Live from the Nantucket Conference - Day 1

 I'm here at the Nantucket Confernece, a gathering of New England's best veteran entrepreneurs and investors. This year, they've also invited some young entrepreneurs to the event thanks to sponsored tickets, which we wrote about last week

While the conversations over drinks, coffee and meals are off the record, the panels are not, so follow the tweets at #ack2011 and here I'll share a few of my notes from some of the panels and fireside chats today.


Young Entrepreneur's Panel

Featuring: Matt Lauzon of Gemvara, Jeremy Levine of StarStreet Sports, Venessa Green of OnChip Power, Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR and Siamak Taghaddos of Grasshopper.

Key Takeaways -

Learn as Fast as you can: Many of the founders talked about their challenges they faced in "leveling up" as fast as they could given their initial lack of knowledge and the demands of their startups.

Mentors are Essential: Every founder except Siamak attributed much of their success to great mentors. Matt Lauzon went as far as to say, "half the people in the room today have helped me get where I am now."

Progress is the most important thing: Fundraising can often be looked at as a measure of success, but many of the panelists agreed that the most important thing is moving your startup forward every day.  

Boston vs. the Valley: Time to put it to bed! Despite the best efforts of the moderator, all the founders agreed that they would not change where they've founded their company.

Only Raise the Money You Need: Seth Priebatsch put himself on a desert island when he commented that he thinks you should raise as much money as possible as early as you can. The rest of the panelists (and others in the audience and on Twitter) all agreed it is better to be very strategic and careful with your money. As Matt Lauzon said, "Raising money puts you on the express train; there are fewer stops and in an emergency, you're screwed." 

Movies are a helpful tool in explaining startups: It started with a discussion of the Social Network as a tool to explain to Mom what a web entrepreneur does and later evolved to also talking about watching the startup dot-com bubble trainwreck known as In the end, the conclusion was that showing *both* movies is a good way to show the excitement, while tempering expectations.

The Young Entrepreneur Community is strong and helpful: Jeremy Levine and Matt Lauzon both alluded to peer groups helping them greatly in addition to traditional mentors.  This speaks well to what I've personally seen in Boston; we're all fighting similar wars and the more we collaborate, the stronger all our startups become.


IPO and Acquisition Panel

Featuring: Scott Ernst of Compete and Michael Simon of LogMeIn

It's a full time job: The process of dealing with an acquisition or an IPO will take up all of your time, so you need to make sure you have a trusted team to handle everything while you're occupied. Michael talked a lot about the challenges of dealing with the "road show" aspect of his IPO. It was very tiring for him.

Choose a banker you like working with: In the end, they apparently all can find a way to say that they're #1 or #2 in one way or another, so the best way to choose one is to find one you like dealing with. As you work towards the IPO, you'll be spending *a lot* of time with them. You might as well try to enjoy it.

Party Alignment is a never ending journey: As a public CEO, you have employees, original investors and new stakeholders that you are trying to keep in alignment and pleased. This is a never ending challenge that you'll face.

After the IPO/Acquisition, think about other ways to motivate employees: After the exit, equity really doesn't have the same incentive it had in the past. This means you need to get creative. Offering employees business travel opportunities and new challenges are great ways to keep them engaged and retained. 

Hugh Herr - Human 2.0 (AKA- Absolute Inspiration)

Hugh Herr lost his legs below the knee in a tragic accident. He loved climbing and dedicated his life now to limb research.  He showed us his prosthesis which allows him to walk with a normal gate and he even hopped on one foot. Incredible.

Your best bet is to watch these two videos to get a better idea of the amazing story:

Backstory & Keynote talk 


The afternoon I let the serendipity ride a bit and had a lot of great side conversations; Nantucket is like the MassTLC unConference on steroids!  Look out for a post from Bill Warner soon as a result of one of those such serendipitous discussions!



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