Think Big speakers, sponsors mingle at reception; event opens to public today

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LOREN BENOIT/Press Guests mingle at the Think Big Festival opening reception Thursday evening at 315 Martinis and Tapas in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Think Big commences today with a tech carnival at the Innovation Den and continues with speakers all day Saturday at North Idaho College.

COEUR d’ALENE — For the past several years, Amish Patel has considered Coeur d’Alene to be his “second home.”

"I know more people here than I know in Seattle at this point," Patel said Thursday evening while enjoying a drink garnished with a jalapeño slice at 315 Martinis and Tapas. "We just continue to come back because this is the right vibe for us."

Patel is the vice president of technology at VICIS, Inc., a Seattle-based startup that is changing the football helmet industry with cutting-edge technology. VICIS produces innovative helmets that are used in the NFL and are worn by athletes including Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"To the outside world, we build helmets. We’re a startup out of Seattle, outside of University of Washington, we spun out," he said. “We’re actually a physics mechanical engineering technology company."

The VICIS Zero 1 helmet is designed to be safer than traditional helmets because it uses multiple layers that mitigate impact forces. This highly-engineered protective gear is the culmination of a three-year, $20 million research and development effort shaped by leading athletes, engineers and neurosurgeons.

"It is the No. 1-ranked performing helmet from a safety perspective for the last three years," Patel said.

Patel and a multitude of big names in technology as well as tech enthusiasts gathered at the 315 for a private Thursday evening reception to commence the events of the Innovation Collective's 2019 Think Big Festival. They lingered and mingled while sipping beverages and nibbling on hors d'oeuvres.

Think Big and Innovation Collective founder Nick Smoot said he was feeling fantastic as he weaved through the more than 125 guests, comprised of VIPs, event speakers, sponsors, Innovation Collective Leadership Network members and more.

"I feel fantastic," he said. "The dream of the power players and often overlooked people are connecting, that's what we've always wanted to see. Now it's become an annual thing they don't want to miss."

Smoot said there's something special about when the Think Big weekend starts.

"I kind of want to pinch myself," he said.

Innovation Collective and Think Big events coordinator Heidi Cochran said the sunset reception is a great way to commence the weekend and for participants to get to know one another.

"The speakers can see what we do here," she said. "It’s an introduction to Coeur d’Alene, too."

She said Think Big has many exciting aspects.

"Everyone’s just really excited for the speakers," she said. "They think it’s awesome that these people come in to speak to the community about such cool topics. You get to hear New York and San Francisco and L.A., but not always here, so it’s cool that in little Coeur d’Alene people can come and get that same experience they would sitting in New York City somewhere."

The Think Big Festival will be open and free to the public during the tech carnival block party outside the Innovation Den, 418 E. Lakeside Ave., today from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Community members will have opportunities to get hands-on and enjoy demonstrations with the hottest new tech.

The speaking event, where Patel and other tech, science and innovation leaders will participate in discussions or presentations, takes place at North Idaho College from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.


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