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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.