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?

————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

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

Field Report: WebInno23 Session: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Bootstrapping PR

Last night, a near-capacity crowd of people passionate about the web congregated at the WebInno23 event at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.  There were a number of interesting companies making their pitches, including The Idea Startup, Happn.in, and Book of Odds. It was a great event all around, but my favorite part was the journalist panel on “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Bootstrapping PR.” The real title could have been more bluntly named, “How to effectively reach journalists and get them to write about you without wasting money on PR people.”

The panel was a who’s who of distinguished innovation economy regional journalists: Peter Kafka (AllThingsD), Scott Kirsner (Boston Globe), Wade Roush (Xconomy),  and Bob Brown (Network World). Despite the varied backgrounds, they all seemed to be in agreement on most issues:

The Best Way to Reach Journalists

It turns out, journalists are just like regular people; if you want someone to help you out, they’re more likely to do so if they personally know you.  Peter Kafka recommended getting a referral from someone he trusts; if they’re excited about it, then he will be as well.  However, en lieu of such a connection, they all agreed that speaking to them face to face at an event or a conference is the best way to make them interested in your company.  The also emphasized that the meeting needs to be natural; they don’t like it when PR people or others grab someone and try to force an interaction.  Just thinking logically about reaching them this way, it makes a lot of sense.  Are you more likely to help someone if you were randomly messaged by them on LinkedIn or if you met them in person before?

Tips for Blogging

If you’re going to blog, you need to be passionate about what you’re blogging about and blogging itself.  A number of the panelists mentioned checking company and founder blogs to start a story.  If it isn’t current, they’re less likely to be interested and as Scott Kirsner said he’d hate to be at a company and have to ask, “‘What’s happened since your last post on July 23rd?'”  Bottom line: Write regularly and with passion or don’t blog at all.

Best Hooks for Journalists

If you want a journalist to write about you, you need to give them something they find interesting to write about. These are what they said were the most likely items to be written about:
1) If your company gets  a new leader (Someone was likely removed)
2) If you just completed a big round of financing
3) If you’re an established company making a significant change in direction for the company
4) If you have a major product being released (NOT version 7.2.1.1)
5) If you tie to a hot topic or are taking on an industry giant (David vs. Goliath is always a good story)
No surprises here.  What else does a company do that others might really want to read about?

Thoughts on Embargoes and Exclusives

The general feeling was that embargoes are a dying concept.  With sites like TechCrunch breaking news as soon as they can find it and others “accidentally” breaking stories early, there’s not a lot of incentive to wait.  The panelists were mainly concerned with spending a great deal of time on an article only to be beaten to the story by another site.  They also posed the question, “Why do you need everything to break at the exact same time?”

A similar feeling was echoed for exclusives.  Unless it’s a really unique and deep story, being exclusive isn’t a big deal to the journalists; they said they understand an entrepreneur has to try to get their story out. Their main thoughts seemed to focus on the fact that you really just need to understand your desired audience for a story.  Sites like Gizmodo will get you a mention and a quick paragaph, but to have a full story told, you’ll want to target a journalist.

Final Thoughts

The main message of the event seemed to focus on three concepts: personal relationships, passion and personality.  They all get spammed by PR firms trying to convince them to write a story and press releases filled with gobbledegook.  Neither is likely to get a story actually written.  Instead, they want to get to know you and your company personally.  As Bob Brown said, “Put away your powerpoints and put you and your company’s personality in front of us.” They also want to see your passion and personality come through in the content on your site, your blog and your tweets.  These places are where you can control your message and may even attract interest from journalists (David Meerman Scott and Hubspot would be so proud).

In the end, journalists are just like everyone else; they want to be treated like a colleague, hear interesting stories and get to know you and what you’re passionate about.  PR people are still very important for companies for a lot of other duties, but for a new startup trying to get press, the panelists don’t believe they can help much.