Why you may not want to talk to panelists after events…

As I’ve been out in the community going to events and spreading the word about Greenhorn Connect, I’ve seen my share of panel discussions.  One lesson I’ve learned from all those panels is that regardless of how the panel itself went or if you think you have a great idea, question or thought to share with a panelist, you generally don’t gain much by approaching panelists after events.

Every conversation with a panelist has generally gone the same. They’re tired. They just want to go home/run and catch their plane/get a drink.  They’ve heard a million pitches thanks to all the other panels they’ve been on and so they’re usually on autopilot in the conversation trying to just find the quickest way to the exit.  I totally understand this and respect this.

So what do I recommend you do instead?  If you have a great thought…make sure you share it during the Q&A. If you didn’t get to…use it as a conversation topic with other members of the audience. Anyone who doesn’t run up to approach the panelist is also likely to be more interested in making meaningful networking connections and share good conversation.

Please don’t take this as a jab at panelists. In fact, this is more of a recognition of the difficulties of being a panelist. It is rightfully tiring to be on a panel and usually if you’re part of the panel, it’s because you’re an influential/important person in the area of discussion, which likely means you’re insanely busy.  I also know that many people are dying to talk to you just so they can say they did or to dump their pitch on you or push their business card down your throat.  I never want to be that person and so I generally now make it a rule not to bother approaching panelists I don’t already know well.  I’d rather talk to a few more of the people in the audience that obviously shared my interest in the topic of the panel and make those meaningful connections that won’t just lead to the awkward “I’ll contact you in a month or two” and “sorry, I forgot my business cards” kind of discussions.

**Disclaimer #1** If you have something exceptionally relevant to discuss with a panelist and this is the only chance you’ll ever have to talk to them, then by all means, approach them. I think in general though, you’re better off working through your network to get an introduction to the person; this qualifies you and gives more context than “another eager audience member that wants to give me their card…”

**Disclaimer #2** If I’m ever on a panel, please don’t think this post means I don’t want to talk to you. Just realize that you should have more to say than “you should hear my pitch” or  “I’d like to meet you.”  Is there something related to what I’m working on or something I talked about in the panel that’s particularly relevant to what you’re doing or a question you have?

Startup Weekend Report: Friday

I should be asleep right now….but I’m too excited about my team and our idea to sleep right now. I’m also inspired to share the experience for those of you that can’t make it:

Friday was a really fun night.  Pizza, beer and good networking started off the night.  After a healthy hour of that , we all sat down for some introductions by the founder and some key people in the audience.  Marc Nager, the organizer of the event, went through all the great sponsors (yes, Greenhorn is one…but the help I gave is nothing compared to the amazing donations by Microsoft, Sun,  and some others) and talked a little about how the event would go.  Then, he introduced us all to Shawn Broderick of TechStars and gave awesome State official, Jason Schupbach, a chance to speak. Jason was kind enough to give a plug to Greenhorn Connect as the resource hub for local entrepreneurs.  A lot of people approached me at the next open portion of the event, specifically because of what he said, so thanks, Jason! After all those intros, we got into the ideas…

It started with about 20 people raising their hands saying they wanted to pitch ideas, but by the end, 31 ideas were pitched.  We had everything from a yard/garage sale app to a meeting scheduling tool to plug in to emails to a custom, crowd-sourced label maker for alchohol to a video game, that according to the presenter, gets you “high”.  After all those pitches, we had to narrow it down, so we were given 30 minutes to go talk to those that pitched before “voting.”

In true entrepreneur fashion, we voted with our proverbial “wallets.”  Marc gave us each $2 we could put in any envelope(s) we chose (each idea had an envelope).  Money was then tallied and given to the pitchers.  With the money in hand they were congratulated for getting “your first investment.”  People were then instructed to find their team.  I started out talking to a team that had a couple of my friends and fellow Darties on it that was related closely to the interests of Greenhorn.  However, the lure of the idea that really stood out as the only one totally meeting my criteria was too much and I jumped over to work with them.

My criteria for picking the company to work with was very simple:
A) Clear way to make money from the start
B) An idea that could be broken down enough to create a nice demo/alpha in the weekend

So the idea that worked best for that I felt was the Media Release Date Aggregate. Their pitch was simple, yet brilliant: We all have favorite movies, artists and authors whose release of their work we anticipate greatly. It’s a chore to manage and stay aware of when those are coming out (I currently manually input them in a special google calendar, which is tedious).  So, their solution is a site that pulls it all together in one place. You just mark what you’re interested in and they let you know when it’s out.  Revenue can come from 2 great channels: 1) big studios and labels can promote their items on the site to targeted customers and 2) Users will be given links to buy their movie tickets, go to amazon and buy the book/cd, etc (landing a sweet referral fee).  Appreciating the simplicity and definitely being a potential customer has me sold.

Our team was on fire as soon as we met; we formed a team quickly and ran off to chat and eventually took over a white board and started ironing a lot out in just a little time.  We  have a great spread of talent too…4 developers, 3 business/social media people and a lawyer.  I can’t wait to see what we do.  As I write this, I just got a sample home page mock up from one of the developers. That’s when you know you have a great idea…you can’t help yourself but pour in ideas.

I’ll try to tweet out a few things as we progress tomorrow and write a report tomorrow night, so stay tuned. You can follow my tweets @GreenhornBoston and @Evanish.

GreenhornTV Episode 2: Global Entrepreneurship Week

GreenhornTV: Episode 2
Week of Nov. 16th – Nov.22: Global Entrepreneurship

This week we have Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is a celebration of all things entrepreneruship. If you’ve been putting off getting out there and into the community, this is the week to finally make it out there. There are multiple events every day and night that are going to be great for you regardless of the industry you’re interested in.

Specifically in Boston, Northeastern University is leading the charge with a week pack full of events. Most are free and all of them are open to the public, so check it out. If that’s not enough, Northeastern’s new venture accelerator program, IDEA, is kicking off Monday.

Check out the notes below to see all that’s going on and follow the links for registration information and more.

MONDAY: November 16th

Northeastern University E-Week:
Entrepreneurship Networking Lunch
Description: “A networking lunch for students who want to learn more about Northeastern’s active and extensive entrepreneurship community. Student entrepreneurship organizations, faculty who teach entrepreneurship programs, and students who study across campus and share a passion for learning about and starting new ventures are welcome to join in and participate.”
Location: Raytheon Amphitheatre, Egan Center
When: 11:30am to 1:00pm

Entry Level Entrepreneurs: Making the Leap
Description: “What are the questions commonly faced by budding entrepreneurs as they near the pinnacles of their academic careers? Should they dive into Entrepreneurship headfirst or focus on building a career? Panelists: Dominic Coryell (Founder, Garment Valet), Simon Dao (STE Lecturer, MIT alum and serial entrepreneur), and Adam Walder (Founder, UndergroundHipHop.com)
Location: 108 Snell Engineering
When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm

“The Tough Get Growing: How to Succeed in a Down Economy” presented by the MIT Enterprise Forum
Description: The current economic climate doesn’t mean companies can’t succeed. It just means the WAY a company succeeds has its own unique challenges. Hear the real-world experiences of entrepreneurs, the lessons they learned going from start-up to success story, and the research and best practices that will help you to get growing.
Location: MIT’s Kresge Auditorium
When: 6:00pm to 9:30pm (Panel 6:00-7:30pm, Networking after)
Price: FREE for Students, $25 – Forum Members, $25 – Non-members..

Where you’ll see Greenhorn: Spending the day at NU then over to MIT for the big panel.

TUESDAY: November 17th

MassChallenge’s MassAccess: Speed Networking, Cambridge
Description: The event provides an opportunity for students, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, service providers and investors to discuss innovative ideas and prime future collaboration through speed dating style meetings.
Location: Microsoft – NERD Center – 1 Memorial Drive – Cambridge, MA
When: 3:30pm to 7:00pm
Price: FREE

Free and Cheap Content Marketing
Description: Writing and publishing content is an incredibly important part of marketing today. Whether you’re building Thought Leadership or just hoping for some SEO awesomeness, the written word is more powerful than ever. This presentation will take you through those initial questions of how to get started and make great content.
Location: Workbar Boston, 129 South St, Boston, MA 02111
When: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Price: FREE

Entretech Forum: Making Your Name in a Changing Game Industry
Description: “How young entrepreneurs and their start-ups canbe successful in today’s changing gaming industry. The panelists bring a wide range of experiences as developers, entrepreneurs, and executives from the industry’s premier companies. They will discuss international competition, getting funded, publishing your games, changing gaming platforms, and the strategies that will help you make your name in this dynamic industry.”
Location: 101 Churchill, Northeastern University
When: 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Price: Free for students, $10 for faculty/staff, $25 for the community

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Taking part in the Speed Networking in the late afternoon with MassChallenge and then heading to the MITX Interactive Awards. (Thanks Dart Boston!)

WEDNESDAY: November 18th

Invention to Venture: Basics of Technology Entrepreneurship
Description: All day workshop showing you how to turn your technology idea into a commercial opportunity. Presentations will focus on venture capital, marketing, intellectual property, business plans, and related topics. The guest speakers are experts drawn from the region including Bob Davis of Highland Capital Partners.
Location: Pavilion at the Northeastern University Alumni Center
When: 8:00am to 5:00pm
Price: $10 Students, $25 Faculty Members & NEU Staff and $50 Community

Contrasting Entrepreneurship in Japan and the Untied States
Description: In this panel discussion, entrepreneurship in Japan and the United States will be contrasted. This panel event is being produced through Northeastern’s collaboration with Waseda University in Japan. The event will also include a discussion of a joint entrepreneurship project between the schools.
Location: 108 Snell
When: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Price: FREE

Fireside Chat and Panel with Noam Wasserman
Description: Fireside Chat & Panel Discussion with moderator Noam Wasserman, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and panelists: Brian Halligan, Founder and CEO of Hubspot, Pito Salas, Co-Founder and CTO of eRoom, and Leah Busque, Founder and CEO of RunMyErrand. Topics: Founders, entrepreneurship, startup company culture, challenges, etc.
Location: The Vilna Shul, 18 Philips St, Boston, MA
When: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Price: FREE

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Learning more about Japanese and American schools.

THURSDAY: November 19th

Social Media – The New Frontier for Recruitment (MITX Special Event)
Description: Come hear from a panel of experts as they address the opportunities and challenges of social media recruitment.
Location: Digitas, 33 Arch St, Boston MA
When: 8:00am to 10:00am
Price: FREE

Eric Ries’s LEAN Startups Talk
Description: Eric Ries from http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/ will be speaking in a special engagement.
Location: MIT
When: 6:30pm to 9:00pm
Price: FREE (registration is full…watch the video to find out how you might be able to still get a ticket)

The Health Sciences Entrepreneurs present: Great idea? What’s next?
Description: Join us at roundtables with seasoned entrepreneurs on the tools of entrepreneurship. Choose from: Funding: from credit card to venture capital, YOUR business plan, ABC’s of starting a business, and more…
Location: Curry Student Center Ballroom, Northeastern University
When: 6:15pm to 9:00pm
Price: Free to NU alumni; $15 to non-alumni and friends of NU

ACCION and BYE Panel on Alternative Financing:
Description: We’ll be exploring traditional and non-traditional financing options for young entrepreneurs. Panel discussion led by Morgan First and featuring ACCION USA’s Elizabeth Garlow, GeekHouse Bikes founder Marty Walsh and Urban Adventours Chief Wheel officer, Andrew Prescott.
Location: 110 Chauncy Street, Boston, MA (Home of Pinyadda)
When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Price: Free

DartBoston’s Pokin Holes #Pokinholes
Description: Podcast/live stream show for young people starting companies to get feedback from the most talented young professionals students and entrepreneurs in Boston. This week:
Location: Bentley University in Waltham, MA
When: 6:45pm to 11:00pm
Price: FREE

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: MITX Social Media event in the morning, then Eric Ries’s talk and DartBoston (time permitting) in the evening.

Events you should register for now:

2009 @BostonTweetup Awards Mega Tweetup
* Save the date! More info to come. Think Award Show / Tweetup / Networking event / Red Carpet
* Dec. 3rd, 2009, 6pm to 10pm at Microsoft NERD

Boston Startup Weekend
* Startup Weekend recruits a highly motivated group of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more to a 54 hour event that builds communities, companies and projects.
* Dec. 4th, 2009, 6pm to Dec. 6th, 2009 @ 10pm

DartBoston’s 2nd Episode of Capitalize
* The Dart community invades the boardroom of Flybridge capital to show another Dart member pitching their product to a VC.
* Dec. 15th, 2009

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GreenhornConnect.com Beta 2.0 Launches
* We’re relaunching the site, so check out the new site this Monday night to see a bigger, better site. We’re excited and you should be too.

If you have an event you’d like promoted or would like to sponsor GreenhornTV, please contact us at: Jason [at] GreenhornConnect [dot] com

21 Tweets for UltraLight Startups: Leveraging Social Media

Last night I went to the Boston UltraLight Startups event, “Leveraging Social Media” featuring panelists:

The panel was one of the best I’ve seen. For once, they didn’t all agree with each other.  A little controversy and open discussion really goes a long way in these types of events.

When I got home, I noticed that Jay Rogers tweeted a lot of the pitches that ULS always has entrepreneurs give before the panel discussion begins and so that inspired me to bring a summary of the event in a slightly different style….tweet length items from my notes. (Apologies for those I’m not sure who to give credit to.)

1) Jay Rogers: “Advertising is a tax for being unremarkable”  (Sounds like something straight out of Dharmesh and Brian’s Inbound Marketing book…)

2) Jay Rogers: “We have great events called, “Burgers, Cars and Welding”” (Who wouldn’t want to go to that?)

3) “70% of the Inc 500 this year use social media” (Speaks for itself, eh?)

4) “Make it Human.” (How else do you make a real connection with a customer virtually?)

5) Rick Burnes: “Inbound Marketing is Marketing with a magnet instead of a sledgehammer”

6) “Give something away so they’ll come back to your site for more….then lead them to what you want (a sale)”

7) “Your tweets aren’t that good.” (That’s why you need to use Twitter in conjunction with other social media sites)

8 ) Mike McDermott: “Not everyone (in your business) is a Social Media freak…and that’s probably a good thing; someone has to get some work done.”

9) “@TimeWarnerCares Doesn’t tweet.” (Strange way to show you care!?)

10) BL Ochman: “I blogged and tweeted about Time Warner being terrible for weeks until suddenly the President of Time Warner called me.” (not sure that’s a scalable method of customer service…)

11) Time Warner’s response to BL, “We don’t Twit.

12) “Social Media still has the same questions old media has…just a different medium”

13) “Corporations are made up of people…use their voices.” (see #4 )

14) Mike McDermott: “Take anything you’re passionate about and make it exciting.” (If Mike gets excited about invoicing with Freshbooks, then you can get people excited about your business)

15) Jay Rogers on time management with social media: “Managing social media is the water in the glass around the rocks of management, communication and other standard duties.” (i.e.- you fit it in here and there.)

16) Mike McDermott on time management: “I tweet more when I travel…I also use it when I have down time…like in the bathroom.” (Thought I’d share that moment of Too Much Information.)

17) “Facebook is now 25% of all pageviews in the US each month….more than even porn.” (Still don’t think you need to be on Facebook?)

18) “You should have Google Alerts and Backtype set up for monitoring your brand.”

19) Rick Burnes, “I had 400 feeds in my google reader. I cancelled all of them; I wasn’t reading them. I now just use my network on Twitter to find the right articles to read.”

20) Rick Burnes on the future of social media as we become further over-saturated with content: “Networks will be the new filters.” (You’ll trust them as a referral for what content matters.)

21) The next Ultralight Startup event will be in January. I highly recommend it.

GreenhornTV: Boston’s Weekly Networking/Events Guide for Entrepreneurs – Episode 1

As I’ve mentioned in my recent series, The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide, it can often be difficult for young entrepreneurs to get “plugged into” the community. Some of this challenge is simply getting comfortable and experiencing the community first hand, but there’s also an issue of knowing what’s out there.  To help resolve that, we’re launching GreenhornTV, which will be a weekly webcast covering all the upcoming events for the week as well as highlighting major events to keep your schedule open for in the future.  So, without further adieu, here’s episode one for the week of November 9th-16th:

Notes from the show:

MONDAY:

Boston INNOBEER #InnoBeer
Description: “Join Boston-area innovators for beer and fun conversation about innovation, social media, and whatever comes up! Cash bar.”
Location: the Asgard Pub in Cambridge
When: 6:30pm to 9:00pm
Price: FREE

MIT Enterprise Forum Innovation Series –  “Vaccines & Global Health: New Technologies Create Global Opportunities”
Description: “Join us for a stimulating discussion on the state of vaccines and global health today and into the future.”
Location: 600 Memorial Dr., W98-1st Floor, Cambridge, MA
When: 5:30pm to 9:00pm (Networking then program begins at 6:15pm)
Price: FREE for Students, $25 – Forum Members, $40 – Non-members..

Where you’ll see Greenhorn: I’ve never been to InnoBeer, but it sounds great, so I’ll be checking it out.

TUESDAY:

WPI Venture Forum’s Business Plan Competition Final
Description: “Inventors and innovators with a new product or process test their business ideas with seasoned professionals, and the judges seek new and fundable ideas.”
Location: WPI Campus Center – Odeum Room
When: 5:30pm to 8:30pm (Networking then program begins at 6:30)
Price: Free for $125 members, $15 for $50 members, $30 non-members

Tech Tuesday
Description: “Join your fellow geeks, tech savvy professionals, DIY-ers, press, and other industry luminaries for this informal gathering. Bring your laptops, robots, OLPC XO’s, Amazon Kindles, new cell phones, gadgets, and other new-fangled devices.”
Location: Microsoft NERD, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA
When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Price: FREE
Why it’s special: Huge turnouts and great demos including things like Rock Band. Great View at NERD too.

DartBoston’s Capitalize: #Capitalize
Description: “Capitalize has been created to help break down the barriers between VC firms and young entrepreneurs in Boston.  The goal of the series is to provide young entrepreneurs and students with the experience of what it’s actually like to pitch a start-up to a VC or Angel.”
Location: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/capitalize
When: Live @ 7:30pm or watch it anytime after
Price: FREE (Seats were raffled off to watch in person, check out any DartBoston event to get a chance to attend the next episode in December)

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Enjoying the big tech loving crowd at Tech Tuesday, then rushing home to watch Capitalize

WEDNESDAY:

Mass Innovation Nights: #MIN
Description: Big event featuring: startup presentations, networking, tables for companies to show off their products and “Expert’s Corner”, where service providers like banks, investors, lawyers and other consultants will talk with anyone in attendance in 15 minute blocks.
Location: Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation (Waltham, MA)
When: 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Price: FREE

Boston Young Entrepreneurs: Emergent Group Presentation: #BYE
Description: Emergent Group’s team was named by Business Week among America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs. They’ll be presenting their business plan to BYE. Join us as we learn what Emergent’s model of sustainability consulting is all about and help them solve a few problems.
Location: Workbar Boston, 129 South Street, Boston, MA
When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Price: FREE

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Visiting our friends at BYE and Workbar to hear the great story of Emergent.

THURSDAY:

Ultra Light Startups: Leveraging Social Media: #ULS
Description: Hear from leaders in the social media field for best practices and great tips. Featuring: Rick Burnes – HubSpot, Paul Gillin – Social Media Marketer, B.L. Ochman – WhatsNextOnline.com, John Rogers – Local-Motors.com
Location: Workbar Boston, 129 South Street, Boston, MA
When: 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Price: FREE

DartBoston’s Pokin Holes #Pokinholes
Description: Podcast/live stream show for young people starting companies to get feedback from the most talented young professionals students and entrepreneurs in Boston. This week:  The Second Glass
Location: Hubspot
When: 6:45pm to 11:00pm
Price: FREE

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Ultra Light Startups to learn more Social Media tricks then catching up with the after party with Dart.

SPECIAL WEEKEND:

Intersection 2.0 – “The Heart of a Leader”  (A White Rhino Event)
Description: Two day event ““Exploring the Art of Leadership Together “
Location: Microsoft NERD, 1 Memorial Dr, Cambridge, MA 02142
When: Saturday, 8:15am to 9:00pm, Sunday, 10:30am to 4pm
Price: $25 to $65
Why you should check it out: Hear Scotty Smiley – West Point Instructor blinded in an IED explosion in Iraq.  After sustaining his injuries, Scotty climbed Mt. Rainier, learned to surf and finished an MBA at Duke!

Events you should register for now:

Northeastern University Entreprenership Week
* Informative and interactive events promoting entrepreneurship at the collegiate level occur from Nov. 16th – Nov. 20th
*Invention to Venture: All day workshop showing you how to turn your technology idea into a commercial opportunity

MassChallenge’s MassAccess: Speed Networking
* The event provides an opportunity for students, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, service providers and investors to discuss innovative ideas and prime future collaboration through speed dating style meetings.
* Cambridge event, Nov. 17th
* Amherst event, Nov. 18th

Web Innovators 24
* Large event featuring informative presentations, companies with tables to present their products, and lots of networking. Bonus: companies that are actively looking to hire wear a sticker with their name tag, so you know who to approach.
* Dec. 7th, 2009

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This will be a weekly show, airing on Sunday nights, so stay tuned for future episodes and if you have any feedback or ideas for improving the show, please comment.

If you have an event you’d like featured on GreenhornTV, please send an email to jason [at] greenhornconnect.com and put “GreenhornTV” in the subject line.

WorkBar Boston: Putting the “Community” in Community Workspace

WorkBar Boston is a great workspace on South Street in downtown Boston. With two available conference rooms, a mix of open workspace and cubicles, free coffee, free wifi and a number of other amenities, they provide everything a small company needs to step out of the home office.   There are quite a few workspaces in the area, but WorkBar goes a step above the rest with their community efforts.

From Yoga to Viral Marketing and Pokin’ Holes to Art Galleries, WorkBar is hosting a wide array of events.  As a young entrepreneur, it’s great to have such an easy to reach location with such diverse offerings.  All of the events I have attended have been free, and the crowds always vary.  These efforts are turning WorkBar into more than a workspace; they’re a key part of the small business community and certainly are recognized by those that enjoy the evening events.

Last night, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the co-founders of WorkBar.  Despite all the amenities they provide and the events they host, he still wants to do more. He wants to try to build an even stronger community, especially during the workday.  This is no easy task, as people often like to get in their zone and tune out the world, but he still wants to try.   This is both admirable and sets WorkBar apart from other workspaces.

When looking for affordable workspace, there may be a number of options in Boston and Cambridge, but WorkBar is leading the way in making those spaces more than a place to hold a meeting and get work done.  WorkBar Boston puts the “community” in community workspace.

Mass Innovation Nights: Great, but Not for Young Entrepeneurs

Mass Innovation Nights has always been one of those events I intended to check out, but never did.  There were a lot of reasons, but the biggest was it’s out in Waltham.  Like many young people in the city, I do not have a car and so I depend on public transportation.  To make it to Waltham requires about a one hour trip each way, which is certainly not something I look forward to.   Last night, I finally decided to make the trip.

One of the reasons I finally decided to go was because a member of Mass Innovation Nights told me that they are, “steps from the commuter rail station.”  While that statement is technically correct, it is not obvious to find them.  I ended up walking up and down Moody Street multiple times in both directions, completely perplexed as I watched the street numbers jump from 138 to 200 (The event location, the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation is 154 Moody St). I finally noticed a sizable industrial-looking complex (it looked like a bunch of old factories) tucked away before the bridge over the Charles River.  It was there that I met Dan, a fellow young entrepreneur, who upon parking his car, could not figure out where to go either.  After more searching we finally stopped at the local movie theater and got directions.  As it turns out, you head down a dark pass between some buildings, walk around a corner along the river and then a modest entrance to the museum appears.

Entering the museum was an interesting experience as we were surrounded by giant, old machines and barely heard any talking.  As we wondered deeper into the museum, we finally found some people chatting in an open room.  It turns out, all the action is on the second floor, so we both went up there to check things out.

On the second floor of the museum is a large, open room.  Like many other events, it has tables set up along the walls for each presenting company.  The crowd is then free to move around and interact with the companies and other visitors.  While this set-up is the same as events like WebInno’s “side dishes” and TechCocktail, the crowd and company types is definitely different.  The vast majority of the crowd was much older than I and most of the presenting companies were in the B2B and enterprise space.  The crowd seemed much more serious than others I’ve found at events like these, as many of them quickly moved from table to table and had closed off conversations with specific people.  There is nothing wrong with this; I’m sure many were setting up meetings that could lead to important business deals. However, this is certainly not the kind of open discussion I’m used to seeing at many Boston based events.

After quickly moving through the company tables, I moved over to check out the “Experts Corner.” In this area, there were experts in venture capital, finance, banking, PR/marketing and more.  Visitors could reserve a 15 minute slot to talk to any one of them.  I had a great conversation with two members of Square 1 Bank, who specialize in the banking needs of startups.  I also noticed a few familiar faces from other Boston events on the experts side such as VC Ready Law Group and Launch Capital.   This “Experts Corner” is a great idea. It brings together groups of people that may otherwise have difficulty finding each other: new businesses and the services that can help them.

In the end, I think that Mass Innovation Nights is a great event; it’s just not for young entrepreneurs.  There is a laundry list of organizations in this area, and many of them go to great lengths to attract a younger crowd.   With so many choices, there is no need for every event to focus on the same types of businesses or groups of people.  Mass Innovation Nights represents a different look on new businesses in the area, focused on an older crowd starting small businesses.

6 Lists of 12 for MIT’s Startup Bootcamp

Yesterday, hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs filled MIT’s Kresge Auditorium for “Startup Bootcamp.” 12 renowned entrepreneurs shared their insights and advice into the journey of starting a company and the entrepreneurial life.   There were many presentation styles and personalities on display, but they all shared common traits of passion and honesty;  you could feel that every entrepreneur was fully invested in the idea that they had 30 minutes to share the most valuable advice they could possibly give.  I wasn’t the only one who had pages of notes, so to honor one of my favorites sports bloggers and his “10 lists of 10” theme, I’d like to present you a few lists of interesting items that came from the event:

List #1: The 12 Entrepreneurs, in order of appearance (names link to Twitter):

1. Adam Smith, Founder, Xobni
2. Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder, Reddit
3. Ken Zolot, Founder, MIT Innovations Teams & Heartland Robotics
4. Dan Theobald, Founder, Vecna
5. Kyle, Vogt, Founder, Justin.TV
6. Angus Davis, Founder, Tellme
7. Hemant Taneja, Founder, Sunborne Energy, Managing Director, General Catalyst Partners
8. Dharmesh Shah, Founder, HubSpot, Author and Blogger
9. Robin Chase, Founder, Zipcar
10. Dan Bricklin, Creator, VisiCalc, Blogger
11. Aaron Swartz, Founder Infogami, Blogger
12. Drew Houston, Founder, Dropbox

List #2: My Favorite Quote from Each Speaker:

1. Adam Smith: “90% of execution is not giving up when others would.”
2. Alexis Ohanian: “Being Good is insurance for when you’re dumb.”
3. Ken Zolot: “Progress is about taking and managing risk.”
4. Dan Theobald: “Outside investment is like in the movie Alien, when they set the auto-destruct and gave themselves 1 hour to kill the alien or everything blew up.”
5. Kyle Vogt: “Take enough shots and eventually you’ll do the right thing.”
6. Angus Davis: “Think like a shareholder…remember what you own.”
7. Hemant Taneja: “The West Coast has a few VCs that are all about the young ones building companies…It’s evolving here now.”
8. Dharmesh Shah: “Stealth mode is for fighter jets, not startups.”
9. Robin Chase: “Everyone you come in contact with is your free consultant.”
10. Dan Bricklin: “Avoid lawsuits; they’re rotten things and you have no control.”
11. Aaron Swartz: “Have users from Day 0.”
12. Drew Houston: “Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.”

List #3: 12 of the Most Tweeted Quotes:

1. Dharmesh Shah: “The more you postpone interacting with real people, the more time you’re wasting …”
2. Drew Houston: “As founder/CEO, your job description is rewritten every 12 months”.
3. Aaron Swartz: “Do not underestimate the degree to which your early users will help you define your product.”
4. “2.5 years of crazy hours, equal parts terror, panic & elation, & a savage obsession with making something people love.”
5. Drew Houston: “Our checking account has $60, can it actually hold $1.2MM?”
6. Drew Houston: “easier to pick up biz side, than for biz people to pick up engineering side”
7. Dharmesh Shah: “Thinking of a startup? You have a genetic defect that’s going to make you miserable for the rest of your life.”
8. Robin Chase: “Everyone you come in contact with is your free consultant”
9. Drew Houston: “Don’t worry about failure. you only have to do it right once”
10. Drew Houston: “I dont know if they thought it was drugs….or a startup”
11. Dan Bricklin: “Don’t celebrate with lawyers — you’re paying for it.”
12. Aaron Swartz: “Instead of the “Hollywood Launch”, go with the “GMail Launch”. Have users from Day 0.”

List #4: Favorite Concepts Introduced by each Speaker:

1) Adam Smith:
2) Alexis Ohanian:
3) Ken Zolot:
4) Dan Theobald:
5) Kyle Vogt:
6) Angus Davis:
7) Hemant Taneja:
8) Dharmesh Shah:
9) Robin Chase:
10) Dan Bricklin:
11) Aaron Swartz:
12) Drew Houston:

1. Adam Smith: Take Risk. 1/4th of your attempts should fail or you aren’t trying.
2. Alexis Ohanian: “No one wants to use your website.” Find out what your customers Do Want.
3. Ken Zolot: “Find your Strawberry Seeds.” (Fruit Roll-ups had a 10x increase in sales when they added Strawberry seeds)
4. Dan Theobald: “experimenting with OPM (Other People’s Money) is dumb.”
5. Kyle Vogt: “Listen to your users in the right way; just get them to tell you when something’s wrong.”
6. Angus Davis: RIFLE: Find your product-market fit. Segment your customer base.
7. Hemant Taneja: Raise VC money only if you Have To. (Bootstrapping works!)
8. Dharmesh Shah: “Build a barrier to entry with Marketing.”
9. Robin Chase: “As a start-up, be the peacock.” (Tiny bird, big appearance)
10. Dan Bricklin: You can build something great in a basement or bedroom.
11. Aaron Swartz: Is your startup an r (small and simple) or a K (large and complex)?
12. Drew Houston: “Drink from the Firehose.” (read as much as you can. learn.)

List #5: Speaker summary in a tweet or less:

1. Adam Smith: Hit the high notes; create a product that no one else can. It’s a huge barrier to entry and wows your users.
2. Alexis Ohanian: Startups are about embracing serendipity and being good; karma matters.
3. Ken Zolot: Ask your startup: Does it work? Is it special? Who cares? What do I have/know (Team!) Who can help? (Network!)
4. Dan Theobald: Hire the best people for all roles & take care of them; a great engineer does 10x the work of a good engineer & 100x of an average engineer.
5. Kyle Vogt: Startups are about being leaner, smarter, more efficient, and lasting long enough to find what works.
6. Angus Davis: Understand your customer base and maximize your return on them (i.e.- Yelp vs. Service Magic)
7. Hemant Taneja: Choose a VC who is 1) smart & a good listener 2) has a network relevant to your company 3) operates with transparency
8. Dharmesh Shah: Utilizing social media to share great content and interact with your customers is the best marketing for a startup.
9. Robin Chase: Create a company with a great product and exceptional customer service and you’ll have a lasting competitive edge.
10. Dan Bricklin: Competition is always around the corner.  Never grow complacent.
11. Aaron Swartz: Build a product with your users from day 0 and with a little cheap marketing, you’ll grow naturally and healthily.
12. Drew Houston: Running a startup means constantly learning and evolving your company and your role in it.

List #6: 12 Organizations Helpful for Young Entrepreneurs:

1. StayinMA
2. DartBoston
3. Boston Young Entrepreneurs
4. Innovation Open Houses
5. Onein3
6. MIT 100K
7. TiE Young Entrepreneurs
8. Mass Challenge
9. Tech Tuesdays
10. Mass Innovation Nights
11. Web Innovators Group
12. You can see all of these and more at: GreenhornConnect

…here’s hoping this last list becomes a baker’s dozen with the addition of an annual Startup Bootcamp.

BYE Event: Upstarts: Gen Y Entrepreneurs Panel

Last night, Boston Young Entrepreneurs (BYE) hosted a panel at Emerson College to promote Inc. Magazine contributor, Donna Fenn’s new book: Upstarts: How GenY Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit from Their Success. The panel was comprised of a trio of impressive young entrepreneurs:  David Hauser from Grasshopper; Brendan Ciecko from Ten Minute Media; and Brad Weinberg from Shape Up the Nation. Despite their very different backgrounds and company types, they shared very similar thoughts on entrepreneurship.

There are many different key roles an entrepreneur can fill in a startup. David and Brad both emphasized the need for a partner to compliment their skills for theirs; these partners fill in for roles and responsibilities that they are neither proficient nor passionate about.  David described the difficulty he experienced in hiring leaders; he found that leading the company as a whole, person to person wasn’t in his interests and that they were hiring many “doers,” but no one was leading. It wasn’t until he left for his “first vacation in 3 years” and didn’t answer emails that a few people started stepping up.  When he returned, he recognized this and worked to cultivate those that emerged.  As David said, “If you [stink] at doing something, hire someone who’s good at it.”  Not every entrepreneur is necessarily the inventor, the salesman, or the visionary CEO.  Find someone to fill the role(s) you’re lacking and make sure they’re as passionate as you are about the company.

Another major topic of discussion was money.  They generally advised against pursuing significant outside funding (although Brad has received Angel investment).  Their greatest concern was in taking VC money, because those investors usually aren’t keen on letting young entrepreneurs learn (i.e.- they’ll reduce your role / replace you with more experienced people).  Also, getting money can lead to bad habits; if you have a lot of money in your corporate account, problems can be too often solved by throwing money at it (hire, try every option, etc) instead of digging down to the core.  While it can be stressful bootstrapping your company, they emphasized the rewards are much greater and you’re much more focused.

The greatest point of the night related to two concepts: Focus and Growth.  They all mentioned times when their companies took on more than they could handle or tried to scale too quickly.  When this happened, the company either had difficulty delivering on all the business they had taken on, or worse, ran into serious cash flow issues.  The best anecdote for these issues came from Brad Weinberg regarding a business opportunity called, “Fresh To You.”  A woman had an idea for a startup and asked him and his company for help.  What began as simple, quick assistance started taking away serious amounts of time from Brad and his employees.  They finally had to say no to the company and refocus all of their efforts on their then strained business.  To this day, when Brad’s company is concerned about whether an opportunity will affect focus, they ask, “is that another Fresh to You?”

Overall, this was a great event. The three young entrepreneurs brought unique, valuable experience that they shared with the audience.  Donna also sprinkled in some interesting statistics related to her research such as the fact that only 1 of the 64 Gen Y companies she profiled went out of business during the recession.  These are exactly the kind of events to motivate and inspire young entrepreneurs. I look forward to future events like these.

MassTLC unConference: Can We Build on the Momentum?

Across Twitter, the blogosphere and professional media, there is an obvious consensus: the MassTLC unConference was a resounding success.  Everyone has been talking and tweeting about the energy and enthusiasm that permeated the event.  I believe everyone left with a renewed feeling of optimism for entrepreneurship in New England and a new set of contacts that will be helpful in whatever ideas, ventures or initiatives they are pursuing.

I have no doubt that, on an individual basis, everyone will greatly benefit from the unConference.  However, the greater question is what larger goals may now be possible because of it. A list of action items were created during Scott Kirsner and Tim Rowe’s session called, “Turbocharging the Entrepreneurial Culture in MA.”  These items require a diverse group of people in the community to come together to address issues big and small.

Being a “greenhorn” in the community, I’m not sure how I can help in some cases, but I want to do my part.  I look forward to launching the site being built by myself and some colleagues to help young entrepreneurs  by providing a consolidated source and aggregate for events, resources and other pertinent information.  In addition, if anyone needs any young entrepreneurs to aide in any of the tasks through man power or just a different perspective, I am certainly willing and I believe I know quite a few others who would gladly get involved as well.

So, my question for you, reading this right now, is how, in any way big or small, are you able to help tackle these action items?

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I also wanted to use this entry to summarize and consolidate everything that happened at the unConference.  As I’ve been reading, listening and watching the reactions to the event, I’ve compiled those all into one place.  Below, you will find every piece of content I know of on the internet (sans individual tweets praising the event) that has been generated as a result of the awesome unConference.  If I missed anything, please comment with the link and I’ll update the list.

The Center of it:
Professional Media:
Bill Warner’s Blog/Photo essay of opening
Session Media:
Bill Warner’s discussion of “starting a company with no money”
Adam Zand’s Collection: http://www.utterli.com/AdamZand
PR Improv:
Music 2.0
SKirsner & TRowe:
My earlier entry w/ List
Picture of session: http://yfrog.com/2pzx9j
Lean Startups
Meetup Group organized by John Prendergast, who led the session: http://www.meetup.com/Lean-Startup-Circle-Boston/
Google Group: http://bit.ly/ewVJs
Steve Blank’s Blog: http://steveblank.com/
Build a Community, Not a Network
Quote of the day:
“Some of you are so smart that you take something that should be an instant failure & turn it into a 4-year failure.” -Bill Warner
“Why, @pistachio asks, are we going up against Silicon Valley as ‘Boston’ & ‘Providence,’ not New England?” -@ Pistachio

Links related to the event itself:
unConference website
MassTLC Website
The Pre-Event Session Wiki
The Sessions Listing Wall
MassTLC Blog

Pieces by the Professional Media:
Mass High Tech
Scott Kirsner’s Friday 5
NECN Coverage
NECN Reporter, Scott Montmimy

Blog Entries on the overall unConference:
Bill Warner’s Blog/Photo essay of opening of event
Bill Warner’s Video of the Event
Bill Warner’s collection of 83 Photos
Brough Turner’s Blog

Specific Session Contemt:

“Starting a Company with no Money”:
Session Audio

“PR Improv”:
Session SummarySession Audio Part 1 & Part 2

“Music 2.0”:
Session Audio

“TurboCharging the Entrepreneurial Culture”:
Session Summary,  “The List”, Photo 1, Photo 2

“Firing Founders is VC-101: How to Keep Your Founder Job”
Session Summary

“Build a Community, Not a Network”:
Session Summary, Photo

“Dodging Bullets that Kill Startups”
Session SummaryLean Startups Meetup Group, Lean Startups Google Group, Steve Blank’s Book & Blog, Eric Ries’s Blog & MIT Event, and another blog

Quote of the day:

Based on number of reTweets:
“Some of you are so smart that you take something that should be an instant failure & turn it into a 4-year failure.” -Bill Warner

Based on importance to improving our community:
“Why are we going up against Silicon Valley as ‘Boston’ & ‘Providence,’ not New England?” -@ Pistachio