April 14, 2010
This past Saturday, I attended Bootstrap Maryland. The event was hosted by Jared Goralnick and Paul Singh and was held at the University of Maryland. The focus of Bootstrap Maryland is to bring together entrepreneurs and give them the tools to run lean tech startups.
Aaron Dragushan of Wondermill kicked off the event speaking about the internal factors that entrepreneurs face, namely fear. He stressed that for entrepreneurs to become better they need to get over their fear. They should do that by slowly pushing out their comfort zones. He also talked about treating entrepreneurship as a long term game, and even if you fail, you can always start over. He summed it up by saying:
“Think of entrepreneurship as a long term gain. You’re an entrepreneur for life. You have 10 ‘at bat’s’ but only need 1 home run.”
The Lean Startup
Kevin Dewalt of Innovation Accelerator shared some lean startup principles to customer learning. He touched on the fact that over 90% of startups fail due to market reasons, or as he put it “fitting a square peg in a round hole.” He also stressed the importance of aligning your product with the market.
After speaking, Kevin moderated a panel on responding to your customers to build the best and most profitable application. The panel included Corey Brown of Squidoo, Aaron Battalion of LivingSocial, and Dave Baggett of ITA Software. There were many great tips and insights shared by the panel. One thing that jumped out at me was Dave Baggett who said:
“technology does not matter, it only gets your foot in the door.”
Arron Battalion said to:
“continually build, test, and move on to the next app”.
His company, Hungry Machine, built 80+ Facebook apps before hitting it big with LivingSocial.
Hiring & Outsourcing
Next, Jared Goralnick and Keith Casey of Blue Parabola, LLC held a panel on hiring on the cheap and outsourcing. Jared had some great insights on the hiring process, like the fact that the term “outsourced” is often misused. To him, outsourcing refers to the relationship of the person you’re working with, not their location. Also, the best place to start looking for talent is the team you’re working with. But i think the best piece of advice that Jared gave was, during the hiring process if you’re not an expert on the role your trying to fill, find someone who is, and have them vet the candidate with you. This will save you time and money in the long run. Keith added that hiring cheap is not always the same as hiring smart — although it may be tough to lure the superstars you need to build a successful product because they may be expensive. Keith used the acronym MICE (Money, Ideology, Conscience, and Ego) to show what people are motivated by and what you could appeal to snag good talent.
Buzz on a Budget
The next speaker, Jill Stelfox of Code 9 Mobile, shared how to generate serious buzz on a budget. This was a great talk, because this can be a sticking point for a lot of startups. She stressed that if you believe in your product, others will follow. Another great insight was knowing who your costumers are, or, as Jill put it, your “tribe”. Once you know who they are and what they do, you should be able to interrupt their path and get their attention. She also mentioned that generating buzz should be a game. See how little you can spend to generate the most buzz.
After her talk, Jill moderated a panel that expanded on her talk. The panel included Chris Hopkinson of DUB, Adam Ostrow of Mashable and Nate Mook of Localist. Adam spoke about treating your startup like a media company, and to create good content that is relevant to what you’re working on, and not a sales pitch. He also said that the best time to pitch publications like Mashable are Thursday-Sunday, because the beginning of the week is owned by some of the bigger, more well known companies. Nate talked about enabling your community to be evangelists of your product. Also, simple things like creating a forum to engage users, not censoring negative feedback, but monitoring it and responding to it. Chris spoke about creating buzz by partnering with big companies, being flexible, and delivering something they need. Also to think bigger because your customers will. He also stressed engaging users and journalists instead of just selling to them. This can lead to bigger opportunities down the road.
Bootstrap Maryland was an amazing event with great speakers and great insight. Check out some of the photos by Jeff Tong Photography
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