges.

As someone who attended the 2006 Launchpad and left somewhat underwhelmed, I applaud the shift in focus.

Some of the best entrepreneurial opportunities are in energy and environment-oriented technologies. And I agree when the organizers say that the Web can play a substantial role in addressing real social problems and divisions.

"Increasingly, the leaders of the Internet economy are turning their attention to the world outside our industry. And conversely, the best minds of our generation are turning to the Web for solutions," wrote John Battelle, president of Federated Media Publishing and a conference organizer.

So the Internet may be maturing and the nature of innovation broadening. But it's still exciting.

 

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