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VB Engage — VentureBeat’s brutally honest marketing podcast — is going “live” on stage at Web Summit for the very first time in November, and our guest of honor will be none other than Alan Schaaf, CEO and cofounder of the phenom that is Imgur.

For those that don’t know (and we’re sure that’s around just two or three of you), Web Summit is the gargantuan tech event that sees more than 50,000 tech CEOs, founders, startups, investors, and political leaders coming together in Portugal.

Web Summit is one of the fastest-growing tech events in the world. It originally started life in Dublin before outgrowing its hometown and moving to Lisbon. In part, it is the use of marketing technology and data science that helped with this massive growth, a topic we love to cover with honesty and humor throughout VB Engage.

And for the first time, we’ll be recording the podcast live on stage to an audience of 1,000 attendees. As well as covering the weekly mobile and marketing engagement news, Travis Wright and Stewart Rogers will welcome Alan Schaaf to the stage to discuss the rise of geek culture and what it means for brands.

Alan Schaaf, Imgur

Above: Alan Schaaf, Imgur

After all, the world is getting geekier. Once-niche topics like superheroes, dragons, and video games are now mainstream obsessions. The driving force behind this cultural shift? Millennials who are proud of their geekdom, and who create and share viral content, something Imgur has played a fundamental part in facilitating.

So what do we mean by “geek culture,” and how does that group differ from other “digital native” and millennial sub-groups?

“First of all, I think it’s interesting to know that being a geek isn’t the negative thing that it used to be,” Schaaf told us. “For millennials, being a geek is a positive thing, and we see people proudly self-identifying themselves as geeks. Geek culture is all about being super passionate about your interests and not afraid to express them, even if your interests are unpopular.”

And Schaaf has the data to back that up, a topic we’ll be diving into in more depth during the live podcast.

“We partnered up with research firm YPulse to learn more about geek culture and its demographics, and we found that 60 percent of millennials qualify as ‘geeks,’ and that 23 percent are self-proclaimed ‘hardcore geeks.’ That means more than 50 million U.S. millennials are geeks! This is a huge segment of the broader millennial generation that we can’t ignore.”

During Web Summit, we’ll talk with Schaaf about how geeks stand out from other cohorts of millennials, how their passions can be embraced by brands for mutual benefit, and what their affinities are. With VB Engage, we’re always trying to tell the story of how we sell and market to the “new communities” that exist in an always-mobile world, and Schaaf’s insights help to tell that story for a significant percentage of today’s consumer audience.

We’ll also discuss how Imgur has evolved since its inception to engage with, and build a community from, that audience.

“In many ways, products are a reflection of their founders, and I consider myself a geek,” Schaaf said. “But aside from that, Imgur just organically evolved into the epicenter of geek culture. I didn’t design Imgur to be any specific type of community. I built Imgur based on what Imgur’s users (who call themselves ‘Imgurians’) told me they wanted. What you see on Imgur today isn’t the result of product managers deciding what features we should provide, it’s the result of Imgurians telling us what they want Imgur to be, and then we built that for them.”

Web Summit features 21 distinct conferences under one umbrella, each focused on the impact the tech industry is having on our daily lives running through the core. VB Engage is coming live from the ContentMakers stage, a space that asks how will we consume and create content in ten years’, five years’, or even a year’s time. Schaaf is obviously looking forward to the experience.

“It’s my first time at Web Summit, and I’m super excited about all of the inspiring people and companies that are coming together,” Schaaf said. “Really just looking forward to getting immersed in it and having the full experience.”

VB Engage with Alan Schaaf will be on the ContentMakers stage at 1:15 p.m. Western European Time on November 9, and the episode will be available via the VB Engage podcast landing page, iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and all other good (and some bad) podcast platforms soon after. VB Engage is available every Tuesday.

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