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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The Power of Heart Felt and Intense Discussion at Tahoe Tech Talk

Comments (6)

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.

  • http://twitter.com/slobotski @slobotski

    Great review and agree completely with your takeaways. It was a strong group of people more interested in learning from not only the speakers, but one another, rather than coming for their own interests.

  • zackshapiro

    It was my first conference and I'm sure one that's going to be hard to live up to. I loved how intimate it was, how I could walk up and talk to Gary or Kevin Rose, or Sacca, or anyone. I'd do that again in a heartbeat. The connections I made, the things I learned and the discussions I had were more than worth what I paid to attend. It was great (finally) meeting you Brad. Great post.

    ZS

  • http://twitter.com/ruchitgarg @ruchitgarg

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Brad.

    Hoping to see videos/presentations from #TTT. Anyone?

    • http://twitter.com/mattsito @mattsito

      Ruchit– We intentionally decided not to live stream or record the conference due to the intimacy of the event, but we're looking forward to putting on similar events in the future. We were thrilled with how the Q&A format worked out, and especially with the stamina and candor of the speakers during that endurance test!

      Brad, thanks for attending and for this terrific write-up.

  • http://twitter.com/slobotski @slobotski

    Also, I forgot to mention that I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with the group on the key components of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem. What you and the community of Boulder have put together is something that we look to often to learn from, and as you said, we all need to realize that this isn't a 3, 5 or even 7 year play, but takes much longer if it is to be more than a fleeting effort…

    Thanks again Brad, and we have to get you out here for Big Omaha one of these years!

  • http://@barrie_robinson Barrie Robinson

    Sounds like a great event. Would have liked to have attended. Will be looking out for the next.

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