International Startup Festival – Day 1 Notes

Posted on July 12, 2013


Similar to last year, I took notes (and pictures) throughout the keynote sessions at the International Startup Festival.  Feel free to leave questions in the comments if you are looking for more details or clarification on what I have written.

Marc Garneau

-talking about concerns about the planet especially when viewed from space

-the over-population and limitations of water/food

-biggest area for opportunity is water management systems

-suggesting that the Federal government find ways to incent others to invest in startups (angel investor tax credit or capital gains exemptions) to provide funding

-why don’t we have a proper umbrella? Sounds like an engineering challenge!

-trust is such an integral part of the crew on a space ship or the ISS. But equally true in business too.

Michael Chasen (Founder of BlackBoard)

-Check out

-the Internet is completely changing education and there is a race towards accreditation for MOOCs

-the integration of technology is changing how classes are taught

-sales work – just got one professor in a school at the start, they start using it and then adoption grows organically inside the school. Now they sell to presidents of the universities but interesting how it got started

-a new wave of massive disruption is coming because of two things:

1. MOOCs – one class to teach hundreds or thousands of students at a time. Huge leverage

2. Great content – the level of the content has improved to a way that it can be delivered across many mediums (mobile, tablets,etc)

-textbooks are going to change with a move to digital with professors getting a bigger cut and publishers losing out

-now he is building a new company called Social Radar which shows where others are and how you are connected to them (SoLoMo)

-building an app for Google Glass as a great way to understand who is around you

-barriers for startups continue to come down

-the biggest thing that stays the same is that a startup takes up all of your time. So you need to do something you are passionate about

Susan Etlinger

-why stories matter

-when it comes to business we are horrible story tellers

-the average consumer sees 3000 brand impressions every single day

-focus on relationships, not on transactions

-it is disruptive because it is really, really hard

-to do this right you need data and social info

-you also need a map for how to use social data

-you need to understand it from the customer’s point of view. Get the customer excited rather than telling people you are excited

-check out influence loop image

-people will share their feelings at each of the steps both good and bad

-you don’t control the story telling – your community does! Help facilitate the story


Ray Reddy (Founder PushLife)

-thriving in uncertainty

-thought he could remove uncertainty by raising funding or closing a customer but realized it never goes away. You need to accept it.

-bet wisely rather than gambling

-loves better on curves as a north star (for example cost of storage driving down to zero)

-however timing is harder to predict

-hard to separate product vision from the product user experience. You MUST do usability testing and watching people use your product

-friends and family aren’t enough for testing.  Do formal user testing ahead of a launch.

-it is a seriously unnecessary gamble

-if users have challenges with the product it will come out either way why would you try to get that feedback in a controlled setting *before* launch

-it is often the really little things that can make a big difference like what your buttons say, etc

-hiring and firing is a huge problem. You should always be interviewing and looking for great talent that you want to work with

-you have to get into a cadence of doing regular weekly interviews to build a funnel of qualified candidates that you can move on when available

-don’t do all of the interviewing as founders. Interviewing has to become a cultural thing where everyone in the company cares about it and not just the founders or leaders

-communication must be frequent, transparent and bidirectional

Dave McClure

-hates the terms “series A crunch” and “growth hackers”

-getting scalable customer acquisition at break even gets you to Series A (if not, you likely die)

-most startups focus on product too much and not enough on marketing.

-marketing is dramatically different than 10 years ago. You can have point targeted online spend.

-the method of customer acquisition has dramatically changed

-VCs need to invest BEFORE traction and then double down AFTER

-focus on the product activation/retention work before you focus on customer acquisition and referral

-check out Peter Sims book Little Bets

-at investment stage 2 stop building product and start doing marketing. Build channels at scale and then try to monetize to break even or profit

-show on seed or bootstrap that you can expand investment

-we are not in a bubble. There is actual customer usage and revenue

-but there are fewer VCs but more angels now

-but the world is also totally different now (see slide)

-lots of stuff still fails but it fails cheap

-way better than going to get an MBA

-wechat – fastest growing online service ever! Learn all of the icons on the right

-growth hacker has to be analytics driven AND knowledgeable about all of the different channels

Check out his slides on Slideshare

Note: Dave was one of the best speakers during the morning session (Danae below gave him a good run for the title) and it is definitely work checking out this slides).


Mike Rosenthal

-talking about music labels, their death and then quick rebirth

-moving from an object based economy (selling CDs) to an attention based economy

-create a new version of the album cycle

Danae Ringelmann (Co-Founder Indiegogo)

-talking about taking crowd funding to the next level

-do you want to live a life of meaning? To drive value in the world?

-focus on the “why?” for the problem you are solving rather than the “what”

-meaning equals finding what matters to you

-start watching when you get excited and what pisses you off

-focus on what pisses you off to your core

-do the five why’s exercise. Ask it five times in a row until you can’t answer logically so that you are now using emotion to answer

-once you figure out the why’s then you can easily find your partners since they need to align

-your why also gets your ego out of the way

-helps you clarify your values and your purpose

-I come to work at everyday because – draw on a piece of paper in six boxes and then share afterwards. Great exercise to show why the team is aligned.

-Suggested people check out the Simon Sinek TED talk about how the part of your brain that makes decision is also where your emotions live

-people join your team for why you do it not what you do

-customers buy your product because of why you do it

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