Amy's Back from Nephew Jack's
A New Habit: Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs

Entrepreneur University 2004

I attended Entrepreneur University 2004 today, a daylong workshop at the University of Washington sponsored by the Northwest Entrepreneurial Network (NWEN).  Lots of interesting and inspiring presentations and discussion, much of it emphasizing the importance and value of passion and emotion in the success of a venture. 

Guy Kawasaki, author of "The Art of the Start" (among other books), kicked things off, stressing the importance of making meaning (vs. making money), trying to change the world for the better; I also like his invitation to "be a mensch" (e.g., help people who cannot help you).  Chris DeVore, Co-Founder & COO of Judy's Book, shared a number of things they "did wrong" in creating their company, such as picking a team before an idea, picking an idea without a business model, spending their own money first, focusing on an application rather than a business plan and taking an iterative approach to building the company ... and yet this may all work out just fine -- they are certainly following their passions & intuitions.  I particularly liked the idea he dubbed "Walk a State": commitment creates opportunity, not the other way around (reminiscent of the Goethe quote I recently posted).  Cliff Chirls, COO of Memetic Systems,  talked about the need to focus on feelings and relationships in finding and nurturing the first customer.  Mark Vadon, who channeled his frustration in shopping for an engagement ring into the creation of Blue Nile, which posted US$129M in sales for 2003, shared the 5 lessons he's learned from his [ad]venture: (1) start with the customer's point of view (2) think different (3) build a great team (4) bad times forge great companies (5) focus relentlessly.  Deb Hagen (VP and GM of Text 100) and Emory Thomas, Jr. (Puget Sound Business Journal) returned to the theme of relationships and its importance in the context of public (& media) relations.  Nancy Truitt Pierce, author of the forthcoming book "The Founder Factor", claimed that the very traits that make for successful founders -- unreasonable, arrogant, impatient, opportunistic, irrepressible, visionary, compelling and scary smart -- often do not make for successful leadership as the company grows and matures; she also talked entrepreneur's "affectual reasoning", which she defined as the ability to see opportunities in the things around them.  Rich Stillman finished of with some observations from his experience in a former startup, CoinStar, that is now a rather mature company, and highlighted some challenges in keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive; among the many interesting insights and observations was a statistic he quoted was that 70 million people in the USA have no bank account or credit card ... creating all kinds of new potential opportunities for a company that has thousands of kiosks in retail establishments that can enable people to conduct transactions from various forms of currency (e.g., cash / coins to pre-paid cards).  After the event, I spoke, er, I mean "networked", with a bunch of people at the networking reception, and later bumped into Loren Callahan, who was photographing the event, here at WiFi-enabled Tangletown (small world!) ... where, in addition to free Internet access, I've enjoyed the Dragonstooth Stout and Bifrost Ale (a winter beer, tastes like a strong ale).

All in all, it was an inspiring and enlightening day.  And it ain't over yet ... I soon leave for SeaTac to take the red-eye to Chicago, where I'll be spending a day with friends and former colleagues at my alma mater, Accenture Technology Labs, and then attending CSCW 2004, where I'll be participating in a Workshop on Representations of Digital Identity, co-presenting a paper (with Dave McDonald) on our proactive displays work, and helping to moderate a panel on "Digital Backchannels in Shared Physical Spaces" that I am co-organizing with danah boyd.  After that, I hope to go on some kind of mini-retreat to let everything settle and see if I can gain greater clarity on how best to proceed with the next step / stage of my career.

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