December 15, 2012
On a Friday night in downtown Las Vegas, where can you find the locals? Listening to talks, naturally.
Tech Cocktail Week wrapped up last night with keynotes from Amy Jo Martin, founder and CEO of Digital Royalty; Tim Draper, founder and managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ); and Raj Kapoor, the founder of Cofounder.co and cofounder of Snapfish.
They spoke to a packed house of over a hundred people, including members of the Vegas tech community and out-of-town guests. And then the party kicked off with drinks, chatter, and mingling with local startups.
Amy Jo Martin
Martin described her early forays into social media, which happened at the Phoenix Suns. She started experimenting, helping Shaquille O’Neal with Twitter, but the executives weren’t pleased. “My hand was slapped many times,” she recalls. She sent a message to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who seemed to have his social media policy under control. But his rule – “Be real and use your best judgment” – was too progressive for her employer.
Since then, Martin started social media consultancy Digital Royalty, which has expanded into education with its Digital Royalty University. Of her “eight royal rules” for social media, she touched on two:
1. Be the media. Social media should be more of a communication channel (like a telephone), rather than an advertising channel (like TV). For example, she helped Shaq create “Random Acts of Shaqness.” He would tweet his exact location, and the first fan to touch him got tickets to an upcoming game. Shaq also announced his retirement in a video posted to Twitter, alerting his close community of fans before the media or even the NBA.
2. Show some skin. “Humans connect with humans, not logos,” Martin said. To do social media right, you have to humanize your brand with a real person’s voice, and communicate why you’re doing what you’re doing – what inspires you. For example, when UFC president Dana White accidentally tweeted his phone number, he responded by taking phone calls from his fans and even creating a “fan phone.”
Martin ended her talk by encouraging everyone to contemplate: what is your personal brand?
Draper, who recently started the Draper University of Heroes, is out to empower the next generation of young entrepreneurs. Draper University is a boarding school that teaches everything from finance to martial arts to survival training. “My message to the world is: there aren’t enough heroes out there,” he said.
Draper detailed the variety of investments that DFJ has made across the world, including Baidu in China, Skype in Estonia, and Hotmail in the United States. He recalls trips around the globe where he talked with foreign government officials, encouraging them to loosen up their business regulations so he could invest there. And, as he tells it, they listened – because countries are competing for US money.
Looking ahead, Draper predicted some of the big breakthroughs in the next 15 years, like near-infinite energy and noninvasive surgery. The startups that he wants to invest in are tackling big problems, completely disrupting their industries the way Hotmail disrupted the post office. “You’re on the world to change it. See what you can do,” he said.
Kapoor told the story of Snapfish, which he founded in 1999 and sold to HP in 2005. Along that zigzagging journey, he learned a host of lessons: know when to take the leap, raise money when you can (Snapfish raised $36 million), learn to deal with failure, and step on the gas when things are working. “The road to success is rarely up and to the right,” he said.
Since Snapfish, Kapoor has been the managing director of the Mayfield Fund venture capital firm. They look for disruptive innovation, recurring revenue, and standout founders who are obsessed with the product, can code or move quickly, deeply understand the business, have a big vision, and are well-connected and self-aware.
Next up for Kapoor is Cofounder.co. Partners there will join startups as a cofounder for one day a week, so they can work with about five startups at a time. It’s a recognition that good startups can always get funding; what they need is real, seasoned experts guiding them early on.
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