Brad Feld

Tag: tahoe tech talk

During the Tahoe Tech Talk three hour Q&A segment with the panelists, someone in the audience asked about how to create a stronger entrepreneurial community in their city so that it could be “more like Silicon Valley.”  After a little banter, Chris Sacca and Dave Morin called me up onto stage to do a short riff on what we’ve done in Boulder and what makes it special.  Damon Clinkscales recorded it on his iPhone – the three minute video is embedded below.

The key points are:

  • Don’t try to be Silicon Valley (it’s a special place – learn from it – but don’t try to emulate it)
  • It takes at least a half dozen people that are committed to provide leadership over 20 years
  • You have to do things that engage the entire entrepreneurial community (e.g. TechStars)
  • You have to continually get new first time entrepreneurs into the entrepreneurial community

There’s a lot of stuff about this in our new book Do More Faster in case you want to go deeper on this topic.

After flying home on an extremely early flight from Tahoe, having lunch with Amy, and then taking a nap, I’ve been pondering why I thought the Tahoe Tech Talk Conference was so powerful.  As you may know, I’m not generally a conference goer, usually focus on tech-oriented conferences like the ones we’ve helped create (Defrag, Glue, and Blur), and rarely can sit still for an entire day.  Yesterday was an exception – other than a few short phone calls I managed to stay in the conference room at #TTT for the entire day.

I’ve concluded that it was a combination of the format, motivation of the speakers, and desire of the audience which resulted an a heart felt and intense discussion.  If you know Gary Vaynerchuk you understand that “heart felt” and “intense” are his way, but it takes the all the participants to play into this.  Let me explain.

The format was obviously going to be a winner, as it was one day of eight speakers giving 30 minutes talks.  There was a one hour break for lunch and a three hour session at the end (from 3pm – 6pm) where all eight speakers got up on stage and answered questions.  Gary moderated the day; every speaker was dynamite:  Chris Sacca, Ben Kaufman, Dave Morin, Travis Kalanick, Kevin Rose, Dave McClure, Alexia Tsotsis, and Gary.

The speakers each focused on one thing and built their 30 minute talk around it.  Their motivations were clear – they were trying to get a specific message across to the audience full of entrepreneurs.  The messages varied, but they were all clear and crisp, nicely supported by well crafted presentations (versus tedious and dull powerpoints), and while they included reference to what each speaker was doing today, they were not commercials.  During the three hour Q&A, the speakers answered anything that came their way.  They didn’t all agree with each other but knew each other so there was plenty of banter – some of it more aggressive than others (based on their personalities) – and plenty of audibles were called.  Gary did a good job of letting the tension build but then moving on when it became non-productive.  This wasn’t just eight smart charismatic people pontificating – they dragged a few people from the audience up to address specific things that came up.

Finally, you had a motivated and engaged audience.  At the dinner the night before, I arrived late to a room buzzing with discussion.  I grabbed my meal from the Harrah’s World Famous Mashed Potato Bar (yeah – dinner kind of sucked for me) and hung out for a few hours.  I immediately met a bunch of new people, all interesting, and each focused on connecting rather than pitching me something.  I was worn out from the week but oddly energized by the evening (maybe it was the mashed potatoes.)  This continued throughout the following day – the attendees weren’t trying to get attention for themselves; rather they were clearly interested in (a) learning and (b) connecting.

When I reflect on the entire experience, it definitely was both heart felt and intense.  This was a result of the combination of the three things above – the format, speakers, and audience. Gary curated it brilliantly and the speakers lived up to their billing.  But most importantly the audience engaged.