Thursday, May 15, 2014

High tech networking for a low tech guru

This week I had the opportunity to attend several events for Boulder Startup Week. I chose a few events I thought would be of interest and be relevant for the survival school or my business education in general. Here are my thoughts:

Wednesday, May 14th:

A Better Boulder through Sustainable Urbanism: This event looked interesting because Boulder is likely to be where we acquire a large portion of our students. If Boulder fails to sustain its growth and adequately plan its development in a responsible manner our potential customer base will evaporate.

The three presenters painted a very good picture of the challenges facing the Boulder community as a whole (startups can only grow so much in Downtown Boulder before they are forced to move outside the greenbelt), outlined the specific challenges of transportation infrastructure (providing adequate transportation between the two major retail areas, 29th St. Mall and Pearl St. Mall), as well as their plan for meeting these complex challenges.

Of the three events I attended on Wednesday, I thought this one was going to be the most political. I was pleasantly suprised when it turned out to be a straightforward discussion about "this is what we're doing and why".

Jane Miller Interviewed by Brad Feld: Half of the people involved with the survival school are women. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not learn at least something of what it is like to be a woman in business.

Jane Miller's new book, Sleep Your Way To The Top describes her rise to the top of several food industry companies (I haven't read the book yet, but I don't think sleeping with people was a major factor in her career progression).

Brad Feld is (among other things) a Managing Director at the Foundry Group. Yes, I'm biased, but I think Brad did a good job here. The initial focus was on the book, with Brad asking questions based on some of the chapter titles and Jane giving us (most of) the details. Some of the highlights included Jane talking about the importance of both networking and mentoring. At the end of the interview there was a Q&A portion with Jane fielding questions from the audience. Overall it was an insightful experience for me and Jane's book is now rather high on my reading list.

Boulder "Keynote": It says keynote but in reality it was two half hour free form talks with Brad Feld, Andrew Hyde, Founder and organizer of BSW, and David Cohen, Founder, Managing Partner and CEO of TechStars. 

 The first half hour David and Brad took turns talking about a wide array of subjects ranging from the early days of the Boulder startup scene to the many industries represented in the area today and the importance of open communication of ideas.

For the second half hour, Andrew took over for Brad and the conversation turned to the importance of networking and not underestimating the importance of your ideas. A large portion of the last half hour was devoted to audience Q&A.

 Thursday, May 15th:

Controversy of Diversity: Hosted by Tara Calihman, Social Media Marketing Director at VictorOps, Inc. and Julie Penner, Program Manager for Techstars Boulder. With very good presentations by Ingrid Alongi, CEO of Quick Left, and Dr. Wendy DuBow, a research scientist at NCWIT. 

I had a good time at this event while learning a bunch. The hosts and presenters all knew their stuff and I love that there are now actual workable solutions to the lack of diversity in tech jobs. I did a rough count about halfway through the event and almost half the audience were women. Now if we can all simply advocate for them, partner with them, and mentor them, it will be problem solved. The best comment I heard was "girls aren't all playing with pink barbie dolls anymore", glad to hear it!

Friday, May 16th:

Breakfast with Rep. Polis (D-CO): Ending warrantless digital surveillance: What? the government is spying on us? Hosted and (wonderful) food and beverages provided by SendGrid. P.S. The lobby will look great when it's done!

Rep. Jared Polis (-CO) briefly outlined the problem (Current law allows warrantless search and collection of electronic communications such as emails, text messages, and private messages on social networking sites six months after they are sent) and the bills currently making their way through congress designed to prevent this (should be) illegal gathering of personal information by the government. He opened it up for questions from the audience rather quickly, answering questions well past the end of the scheduled event. I was very impressed with the Congressman and his staff's subject matter knowledge. I was also impressed by his willingness to stay after the scheduled event to talk with people. Another well done event to round out BSW!

Overall I have had a very insightful and thought provoking week at BSW. Very Motivating as well! I tried to attend as many relevant events as I could, some were full before I knew about them. Hopefully someone posts video of the ones I missed. I can't wait for next year's events! With a little luck and some hard work, I hope to be ready with some summer survival classes by then!

Forgive my lack of tech savvy, after growing up in the Silicon Valley I spent 20 years in the army which ruined me. Now I get to learn it all over again. What's a tweet?