Bridging the gap between tech and traditional business

It’s an incredible time to be connected with San Francisco’s diverse and innovative business community. As the director of strategic growth at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, I focus on enhancing business development, increasing company visibility and connecting business leaders to our more than 2,500 members, strategic partnerships and numerous annual events.

Being on the frontline of communicating with our business leaders, I have the privilege of hearing their vision and needs and witnessing how dynamic ideas are formed at the intersection between industries.

Over time, I realized there was a disconnect between San Francisco’s more traditional companies and technology-based business models. Nothing existed to coalesce these two business groups around a singular function or idea to create an atmosphere for collaboration.

To meet that need, the Chamber adjusted its event programming to start really listening to the needs of our members. We found that a greater amount of businesses wanted to share challenges, successes and failures.

In February, we launched a new event, Tech After Dark, through a partnership with NerdWallet. More than 500 people attended the mixer that integrated traditional businesses from multiple sectors including retail, entertainment, finance and legal with technology companies looking to form connections and ways to work together.

Now that initial effort is growing, and Tech After Dark has evolved into biztechSF, which is launching at Oracle OpenWorld on Sept. 20. With a similar focus, we are successfully connecting tech and traditional based business leaders to form strong partnerships, collaborate on projects, focus on real market education and increase respective revenues. Attendees at biztechSF will have access to Oracle’s executive chairman Larry Ellison’s OpenWorld keynote, in addition to biztechSF’s keynote by Oracle’s CEO Safra Catz followed by educational tracks by Linkedin, Deloitte Digital and Infovity ad-orb, all geared to help businesses build efficiencies and growth.

Our new initiatives are also keenly focused on exploring how technology can enhance construction. San Francisco apartment construction is at a 10-year high and there is an explosion of major public and private construction projects, including the Transbay Transit Center and Salesforce Tower. BuildSF, the Chamber’s real estate initiative, has ongoing programming bringing together CEO’s from major builders, including Cahill Contractors and WEBCOR Builders, with mobile construction management and safety software companies like Plangrid and Safesite, to create forums to discuss how technology can streamline projects and how it is, or isn’t, being adopted.

The best part of my role is seeing business leaders from completely unrelated backgrounds connect on an idea and get excited about new possibilities. I’m focused on getting our businesses plugged into the community and starting new conversations about approaches and solutions.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce represents all industries and companies of all sizes and funding backgrounds. This is our advantage and gives me a unique opportunity to communicate with wide variety of business leaders. We are listening to our members to focus on business development opportunities through our robust advocacy efforts and international marketing arm through the Chamber Foundation’s San Francisco Center of Economic Development. I look forward to watching our business community evolve and tailoring our programs to best meet the demands of our community.

Avneesh Nigam is director of strategic growth at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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