Posts Tagged ‘networking’

Guest Blogger: Brianne Warner of Precision Ads on “Bootstrap Maryland”

Another guest post- this one from Brianne Warner, who you may remember from Dobro Media, the company I profiled from the UVA VC Summit (see a description of Dobro Media Precision Ads here and here).

Brianne was just elected President of the Venture Capital & Entrepreneurship Club at Darden and stays very linked in with events in the area. She wanted to preview a very cool event this coming weekend- Bootstrap Maryland. It takes place April 10 (9-5) at University of Maryland. Brianne’s post below starting at *****

********************************

On April 10, I’ll be back at my alma mater, University of Maryland for a pretty cool entrepreneurial event. A friend and fellow Terp, Jared Goralnick, will be putting on his second Bootstrap Maryland. This day-long event features experienced entrepreneurs who have build companies by listening to their customers and responding to the markets – “bootstrapping” their businesses, rather than relying on a huge influx of VC cash.

Jared bootstrapped his own business, Set Consulting, and then started AwayFind, a web application designed to keep you away from the suck of e-mail and focused on productivity. He speaks at conferences regularly and organizes cool stuff generally. I’ve always found his career path inspiring, and when we chat, I get the sense – as I do when I talk to most entrepreneurs – that the world is full of possibilities if you think things through.

Curious, I asked him a few questions about the April 10th event:

How did Bootstrap Maryland get started? Where did you get the idea?

When I got started, I would’ve benefited a lot from a group of peers to explain the unique needs of a web startup.  And before that I could’ve used advice about starting a small tech business as a 20-something.  Bootstrap Maryland fills those voids for tech companies in the DC area.  For much more on why I started Bootstrap Maryland, see here. (http://www.technotheory.com/2009/03/dc-md-va-entrepreneurs-and-bootstrap-maryland/)

Who should attend? Who shouldn’t attend?

People who are or hope to be building tech companies, particularly on the web.  It doesn’t matter how much experience one has–the topics and activities are not what you’ll learn at a typical business or technology event–they’re nontraditional, often personal lessons-learned from young entrepreneurs.  It’s especially relevant for folks who haven’t seen how tech startups are built outside of this area–we’ll focus on some of the advice and current practices taking places in some of the tech hotbeds like Silicon Valley.

People who are deadset on business plans, and believe there’s a clear line between technology and business are probably not going to enjoy our perspective.

What have you changed since last year and why?

Last year’s event was a bit more Business 101.  This year’s topics are more focused and somewhat more advanced.  We’ll talk a lot about aligning our businesses with our (real) customers…and discuss how software built today can involve customer-learning (or even billing) at the very earliest stages.

Tell us about one or two sessions that you are really looking forward to and why:

I’m excited for Jill Stelfox’s talk on marketing–I spoke alongside her at Founder Institute and she’s both engaging and direct in the way she delivers her nontraditional advice.  She’s sold billion dollar businesses before and yet she knows how to give down-to-earth, practical advice.

The range of speakers and industries (though still focused around web startups) is pretty awesome.  I’m excited that it’s not just geeks talking about blogging–it’s technology people who get business (or the other way around).  One of our speakers has 90 million monthly users, for instance–his company is doing well.

You are an experienced conference-goer, speaker, and maker of lists. What should we bring? Anything we should do to prepare and get the most out of the day?

Research the speakers and attendees, so you know who you want to get to know.  Bring questions.  Stay late.  Feel free to ask for introductions or just introduce yourself–while the panels will be great, make sure you get a chance to build a relationship or two that lasts well past our event.

And just for fun: If we get to College Park early or stay that evening, what are a few spots worth checking out?

Ha.  Try our authentic College Park Diner or enjoy some veggie food at Berwyn Cafe (not so easy to find, closes around 7).  But your best bet is really to walk around the campus, which will be quite lovely at this time of year.

Intrigued? Register at www.bootstrapmaryland.com. $25 for entrepreneurs or a mere $10 for full-time students!

********************************

It sounds pretty damn cool – I’m out of town so can’t make it but drop a comment if any of you are planning on going /go to it, and let us know about it.

Tech RoundUp: NewsGator, Gist, Jasmere

Long time no blog. Lotta work this past week, then went out to Denver to meet with the company I’ll be interning with this summer, NewsGator.

Which brings us to the trifecta of topics for today- 3x the fun in a post of one. Topics of the day: Work, Network, Shop. Or, more specifically, three awesome companies/apps/things.

  • NewsGator: I’m psyched to be working for these guys this summer. The company was great, everyone seemed cool, and the product/services are interesting. The work I’ll be doing should be fun and challenging, and my boss is really great (I get extra credit for saying that, right Walker?). Working in Denver will be a blast, and my in-laws place in Boulder (where I’ll be staying) is amazing. Looking like a great summer already. If you use the iPhone, download NewsGator’s “netnewswire” app (yes, it’s free!). If you’re looking for a good desktop RSS reader that can integrate with your Google reader and subscriptions, check out FeedDemon:

  • Gist: Enough about work. Walker showed me a program called Gist and it’s pretty cool. The premise is simple: Know More About Who You Know. The program pulls contacts from Outlook, Gmail, LinkedIn- or even a list you create in Exel- and then builds a contact info database for you to use. Not only does it search the web for information on them (news stories, etc.), but also pulls feeds from social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). When you click on a contact’s name, you can see all public news, social media feeds, previous email correspondence, calendar appointments you have with them, etc. I’m still figuring out the setup, but I can already see how useful this could be. Due to the heavy amount of data it’s pulling, it can sometimes be a little slow-that’s my only complaint.
  • Jasmere: A friend put me in contact with a cool DC entrepreneur last week, just for a fun discussion. He’s created a website that uses economies of scale to help consumers purchase goods at a lower cost. They identify quality vendors that don’t have the budget to advertise, and negotiate a discount with those vendors. You go to their site, and see what that day’s offering is, and how long you have left to get in on the deal. Once you sign-up for the deal, your credit card is NOT charged yet, but you have committed to the purchase. Then, the more people that purchase, the lower the price goes! So if you sign up when the price is at $14, that’ s the most you would pay, but if 10 other people sign up and the price drops to $10, you pay $10, not $14. Very cool site, very cool guy with a lot of great experience.

Why Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn Aren’t Enough….

I woke up this morning thinking about how many online networking sites I use (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and a new one I just joined (Gravity – thanks Adam!). Gravity is very different- the network is based on conversations and interests, not friends. You choose topic areas and conversations that you find interesting, and then follow and participate in those. This prevents users from simply repeating the formula on other websites, finding the same friends all over again, and then following them on a new website. After all, the baby pictures they have on Facebook are the same as the ones they have on MySpace…

What traditional networking sites (Facebook, etc.) provide is the ability to quickly scan the life of your friends as you choose. I’m not knocking them- I use them all! But it allows you to quickly keep in touch with minimal work, to stay updated, and to update in return. You can take that networking a step further and write more in-depth notes or make plans, but for the most part, you are simply presenting your life to those friends on your page, and scanning the life they present to you on theirs. It is a means of linking you with friends you already have- while you sometimes move a few layers past people you know personally or well, this form of networking doesn’t truly expand your influence. While Gravity is different in that it introduces you to a new group of friends, the lack of a true “profile” on the page prevents these new contacts (at least as far as I can see) from becoming more than conversation partners.

I began wondering how, in this environment, I could understand my current network, evaluate its flaws, and grow it to something more meaningful? In other words, how could I grow my online network to provide the same substantial impact that I expect from my personal and professional network? LinkedIn has this goal, but seemingly fails to deliver real visibility into the circles of influence that are your network- and that visibility is key to changing an online network to a network as powerful as an in-person one.

So this is what I thought of- a combination of two very different technologies:

  1. The yet to be popularized social network aggregator (such as FriendFeed)
  2. A network visualization and analysis software (like NetMiner)

By taking the same API that a network aggregator uses, you can build an updated feeds and friend database, probably sending it directly to a desktop program rather than another website. That program uses a technology similar to a network visualization model like NetMiner, allowing you to run a visualization and analysis program of who you are friends with, who you are talking to, and how much repetition there is in your network, instead of new growth.

Imagine being able to look at your network with a critical eye and see how much your communication depends on the same sphere of friends. That’s where you can begin a secondary network analysis of the hobbies, traits, etc that your group of friends likes, and either find out that you tend to like people that like “x” (which can sometimes come as a surprise) or you can identify some of the gaps in your network (oh, look, I don’t have a single friend that’s not an “associate” somewhere- maybe I need to start some mentoring outreach).

I understand that not everyone uses online social websites to network or to maintain an image- sometimes it’s just for fun. But it can be so much more- and with the increasing amount of time we as a nation spend online, on these sites, the greater is our need to use these sites to replicate certain in-person interactions. As with any growth, the first step is sometimes simply self-reflection, which a tool like this would provide. Thoughts?

Advice from VCs & Start-Ups

To kick-start the blog, I thought I’d start with something I know to be smart and interesting- advice from other people! As time goes on, I’d like to talk about cool inventions I’m using (quick preview: Prezi and XMind), discuss change and social innovation (Causeworld for example), and update on my experiences with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists here at Darden.

For this first post though, I want to pass on what I learned over the past few months, when I was lucky enough to speak with a wide array of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. This was a personal project from this summer- since I was interested in working in the VC or start-up world, but had no experience in it, I started reaching out to anyone I could find that did, and asked for advice. All I asked for was time and honesty, and the response I had was overwhelming. I spoke with VCs and private equity folk from New York, DC, Virginia, Portland, and Colorado, start-ups from Charlottesville, Boulder, Palo Alto and Ireland; professors and inventors from all over.

What I learned helped to shape my view of business school and what I can/should learn while ; it helped me to come to an honest assessment of what I want my life and career to include; and it taught me a lot about what a true community considers its responsibilities…namely, to help the new and uninitiated to find their way as they’re starting out. So I wanted to start this blog by passing on some of their advice in the same spirit they offered it to me- I’ll spread it out over this week, but below you’ll find the first item that always came up- EVERYONE I spoke with gave this piece of advice first.

Talk to people. Talk to a lot of people. Find people to talk to everyday- meet someone you don’t know and find out about them, their ideas, what they do and know.  Sounds simple right? But most people fail to make the time to really do this- until they’re in a situation where they’re asking for something. And there’s the rub- networking is most valuable when it’s just meeting, not asking. Now is the time to do this- start reaching out, tell people you’re in business school (1st year) and just want to hear about their experiences- I got turned down less than 5% since this summer. It works- but we just don’t do it enough. I saw an article with some quotes from an old boss, Allyn Horne, and Upwardly Mobile, the career mgmt services company he works for now, that really drove this point home.

  • Job seekers talk/email an average of 8 people outside their current company on a monthly basis
  • Less than 38% of job seekers have asked for an introduction in the past month
  • On av, job seekers have a network of just 29 colleagues (definition: peers they interacted with last 18-24 months)

So starting small….talk to people. I’ll post a few of the other pieces of advice later this week- some of the bigger ones include: look for situations that are sink/swim, what a “timeframe for success” looks like, why the right boss is better than the right job, etc. Let me know what you think!

Seth