Last Thursday, I attended Jeff Veen and Bryan Mason's Start Conference. First off, I want to thank them for all their hard work--it was a refreshing event with a sincere approach. Right off the bat, priced at $200, you knew that these guys were more out to actually lend entrepreneurs a hand than make a quick buck off them, so I appreciated that.
As I sat through the morning interviews they had set up, I realized that successful people have trouble attributing success to specific actions taken. There were a few spots in the conversations where key points were glossed over with things like, "And soon after we launched, the product took off..."
Whoa! Back up the truck!
How? Why? What caused success and did you plan for it?
I mean, you know, besides the fact that you created a great product and all, because I definitely took that note down. "Create great product... check."
Failures are often easier to figure out. Usually, when shit hits the fan, you know exactly what you did wrong, whether or not you're willing to admit it, but success--crossing that chasm is often something that people can debate for years.
I think someone ought to create a conference just about failure--that all the speakers can do is talk about stuff that went wrong. We'll call it FailureCon or something. That's one of my favorite things about having so many entrepreneurs as angels--if I could just manage to avoid half the mistakes they tell me they made, Path 101 will turn out ok.
Still, attempting to get a list of likely success causes and best practices would be a good start. I would have liked to see more structured conversations. George Oates did a fantastic job up on the stage monitoring the audience feedback--perhaps another person could have an expanded role in recording specific takeaways and lessons.
That's another cool thing about the conference--George's presence was an indication of their willingness to experiment to create the best outcome possible for all those involved.
How about a "what worked/what didn't work" ledger, with each speaker needing to add at least one or two things to both?
Or some kind of lesson voting system for the crowd... where the conference recorder person could add lessons learned to a publicly displayed voting site, the audience could add their own, and at the end of the conference, you'd have 10 solid takeaways.
One other thing I'd like to hear more discussion of is product. Making a great product always seems to be what being successful is all about, and everyone usually feels like they have one, but obviously that's not the case. I'd love to see more product folks go in detail on what makes a great product, how to reposition things when they're not going well, and now to go back to the drawing board. I'm happy to toss my "7 Product features you should add right now" talk from BarCampNYC.
One other idea... It seemed like Jeff and Bryan, not surprisingly, attracted a great crowd. The only problem was, I had no idea who was there and what they were up to, so I really didn't know who to meet. Perhaps a Ning or Crowdvine site setup beforehand would have done the trick?
All in all, though, I'm glad I went. Getting to pitch in front of the conference was awesome and I got great feedback (more focused deck coming soon!). One thing I was a bit surprised at was that other than David Hornik and Rob Hayes, who were both involved with the conference, I didn't spot very many VCs. You'd think this is the kind of thing investors would show up to. I guess there's not enough mindless hype about Start yet. Perhaps that's why I'm inclined to show up again. :)