Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurs’

LessConf 3010

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Last weekend, LessConf, a two-day conference about technology, startups, and business, was held at Georgia Tech Research Institute in Midtown Atlanta. This was the second iteration of the event; last year’s was in Jacksonville. Organized by Steve Bristol and Allan Branch, this was without a doubt the best tech event I’ve ever been to. Both Steve and Allan were incredibly chill and, more than anything else, just wanted everyone to have a good time. And that I did.

Day 1

Flickr: jay_tennier

Upon registration, attendees were able to pick up a copy of Seth Godin’s Linchpin, as well as various other stickers and giveaways. After a hilarious intro, the talks kicked off around 10:30. The lineup for the first day consisted of the following amazing speakers:

I especially enjoyed Cameron’s talk about finding inspiration in design. The difference between influence and inspiration was an interesting concept: influence is actively sought, while inspiration is not. Valuable insight was also given on how to capture inspiration when it surfaces; Cameron mentioned setting up a wall of paper next to a workspace, as well as keeping a dive slate in the shower. As someone primarily focused on front-end web development, I was able to gain new perspective on how to approach a project by taking a step back and becoming passively engaged. The revelation also hit me that good design shouldn’t always be focused on logic, but on how you feel.

Lunch was a great networking opportunity; my associate Adam and I had the chance to sit down with the Grooveshark team and exchange ideas. Shane’s Rib Shack catering provided by Balsamiq was also much appreciated.

The afterparty was held at Whiskey Park, inside the W on 14th Street. It was a prime location to talk with Shane Reustle, Geoff Hamrick, Chris Wanstrath, Julia Roy, and many more awesome people. Like everything else associated with the conference, it was about as off-the-hook as it gets. Loud music, dim lighting, flash photography, and free drinks (sponsored by MailChimp) made a perfect close to a day full of intelligent geekiness. It’s just how New Dorks roll.

Day 2

The second day of the conference started with bacon-infused pancakes, sponsored by Storenvy. After a good half-hour of catching up from the last night, the second round of speakers kicked off with:

Clay’s talk about becoming a linchpin was extremely inspiring; the value of resumes was discussed, with him outlining that a traditional PDF leaves little room for creative expression. A great example was shown through a Foursquare mockup resume, in which badges represented positions and achievements. In short, be so good they can’t ignore you.

The education portion of the talk also spoke to me; Clay expanded on how the current educational system trains the factory workers of tomorrow, primarily instilling the ability to follow instructions in graduates. From my personal experiences, I can unilaterally vouch for these observations. Question the status quo. Break rules. Be a leader.

At 11 that night, the final afterparty kicked off at Noni’s Bar and Deli, where Regator’s Kimberly Turner was DJing. I was interviewed by BZD Films about both Rank ‘em and the conference in general, and also had great conversations with Jessica Barnett, Janette Crawford, Chris Turner, and everyone else who made it out. I really didn’t want the two days to be over, but had an outstanding time and look forward to next year.

Final Thoughts

LessConf rocked. The end.


Saturday, February 13th, 2010

A few weekends ago, I attended the fourth annual SoCon unconference centered around social media at Kennesaw State University. Last year’s SoCon was the first Atlanta tech event that I went to; it was great to see some familiar faces that I met at SoCon09, as well as others who I’ve been in touch with since then.

Just as last year, the event kicked off Friday night with a networking dinner at the Cumberland Maggiano’s. Different tables were set up around the room for various topics, such as video, B2B, Twitter, et al. I sat at the entrepreneurship table hosted by Appcelerator CEO Jeff Haynie, who moved from Atlanta to the Valley a few years ago. During these discussions, I had a great chance to meet Travis Allen, a fellow young entrepreneur, as well as reconnect with Sanjay Parekh, Richard LeBer, and Jennifer Bonnett.

Flickr: leighauerbach

The event continued the next morning at KSU’s Social Sciences building, where a continental breakfast was a great opportunity to continue the networking from the previous night. After about an hour, Leonard Witt began the official conference by introducing the first keynote speaker, Carol Kruse, Vice President of Interactive Marketing at Coca-Cola. Kruse created the MyCokeRewards program, and also is a part of the company’s Facebook fan page initiative. The talk started with an explanation that Coke prefers for the consumers to lead the company’s social media campaign, leading to Kruse’s mantra: “Fans first”. She revealed that the page is moderated out of necessity, but that only around .8% of content is required to be taken down. However, any posts which may be negatively directed towards Coke remain. Also fascinating was the fact that any employee who wishes to be a part of the company’s social media marketing can undergo basic training and be let loose.

Flickr: leighauerbach

Dan Siroker of the Obama campaign then took the stage as the next speaker, explaining the huge impact that web marketing had on the President’s election and fundraising strategies. John McCain was able to raise $201M total through combined social media outreach and traditional publicizing, while Obama’s team (with the input and guidance of Siroker), raised over $500M solely through the Internet. Multivariant testing played a large role in this monetary gap; Siroker showed how a button entitled “Learn More” paired with a family-oriented image achieved the highest conversion rate, competing against tens of other combinations. The importance of taking advantage of circumstances was also stressed, as the campaign was able to raise roughly $10M simply through the sending of an impromptu email.

We then breaked for lunch, heading over to KSU’s newly-built student cafeteria. I caught back up with Travis and had the chance to meet Christina Stallings, a new media/tradeshow enthusiast. Lunch conversation varied from basic introduction of everyone to psuedo-representation (fake profiles)  in the virtual world.

After lunch, I attended two breakouts, the first being by Newell Rubbermaid’s Bert DuMars about implementing a community around an online brand. He talked about the marketing associated with Sharpie, and stressed the fact that community is a great resource and should be genuine, but shouldn’t be grouped to direct content towards one individual.

The next session I attended was by Chris Turner, Kimberly Turner, and Scott Lockhart of Regator, a blog aggregator sorting through and helping publicize the world’s best posts. They talked about their experiences in bootstrapping a startup, explaining what individuals would need to have in order to successfully launch:

  1. A good idea.
  2. Money.
  3. A technical founder.
  4. Commitment.
  5. A polished product.
  6. The ability to generate hype.

And their slides were hilarious.

I always leave conferences like this feeling energized and motivated to continue doing what I do. The sense of community here in Atlanta really is incredible, and the ability to connect with like-minded individuals is something I’m thankful to be able to do. Can’t wait for SoCon11.

Skype to Break Away from eBay

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

eBay is a great platform for online auctions.

Popular VoIP service Skype is currently a subsidiary of eBay , the result of a $1.3 billion deal that went down a few years ago. Now, eBay is looking to say goodbye to Skype and send them off as an individual entity. If you want the facts and details, Ars Technica has a great writeup ; I won’t reiterate the same content here.

I couldn’t be happier to hear this news. Especially with the rumors surrounding the possible acquisition of Twitter by Google, it seems that the major players are running the risk of becoming a bit too powerful. As I said in a recent tweet:

I really hope Google doesn’t acquire Twitter. I’d love to see more growth, not “Google Tweets”. Google doesn’t need to own everything.

Unfortunately, Skype won’t go straight back to the founders; they’ll do an IPO in 2010. It’d be nice if Skype’s founders could continue the vision of innovation that started the company, but if that’s not possible, at least someone else with ambition to move forward will be able to pick up where Zennström and Friis left off.

Skype will become an individual entity.

Skype will become an individual entity.

Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction. eBay’s a great platform for online auctions, but the relevance to VoIP (and content rating, for that matter) is a stretch. The Skype-powered buyer/seller communication system never really took off, and it’s been a strained relationship at best.

But why did Skype sell to eBay to begin with? Is our main goal to work hard, to put our heart and soul into a product, then just sell out? It can’t be all about the money. You have to love what you do and have the desire to stick with it. Sure, success is relative. To some people, giving up control in exchange for a chunk of cash is acceptable. I also realize that every venture isn’t going to be the investment of the century, and that you do need to have some type of exit strategy should the need arise. But Skype’s business model is largely profitable, and has the potential to thrive as an independent company. I’d like to see more specialization, improvement, and growth, not companies acquiring others simply for the sake of equity and ownership.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.