Archive for March, 2012

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!

Youth Biz Brings the Entrepreneurial Energy!

In the packed out West Plains, MO Civic Center almost 500 high school students gathered to discover how awesome entrepreneurship can be! Some students even took 1.5 hour bus rides into West Plains for the day’s event. It was wonderful to see the students soak up the experience of our speakers and panelists.

The speakers at this event were entrepreneurial dynamite! David Gardner kicked off the event with great energy and advice.  He shared a message about spreading positivity by encouraging the phrase “Thant’s Awesome!” This theme will stick with the students for some time to come and became the energy of the day. The kids connected with David in a huge way just as they did our next speaker, Duane Spires.

Duane’s message was nothing less than awesome! He encouraged the students to fight their “Little Voice Syndrome” to overcome they nay-sayers and obstacles. There were tears in the audience as some of the students shared their stories of perseverance, facing challenges to find success. It was incredible!

We ended in true EET style and took this event over top with a superstar panel. A successful lawyer, a mega serial entrepreneur and the
local town hero joined our speakers on stage to answer some stellar audience questions. There were great talents and ideas out there. We are so excited to help this area keep up the momentum and bring some more entrepreneurship to West Plains!!

After the event, the EET team rode to charming Springfield and could not get over what a great event this was. One for the books!