I get asked to talk at a conference on a daily basis. I’m flattered by the interest, but it’s impossible for me to accomodate even a small percentage of the requests. I don’t charge anything to speak so I can’t use that as a filter, so I end up using geography and type of participation as my filters.
A while ago I wrote a rant against panels and decided I would no longer participate in them. I hate them, I hate being on them, and I hate listening to them. Every now and then I’ll agree for a friend, like I did for Howard Lindzon at the Thunderbird Global Business Dialogue in Phoenix on 11/10, but only because I know that Howard and I will simply have a blast talking about whatever we want with our poor, unsuspecting co-panelists. Plus I wanted to spend a weekend in Phoenix with Amy. So – that’s an easy filter – no to panels.
My geography filter has become refined to “I’ll do it if I’m already planning to be nearby.” Again, I make a few exceptions, but since I already travel so much it turns out that this works out ocassionally. But this is a frustrating filter for me as there are a lot of things I’m invited to talk at that I’d like to – often in conjuction with students or groups of entrepreneurs (who I love to talk to) – but doesn’t pass the geography filter.
Recently, I decided to try doing conference talks and lectures via Skype. If it’s a keynote, I figure 15 – 30 minutes is plenty. If it’s a class, an hour seems to be the appropriate length of time.
The early response has been awesome. I’ve gotten great positive feedback from the conference organizers who appreciated my involvement. The technology infrastructure is really easy – all that’s typically needed is already there given the A/V requirements of the other speakers. For me, it’s a physical dream – I can do it from my office, from the road, from a hotel room, from my house, or from Tuscany. Suddenly, I feel very untethered in the conference context.
While I don’t get the benefit of participating in the conference, nor do the people at the conference get to spend time with me, this wouldn’t happen anyway since I’m not an avid conference goer. However, if the content that I’m providing is really valued, this approach seems to work really well.
The double bonus of this working in a classroom setting is really appealing to me. I’ve always been a huge fan of incorporating guest lectures into undergraduate and post-graduate education. I love some of the revolutionary things going on in the field of education around Khan Academy, SkillShare, and our new investment Sympoz. However, for now, the traditional university classroom still exists and to the extent that I can participate regularly with students and professors who want me involved, I now have a way to make it work that let’s me relax geography as a constraint.
A handful of folks that I know and respect have gotten involved in the Founder Institute’ Denver program. Andy Vuong of the Denver Post wrote a nice article on it titled Founder Institute is training minds for a great idea. Several people have suggested that the program is competitive with TechStars – including the first sentence of Andy’s article. However, I just don’t see it that way and encourage all kinds of programs like this in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
In the case of the Founder Institute, it has a very different tempo and dynamic than TechStars per their weekly agenda. While there is a little overlap in the mentor group, their’s is very Denver centric. And it’s a part time program vs. something that is fully immersive.
Jon Nordmark, a well known Denver entrepreneurs who founded eBags is running the program. John previously ran a fun program called Startup Basecamp – I was at the one in 2000 where my infamous “bowling and get wasted test” (actually, just the description) made an appearance. I have a lot of respect for Jon and expect he’ll do a great job with this.
If you are interested in starting up a business and looking for an educational program around it, consider applying to the Spring 2010 Denver Founder Institute program.
Jon Pierce of BetaHouse has decided to organize an Angel Boot Camp in Boston on June 1st. The idea is that anyone interested in learning more about how to get started with angel investing can attend and learn from some people who’ve been there and done that.
David Cohen at TechStars wrote about why he thinks it’s important. Jon Pierce also wrote about why he’s doing Angel Boot Camp as well as listing some of Boston’s Best Angel Investors.
While June 1 is still several months away, sign up and put Angel Boot Camp on your calendar now.
Sometimes I feel like a conference promoter. It’s worth noting that while I put plenty of events up on this blog, I only post the ones that I’d consider going to. Specifically, I probably get 10 requests to post something for everyone one I do.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten to know Eric Ries through the work we’ve done together on the Startup Visa initiative. If you don’t know of Eric, he’s a software entrepreneur who over the past few years has been developing and evangelizing the idea of the Lean Startup. He’s an extraordinary writer – I gobble up every word that he writes on his blog Lessons Learned.
Eric wrote me the other day about a new conference he’s doing called Startup Lessons Learned in San Francisco on 4/23/10. The overview of the event follows:
Startup Lessons Learned is the first event designed to unite those interested in what it takes to succeed in building a lean startup. The goal for this event is to give practitioners and students of the lean startup methodology the opportunity to hear insights from leaders in embracing and deploying the core principles of the lean startup methodology. The day-long event will feature a mix of panels and talks focused on the key challenges and issues that technical and market-facing people at startups need to understand in order to succeed in building successful lean startups. We have a great lineup of speakers, including Kent Beck, Steve Blank, Sean Ellis, Andrew Chen, Randy Komisar, Hiten Shah, and many others.
While I can’t be there I highly recommend anything that Eric is involved in. He’s given me a discount code of ERIES25 which is good for 25% any ticket if you register for the event. If you are in the bay area on 4/23/10 I encourage you to check it out.
I’ve enjoyed my interviews on Vator.tv in the past and think Bambi Francisco and crew do a great job of highlighting up and coming entrepreneurs, companies, and their investors.
Vator is holding a Splash event on May 13, at the Cafe du Nord in San Francisco. Like its last event, about 400 attendees are expected. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh will talk about how he built a company to a $1 billion exit to Amazon and Gurbaksh Chahal will talk about how he started and sold two companies for $340 million before the age of 25. About 30 investors from VC firms will be there and as a special bonus, there will be an afterparty with a band consisting of Adbrite founder Philip Kaplan, Mayfield VC Raj Kapoor and Norwest VC Tim Chang.
While I can’t attend since I’ll be on my Q2 vacation with Amy hiding from the world , Bambi gave me a discount code of “Splashfeld” which gets you 30% off on the registration. And there is still time to join the competition and get on stage.
If you are familiar with Defrag and Glue, you know they are built around two of Foundry Group’s themes (Protocol and Glue respectively). Blur is being built around our Human Computer Interaction theme, but with a twist. Instead of simply being able to “see cool stuff up close”, our goal with Blur will be to create an environment where you can actually use and work with this stuff. We’ll have user-oriented demos, hackathons, and tons of crazy shit no one has ever seen before.
Plus, we’ll give away a lot of cool toys, have a ton of smart people who are working on the next generation of HCI in one place, and have some fun surprises. And we are doing it in an environment that is especially tuned for a conference like Blur.
I’m incredibly excited about what Eric has put together for this year’s Glue Conference (as I wrote about the other day). He’s setting a high bar for Blur, where the goal will now be to have a few brains explode! Get ready – it’s never dull around here.
If you happen to live in North Carolina or regularly attend the CED Venture Conference (the Southeast US’s longest running early stage company financing conference), come say hello to me on April 21st. I’ll be spending the day at the conference and am speaking on a panel from 1:30pm to 2:45pm. We don’t yet appear to have a panel title, but the other participants are Dana Callow (Boston Millennia Partners), Noel Fenton (Trinity Ventures), Todd Forrest (Hummer Winblad), and Patrick Kerins (NEA). I don’t think I’ve ever been on a panel with any of them before (although I’m pretty certain I’ve fixed Dana Callow’s computer a few times back during my Feld Technologies days), so I’m looking forward to having some fun bwahahahahahahahaha.
On Thursday, March 18th (during CU Entrepreneurship Week) there is going to be a great Silicon Flatirons Conference on “The Role of Place”. Brad Bernthal, who is chairing the conference, leads with a great quote from Harvard Professor and Monitor Group co-founder Michael Porter.
"Paradoxically, the enduring competitive advantages in a global economy lie increasingly in local things – knowledge, relationships, and motivation – that distant rivals cannot match."
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this personally given all my work around the Boulder entrepreneurial community, TechStars, Foundry Group’s investments in different parts of the US, and the Startup Visa initiative.
I’ll be on the first panel titled Entrepreneurial Immigration Policy with Lance Nagel (partner in Morgan, Lewis & Bockius’ Labor and Employment Practice) and Vivek Wadhwa (Senior Research Associate, Labor & Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and an Adjunct Professor at the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering). I expect we’ll get a good chance to cover plenty of ground, including several of the incredible immigrant entrepreneur loci and projects like the Startup Visa initiative.
The second panel is Place and Iteration: Lessons From Storage and includes several folks who have been involved in the Boulder “storage ecosystem” over the past 30 years, including Jesse Aweida (founder of StorageTek) and Kyle Lefkoff (general partner of Boulder Ventures, who has invested in several Boulder storage companies over the years including McData and LeftHand Networks). Jim Linfield (partner at Cooley Godward, the founder of Cooley’s Colorado office, and counsel for a number of Colorado storage companies) will be anchoring the panel.
The third panel is Innovation and The Architecture of Geography and will explore broader lessons and insight concerning the role of place, regional architecture, and innovation.
Once again, my friends at Silicon Flatiron have put together a rich conference on a very important and timely topic. It’s taking place at the Wittemyer Courtroom, Wolf Law Building, University of Colorado on Thursday, March 18, 2010 from 2:30PM to 6:30PM. Register now and come join us.
If you are in Seattle and interested in startups, entrepreneurship, venture capital, or TechStars, I’ll be in Seattle having a party with up to around 150 people to talk about these topics. T.A. McCann of Gist and Dave Schappell of TeachStreet have pulled this together – we’ll be doing it on Wednesday February 25th from 6pm to 8:30pm at the Palace Ballroom at 2100 5th Avenue in Seattle.
I’m going to spend the evening talking about my views on entrepreneurship, especially around early stage companies in today’s environment. I’ll provide a detailed view of TechStars and how/why it’s been working, along with an explanation about how I think about early stage VC investing. The evening with be heavily Q&A oriented – I’m open to any questions about anything.
We’ll have beer (and food) at the event. There’s a $5.99 fee (admission plus one drink) which will be donated to Seattle-based Vittana, an early-stage non-profit lead by a small group of ex-Amazonians who are building an education microfinance company. The event cost is being kept to a minimum thanks to the generous support of:
I’ve been a long time investor in companies in Seattle and have many friends there especially given all of my interactions with Microsoft dating back to 1990 when my first company – Feld Technologies – was a member of the inaugural Microsoft Solution Provider program. I’m currently on the board of Impinj and a personal investor in AdReady and Foundry Group is an investor in Smith & Tinker so we love to hang out in Seattle, especially when it’s sunny.
As a reader of this blog, if you are around, I’d love to see you so register and come have a beer with me and 150 of my new friends.