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Our 3 Big Takeaways from SXSW

Last week, we attended the 19thannual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival, which is held in Austin, TX. This was our first time to attend SXSW and we must say, we were extremely impressed.

Most of the entrepreneurial startup sessions were hosted right next to the Austin Convention Center. This is where we spent most of our time because our goal for the event was to meet as many people in the entrepreneurship space. (Take away-have a goal in mind before attending any event). We spent less of our time in sessions and more time at meet ups and networking functions. Below are the three biggest takeaways we had from attending SXSW.

1.) How Many Young Entrepreneurs Do You Think Exist Right Now?

As an entrepreneur under the age of 30, you may feel like an endangered species in your community. You may feel like you are the only business owner who is not over 45. Before SXSW I thought that we (Empact) knew a good majority of top entrepreneurs but after the festival I realized that there are thousands of entrepreneurs not being celebrated for the value they create! It made me realize the importance of our work here at Empact and why we built the Empact100 awards.

Most of the startups at SXSW that I met were creating iphone or android apps. Surprisingly enough, some of them received some type of seed A funding. Here’s what is interesting about these appreneurs. The apps that had funding said their investors were interested in how many downloads they had rather than how much revenue they created. I think this is interesting because it shows that if you are making an impact and people are using your services funders will consider your as a potential investment opportunity.

What I learned from the app community is that you need to focus on making a product that helps people. After you build buzz from the people who like your app then you either will be able to create a premium app that people can buy or you can create premium services that coincides with the app such as in app purchase.

My biggest takeaway here is choosing entrepreneurship as a viable career path is a realistic option for young people. The attendance at SXSW increase every year and I believe because of the increase in young entrepreneurs.

2. You’d Be Surprised at How Cheap It Is To Start A Business Today/

I also think the number of entrepreneurs are increasing as well because it easier than ever before to start a business and test your idea. Buzz words at the conference included leanand minimum viable product (MVP). In fact, SXSW had a whole day session completely focused on Eric Reis’s Lean Start Up movement. We attended Eric’s session all day because there was so much valuable content and a lot of awesome entrepreneurs young and old. After the Lean Start Up session all of the entrepreneurs were able to collaborate and network over some local beer and grilled cheese. Yes, I said grilled cheese!

What does it mean to be lean?

Lean is a methodology for reducing waste and speeding time to market while burning the least amount of capital. This is accomplished by focusing on work and investment that creates value for customers through a process of multiple iteration release (sometimes several times a day) to test market assumptions.

One of the great ways to stay lean is by using affordable services. Here is a SXSW lean package deal the Eric Reis shared on his blog. I see it being really helpful for startups that need some technical support.

What does minimum viable product mean?

It is a strategy used for fast and quantitative market testing of a product or product feature. To learn more about MVP, Eric Reis wrote a blog last year on TechCrunch about howDropBox started as an MVP.

Today, you can literally build a company by testing your assumptions, create a business model that works, and showing that you have a target market that is interested in your product. Another thing that I learned from SXSW is that most entrepreneurs start out slow and focus on systemizing what they do have and building company that can expand quickly at the right time.

3. There Are More People Who Want You To Succeed Than Ever Before!

You may have heard about Silicon Valley, but have you heard about Silicon Alley (NYC), Silicon Prairie (Midwest), or Silicon Bayou (New Orleans)?

Another popular buzzword at SXSW was startup accelerator. These are companies that help startups obtain funding, office space, resources, and mentorship to make sure their business has a higher chance of success. One of the most interesting things about startup accelerators is that they are popping up everywhere!

It was said that in the next five years all communities over 100,000 in population will have an accelerator program for their community. San Francisco was the first area to really create a strong startup accelerator, which is why you have Silicon Valley.

But because of these accelerator programs you have regions all over the United States building entrepreneurship ecosystems.

The take away here is that there are people willing to help. There are people who have money to invest, and mentors who understand that entrepreneurs are the heartbeat to how our nation’s economy succeeds. There is support out there you just have to find it.

And next year…?

For those of you who are interested an intending SXSW but do not have the funds, there is a lean way to go to SXSW without having to pay for the badge.  What you do is go toEventbrite and search for ‘SXSW events’. There are a ton of free and open events that the public can attend and honestly I did my best networking going to these free meet ups rather than listening to talks.

A lot of companies host parties and meet ups while at SXSW as marketing tactic. Attend these events because they are valuable and not promotional as you may think. The coolest thing about these meet ups is that the CEO and executive team are were very accessible and willing to talk with you over a drink. I look forward to seeing you at the 2013 SXSW festival!

Extreme Entrepreneurship in the Media

Over the last month, the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour has been featured in four national news outlets. These interviews provide advice on entrepreneurship and  capture the rising trend of youth entrepreneurship.

Lucas County Youth Inspired to ‘Dream Big’: foxtoledo.com


California Spurs America’s Youngest Workers to Create Their Own Jobs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Sheena Lindahl
Telephone: (800) 930-8021 x703
Cell Phone: (917) 569-2996
Email: sheena@extremetour.org

California Spurs America’s Youngest Workers to Create Their Own Jobs: Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour Paves the Way

SACRAMENTO, September 10, 2009 The power of the entrepreneurial spirit will take California by storm beginning October 13, 2009, when The Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour launches its month-long series of exciting events at 18 community colleges across the state. The tour is presented by the California Community Colleges Economic Workforce Development Program.

With state unemployment at a record high and job prospects grim, more and more college students are thinking about starting their own business. “The state’s Community Colleges and Centers are looking for new ways to generate innovative businesses that create jobs and face down the recession,” says Mike Roessler, EWD’s program director. “Bringing the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour to our college campuses is an out-of-the-box strategy that taps a largely overlooked resource: the creativity and energy of our young people.”  The Tour helps students take the next step by offering inspiration and practical advice about how to start a business. Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees are responsible for 35% of all jobs in the nation’s largest state.

The Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour is run by three award-winning young entrepreneurs – Sheena Lindahl (26), Michael Simmons (27), and Arel Moodie (25). Created in 2006 by Lindahl and Simmons, the tour features many of California’s top young entrepreneurs who’ve made, earned or sold companies for millions of dollars and/or made a huge impact before the age of 30. One speaker, Cameron Johnson (24) from Los Angeles, started a dozen profitable businesses and became a self-made millionaire while he was still a teenager. Another speaker, Rahim Fazal (27) from San Francisco, sold his first business for $1.5 million as he was graduating from high school. Fazal is the co-founder and CEO of the venture-backed company, Involver.

Santa Ana College

October 13

Santa Ana, CA

MiraCosta College

October 14

Oceanside, CA

Southwestern College

October 15

National City, CA

Long Beach City College

October 19

Long Beach, CA

El Camino

October 20

Hawthorne, CA

Ventura College

October 21

Ventura, CA

Santa Monica College

October 22

Santa Monica, CA

Citrus College

October 23

Glendora, CA

College of the Canyons

October 27

Santa Clarita, CA

Fresno City College

October 29

Fresno, CA

Butte College

November 3

Oroville, CA

Shasta College

November 4

Redding, CA

College of the Siskiyous

November 5

Weed, CA

Solano College

November 9

Fairfield, CA

San Joaquin Delta College

November 10

Stockton, CA

Sierra College

November 11

Roseville, CA

West Valley College

November 17

Campbell, CA

City College of San Francisco

November 18

San Francisco, CA

“More than half the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during a recession or bear market,” says Simmons. “Technology and globalization have made it very inexpensive to start a business. Now is the best time that there has ever been to become your own boss.”

According to a 2007 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation survey by Harris Interactive, four out of 10 young people would like to start their own businesses someday. “However, when we talked with students, we realized that many of them needed inspiration and support to achieve this dream,” says Lindahl. “That’s why we started the tour.”

The goal of the Extreme Entrepreneurship tour is to have college students around the nation graduate with an entrepreneurial mindset. In 2009, interest in starting a business rose 16% among 4,200 California students who attended tour events.

For the first time, students who attend the tour events will be asked to take a pledge to create their own jobs by the end of 2009.  Using social media, tour attendees, speakers and staff will be able to ask questions, post updates on their businesses, and post comments about the tour on Twitter in real time and have them shared on http://www.extremetour.org/ca. The goal is to get 10,000 new pledges by the end of the year.

California is one of six states that led the nation in entrepreneurial activity in 2008, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. In an effort to capitalize on that trend, Economic and Workforce Development, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Centers for International Trade and Development (CITDs), and community colleges are bringing California’s top young entrepreneurs to 18 college campuses for the first time.  The state’s future business owners will learn the how-to’s of business startup, where to get help, to consider community college, as well as the importance of completing their education.

An interactive Google map will show the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour’s fall route in California. Both emerging entrepreneurs and students from all disciplines are invited to attend tour events in their area to learn how they can apply the entrepreneurial mindset to their lives regardless of their choice of careers. Since the tour was created in 2006, it has presented 100 events in 30 states, reaching 100,000 students across the country.


EET launches a new, comprehensive web site