Vancouver Entrepreneurial Energy

I did another Beers with Brad event tonight in Vancouver.  Danny Robinson and Boris Mann of Bootup Labs pulled it together with some help from their friends and a few sponsors.  150 people showed up to talk about early stage entrepreneurship.

For these events, I have a few themes to riff on around entrepreneurship (e.g. entrepreneurial communities, the role of venture capital, and leadership) that are set in my head.  Rather than do a presentation, I just get up and talk for 15 to 30 minutes and then do Q&A until everyone is done.  I deliberately don’t have a prepared stump speech and what I say varies with each event, but the themes are consistent.  I like to just talk off the top of my head because – in addition to requiring zero preparation time – I’ve always felt that overly prepared talks around entrepreneurship are missing the point.  Entrepreneurship is messy; if the talk is too tidy, then it’s incongruent with what is being talked about.

The 15 – 30 minute talk simply sets the stage for the Q&A.  Tonight’s Q&A went on for about 90 minutes and was fascinating.  We covered a wide range of topics, including a handful that hadn’t come up before and wouldn’t have occurred to me in a vacuum.  Part of the reason I do these types of things is very selfish – I’m always trying to learn and understand what is top of mind for entrepreneurs – and the questions bring that out.  It’s particularly interesting to me to listen for the nuances in the questions from people in different parts of the country.

I picked up a cold a few days ago and started feeling crummy around mid-day today.  The energy in the room tonight was a huge lift; even though my voice deteriorated rapidly and was basically gone by the end of the evening, I had a dynamite time with my new Vancouver friends.  Boris promised to put up links to the video along with a summary in a few days; in the mean time you’ll have to make do with the Bootlabs tweets and the event hashtag which, after some debate, settled on #blesfeld.

Time for bed.  At least I won’t be talking in my sleep tonight.

  • I’ve always felt that overly prepared talks around entrepreneurship are missing the point. Entrepreneurship is messy; if the talk is too tidy, then it’s incongruent with what is being talked about.

    Everything is "messy" to some extent, but we still demand clarity, preparedness, etc. when it comes to discussing the topics. A messy topic can be explored with tidiness and still convey an appropriate amount of uncertainty.

    Bottom line is that canned presentations and slides always suck, regardless of topic, regardless of messiness of topic.

    Talking off the top of one's head surely avoids this fate, plus it lowers expectations in the audience about what they're going to get. (Though introduces new risks like rambling or being repetitive…)

  • All things considered, you shouldn't have to prepare for a talk on entrepreneurship, etc. and, thus, shouldn't.

    Why? It's what you do nearly all the time, and you do a LOT of it. You'll need about as much preparation as you do for tying the laces on your running shoes.

    You're right: Canned talks look like it. They are not, say, 'conceptually coherent' (yup, just made that up), and your extemporaneous material, as it goes through your head where you have thorough understanding, with a 'synthesis' (!) of the material, will be.

    When I taught applied mathematics in college and graduate school, I knew the material thoroughly, and each day my class preparation consisted of glancing at the paper course materials where I finished last time. We're talking <= 30 seconds.

    When the class started, the goal was to try to engage the class. So, watch their reactions and speed up or slow down or do an alternate explanation depending on their reactions.

    With better computing I could have had better class materials for the students, with more contact with business (nearly forbidden) very much better, but preparation time would still have been just to glance at where stopped the last time.

  • Brad – thanks again for flying to Vancouver just to speak at the first Bootup Labs Entrepreneurial Society gathering. You made a very valuable contribution to our community. I hope you feel better soon.

  • Many thanks for making the trek up to our fine city and speaking so passionately about entrepreneurship despite your cold. You can never underestimate the impact you can have and I think you definitely inspired a number of us in the audience. We hope to learn from your experience in Boulder and create an equally vibrant entrepreneurial community with a Vancouver flair. I'm now seriously re-thinking moving our company down to the valley as a result of your insights. It is far too easy to believe the hype generated by the tech media.

    Thanks again and look forward to seeing you again! Wishing you a speedy recovery and getting your voice back soon.

    Ashish Anand (the owner of the face you promised to remember)

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  • Hi Brad. A bit of a wrap up and links to videos are up:

    We've got video for the Q&A coming to us in the next couple of days, which we're going to take a crack at cutting into individual questions.

    It was great to have you, thanks for making the time to visit us – love to have you any time you can fit it into your schedule.

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  • Thanks for great post!

  • A very good article, I will always come in.

  • while reading I was trying to anticipate the punch line, I missed it by a mile. LOL.

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