Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas Entrepreneurship’

Startup Weekend Las Vegas Thoughts

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

As I posted a couple months ago, I was part of the organizing committee that brought the Startup Weekend event to Las Vegas. By all accounts, it was a huge success. The sold out event was completely packed and full of great startup energy. It makes me wonder how many more people would have come if we hadn’t sold out.

We even got a ton of great media coverage over the course of the weekend. The RJ did a great article on Startup Weekend Las Vegas before the event and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, talked about it on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face (which I embedded below).

Then, during and after the event we had news coverage from the RJ, ABC Channel 13, Fox, CBS Channel 8, and I’m sure I missed some others. It was really great to have all this coverage of tech startups in Las Vegas.

However, more important than all that coverage was the buzz that happened within the tech and startup community in Las Vegas. The connections that happened thanks to Startup Weekend is what I really wanted to have happen because of Startup Weekend. I wanted startup companies and internet startup minded people to have a chance to meet and come together. That happened in spades during startup weekend.

Whether any of the ideas that were started this weekend at Startup Weekend will continue after the event really doesn’t matter to me. What I do know is that many of the relationships and connections that were made at the event will endure for many many years to come. This is why I call Startup Weekend a raging success.

I was also really excited by the caliber of judges that we had on the Startup Weekend judging panel. I think it was best summarized by a tweet from @JonMumm:

No doubt, it was an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs in Las Vegas to be able to present and interact with the likes of Tony Hsieh, Kevin Rose, Tom Anderson, Josh Reich, and Ryan Carson. Not bad to have founders and investors from a number of billion dollar companies on the judging panel.

I think the weekend is nicely summed up in a quote of mine the RJ published:

“We learned that Las Vegas has enough tech companies to actually have a tech scene, but none of us knew about each other,” said John Lynn owner of Crashutah.com, a website creation and marketing business in Las Vegas. “This event was the start of bringing those companies together so Las Vegas can begin to build its tech scene.”

Certainly this was the start of something and not the end. The question is, Where will we take it from here?

There’s no one individual that’s going to make it happen. Instead it’s going to take a little bit of effort from a whole lot of people to continue to grow the Las Vegas startup community. I’m committed to continue doing my part to grow the community. I hope everyone will do the same.

I love the quote that says, “Many hands make light work.” That’s definitely applicable to growing the tech startup community in Las Vegas. Let’s all help grow the community.

Fall Back Las Vegas Startup Companies

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I know I’m kind of crazy to admit it, but one of my hobbies is to read venture capitalist and startup entrepreneur blogs. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to go after VC money for a startup company of my own. I haven’t needed to do so yet, but maybe one day. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy it as a hobby.

As I mentioned in my last update, I’ve been doing what I can to help grow the internet startup eco-system in Las Vegas. As I continue to meet more Las Vegas entrepreneurs, I see all sorts of challenges and issues related to the Las Vegas startup eco-system. One of those issues is having more Fall Back Las Vegas Startup Companies.

This is one of the powerful features of a city with a strong startup environment. The numbers are against every startup company. If I remember right, it’s something like 9 of every 10 startup companies fails (and that might be being generous). That means the majority of new companies that are created are going to fail. We need more Las Vegas startup companies so that if and when a startup company fails the founders and employees of those companies know they have other companies they can go and work for.

One beauty of silicon valley and other startup hubs is that the culture accepts companies failing and there are other opportunities if and when it does fail. Certainly even in silicon valley they aren’t happy when the company they’re working for fails. However, at least when it does happen, they have a lot of other companies that will hire them. They don’t have to go start parking cars to pay the bills, but can move on to another startup company. Rinse and repeat.

Ok, I may be oversimplifying it a little bit, but the ability of a city to absorb talented people who worked for a startup company that’s failed is something I’d love to see happen in Las Vegas.

Creating a list of Las Vegas startup companies like we’ve started to do is the first step. Events like Startup Weekend Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Jellies are another step. Little by little, we’ll get there. The strip wasn’t built in a night. A Las Vegas startup eco-system won’t be either.

Startup Weekend Comes to Las Vegas

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I’m really excited to tell you about Startup Weekend finally coming to Las Vegas. I’ve wanted to participate in Startup Weekend for quite a while. In fact, I was friends with one of the first people involved in Startup Weekend and I can’t say I wasn’t a little bit envious of him being part of it. Well, now it’s coming to Las Vegas.

If you don’t know what Startup Weekend is, it’s an intense 54 hour weekend of working on some cool project. You start with an idea and finish with a launched product. The basis for a potential business. Plus, we’ve already landed Zappos as a Startup Weekend Las Vegas sponsor and Kevin Rose (of Digg fame) as a judge. Plus, more announcements on the way.

Registration for Startup Weekend Las Vegas is open and only $75 for the Early Bird registration through May 25, 2011. It’s going to be a fun weekend, so go register now.

Ok, if you’re still not convinced, here’s the rest of the details about how the event works and a great video which captures the essence of Startup Weekend quite well.

| About SW |
Startup Weekend is a 501(c)3 non-profit that brings together the entrepreneurial, web development and design communities for one weekend with one goal: Going from idea to launch! Here’s a quick video of the recent events in Philly: watch. I believe it captures the essence of the Startup Weekend, a launchpad that we’re truly excited to bring to Vegas!

The weekend is easily broken down into PitchBuildPresentFriday is pitch night when anyone with an idea gets one minute to pitch to the crowd. The crowd votes on the top 8-10 ideas and we start to form teams and build. We build all day Saturday until around 4:00 on Sunday (with some awesome meals mixed in). Finally, Sunday is launch day where teams will have the opportunity to present their ideas to investors, industry leaders. A few awesome ideas and their entrepreneurs have even gone on to receive funding.

| Judges | Sunday (6/26) – 5 PM – 8:30 PM
There are so many ideas that come out of Startup Weekends. Some of them are wacky and a lot set out to rule the world. Judges are encouraged to give valuable advice/feedback in addition to just asking questions. We have a list of 5 basic criteria for the winners circle:
1. Execution (what teams have actually accomplished over the weekend; i.e. deliverable)
2. Presentation (self-explanatory)
3. Viability (financially speaking)
4. Innovation (is the concept unique? disruptive?)
5. Breakthrough Potential (maybe it’s popular among first adopters, but can it be scaled to a larger market?)

| Speakers |
Friday (6/24) 7PM – 7:45PM
We’re going to have two speakers and a local startup do a demo before we begin pitching. Speakers will have 10 minutes of full on attention to speak on topics like: bootstrapping vs. raising funds, the local investment ecosystem and team dynamics and the importance of picking the right people and communicating effectively. The audience will then have 5 minutes of Q&A. Slides are ok but not required.

| Mentors |
Generally speaking, mentors spend about two hours on Saturday and/or Sunday meeting with teams or individuals. We plan on having some awesome ideas launched in Vegas, so we understand if you want to stay longer.

Saturday – 10AM to 6 PM and/or
Sunday – 10AM to 5PM

| Help Spread the word |
– Checkout startupweekend.org and lasvegas.startupweekend.org
– Follow us: @SWVegas
– Send anyone you feel would be interested in attending, sponsoring or judging our way at:lasvegas@startupweekend.org.

Friday:
6:00pm – Registration starts (pizza served)
7:00pm – Kickoff & Speakers
7:30pm – Pitches Begin – (60 seconds per person)
9:00pm – Attendees vote for the top ideas
9:15pm – Teams start forming and discussing ideas
10:00pm – 1:00am – Teams begin to work

[Recharge on Fremont E]

[Yoga]
Saturday:
9:00am – Doors open. Breakfast & coffee
9:30am – Teams continue working. Mentors arrive and begin working with teams.
12:00pm – Lunch
6:30pm – Dinner
7:30pm – Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
12:00 midnight – Finished for the day. Stay and work as late as the venue will allow.

[Recharge on Fremont E]

[Yoga]
Sunday:
9:00am – Doors open. Breakfast & coffee
11:00pm – Lunch
12:30pm – Mentors arrive…
3:00pm – Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
4:00pm – Dinner
5:00pm – FINAL PRESENTATIONS
7:30pm – Judging & awards
8:30pm – Wrap-up
9:00pm – Wrap Party

Slow and Steady vs Boom and Bust Entrepeneurship

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Seems like Friday’s are when I get my biggest inspiration for posting on this site. I guess that Friday evening is the time that I don’t want to do other work and so I take a little bit of time to think and meditate on things. I think that actually works out quite well.

Tonight I’m thinking about how so many people out there can’t see the long term vision of slow and steady growth. Instead they want to go all out and either crash and burn or hit it big. I’m not saying that the second option is not a good option. In fact, there are hundreds and thousands of amazing businesses that have been built by that approach. I just don’t think I have the stomach for that approach.

Many people might immediately react that well then I must not be an entrepreneur. How could someone as risk averse as I really be an entrepreneur? Let alone an entrepreneur that is going to be successful. They likely then continue to say that my competitors are going to eat me alive. They’ll likely suggest that you have to go fast to stay ahead of the competition. Then, they start to equate “fast” to working long hours at the office, not having a life making the startup company your life, and all the other highly fantasized parts of building a startup company.

Luckily, I’m not alone in this belief. It just seems that very few people are willing to talk about it in public. The notion that you have to give your life to a company to be successful in business, while glamorous in a story about a company, also misses out on some of the best parts of life. I think that the guys behind 37 Signals cover this quite well in their book Rework. It’s quite possibly the best $13 gift my wife’s given me. Not only is it a quick read, but it covers the type of entrepreneurship that I enjoy doing. It exposes all the myths that exist and gives people like me freedom to believe in another path to fulfill my entrepreneurial itch.

That path to me is paved in the principle of slow and steady persistence. It’s lined with working smarter, not harder. It’s foundation requires the passion of the entrepreneur.

I won’t cover all the reasons why I think passion is essential, but imagine it this way. The frenetic boom or bust method of entrepreneurship doesn’t require the same level of passion. You’re moving so quickly that you have no choice. There’s always a zillion things to do and you never know which way is up. It’s fun, exciting and you’re hitting all sorts of interesting milestones all the time. They may not have been effective or efficient, but they were exciting and it’s easy to be passionate about exciting things.

Instead, the slow and steady method of entrepreneurship requires passion to keep going even when the progress you’re making is hard to quantify and hard to see. It requires a certain amount of faith and determination that as long as you persistently do a little bit more each day that the persistent hammering away will be rewarded in the long term. That doesn’t sound fun to most people. That’s why passion matters. When you’re working on something you’re really passionate about, you don’t need the outside acknowledgement that what you’re doing is cool. You’re doing it because you love it and you’d likely do it even if there wasn’t the gold at the end of the rainbow.

In fact, your passion for what you’re doing is so great, that it’s hard for you to even classify it as work because you enjoy doing it so much.

Compare that principle with the warp speed entrepreneurship that takes a big round of investment and wants to grow the company quickly to reach the day of harvest when they sell the company to someone else. I’m not saying this approach is bad or evil. It’s not.

It’s just unfortunate that this boom or bust mentality in entrepreneurship actually discourages so many would be entrepreneurs from pursuing their dreams. Persistent passion can often take you a lot farther than money. However, it takes remembering the long term perspective of the business. Many people might not enjoy the long slow ride that takes you to amazing heights. Although, I think many more would if we helped them understand principles of slow and steady entrepreneurship.

Silicon Las Vegas

Friday, March 11th, 2011

I had this little link stored away in my draft posts. It’s an article about a man named Michael Tchong who sees Las Vegas as a future Silicon Valley. The article is a nice read and does a good job talking about the challenges of internet startups in Las Vegas. However, I agree that there’s some real potential here in Las Vegas for entrepreneurship and specifically internet startups.

I did a little more digging and found Michael Tchong’s website called ubercool (nice name). He also has a twitter account by the same name and it even lists Las Vegas, NV as it’s location. So, I guess he does live in Las Vegas according to Twitter. Although, if you look at his speaking schedule on his website, it looks like he travels a whole lot. He does seem to have a pretty interesting background and so I hope that one day I get to meet him.

It’s fun to think about Silicon Las Vegas. There are some tremendous upsides to living in Las Vegas versus Silicon Valley. Not the least of which is the now very inexpensive housing. Of course, there are some challenges as well. This quote from the article linked at the top is one of the largest ones:

Information technology and Web publishing employees comprise less than 1 percent of our workforce, according to the Center for Business and Economic Research at UNLV, meaning Las Vegas isn’t exactly a tech hotbed.

Of course, the fact that UNLV categorizes them as information technology and web publishing (who uses that term?) should say something about the area as well. There’s so little activity they don’t even know how to categorize it.

However, the article is right that Las Vegas could use a few more Zappos like companies to make their home here. While the jobs from those companies would be good. There’s even a greater value of having technology companies like Google and Yahoo located in a city, because many of their employees will end up quiting and starting their own companies. Or they will leave the large tech companies and provide the future work force for the smaller internet startups.

If I were in Las Vegas politics, I’d be working to bring some of those large tech companies to Las Vegas. It would be worth the cost.

The Value of Living Modestly

Monday, December 27th, 2010

I’m really glad that somehow I learned very early on in my life to live modestly. I think it’s a principle that has eternal value and many people underestimate its power. I honestly wouldn’t be able to be living the dream and being an entrepreneur in Las Vegas if it weren’t for this principle.

However, I think one of the best features of modesty is the perspective it gives you. When you live a modest lifestyle, then your “splurges” still only amount to what people think are normal. However, from your perspective they’re absolutely fantastic and appreciated. For example, Christmas can be 10 times sweeter at half the cost just by living modestly the rest of the year.

Some of these same principles apply to business. In business it is called boot strapping it or a lean startup or getting by with what’s needed. I’m sure that some times I take them too far. However, I think that generally these principles are great business. At least when you’re building web applications.

There’s something incredibly valuable to a web application to be given constraints on what you can and can’t do. These constraints force you to narrowly focus on what’s most important. It means you have to be completely focused on a specific goal and nail it. There’s not room for fluff and extras which don’t add value.

Living modestly in a startup means you have a longer run way to test out ideas and improve those ideas based on customer feedback. Obviously, once you start seeing traction and you’ve been able to refine your customer acquisition model, then you can apply the gas. However, until then keeping your burn rate low (living modestly) means that you’ll still have enough gas to get to the next gas station.

Although, don’t underestimate the long term value of a company whose DNA is living modestly either.

Internet Entrepreneurship in Las Vegas

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I first moved to Las Vegas a little over 5 years ago. I’d heard good things about living in Las Vegas and to be honest I moved here to be close to family. Luckily family has moved away and so it’s just my wife and our family again and we like it that way. Although, that’s a topic of another blog post.

I must admit that I didn’t move to Las Vegas because I was an internet entrepreneur and Las Vegas is the perfect place to be an entrepreneur. Obviously, if i wanted to do that I would have just moved to Silicon Valley. Although, I’m not a fan of that area, so I’d probably move to the next best thing: Boston (and yes, I know there are a few other decent places as well). In fact, a couple years back I was really close to picking up my family and moving to Boston with a contest called YouBeTheVC to be a full time internet entrepreneur working the forever long hours in a very expensive place and wondering how exactly I was going to feed my family.

To be honest, it actually sounded really exciting to me. I’ve been to Boston a few times and LOVED it there. I hate the cost of everything, but I would have loved to be in that are and be part of what seems to be a much larger internet startup scene. Well, I didn’t win the contest (Thankfully since it turned out to be kind of a sham) and so I stayed in Las Vegas. Long story short, I kept building my blogs and learning about internet startup companies while I was in Las Vegas (you can see my full blog story at Word Camp Las Vegas in a couple weeks).

Now I’m working full time on the idea I was planning to build in Boston, Giving Sports Fundraising. However, I’m not in Boston, I’m in Las Vegas.

In the 5 years I’ve lived in Las Vegas, I’ve done quite a bit of networking. Let’s just say that I haven’t had many chances to associate with other internet entrepreneurs. I started thinking about this when I read Brad Feld’s blog post about creating a startup community in Boulder. It was cool to hear him talk about what’s happened in Boulder with internet startup companies. I wish that the same thing would happen in Las Vegas.

I’ve actually met quite a few entrepreneurs here in Las Vegas. Just not that many internet entrepreneurs. I wonder what could be done to change that. Especially since I really don’t have any immediate plans to leave Las Vegas. I never thought I’d admit it, but honestly my family and I are quite happy right here.

My Own TechStars or Ycombinator Like Summer

Friday, August 13th, 2010

I was recently watching some of the videos that they created for the end of TechStars Boulder that were posted on Brad Feld’s blog. As I watched the various founders on the videos, I came to an interesting realization. My summer had been very similar to there summer. I basically created my own little TechStars summer and built a company just like them.

I started out on April 1st when I quit my day job to work on Giving Sports and Giving Square full time. It was a big move for me, but very exciting. Similar to TechStars or Ycombinator, my goal was to relatively quickly (months) create a website and launch it. August 3rd I officially launched Giving Sports achieving that part of the goal. Woot!

Now I’m just entering the second stage of the process where I start building up the customer base and iterating the product over and over. It’s very exciting as I’m just finalizing the details with a number of organizations that plan to use the websites and I’m talking with a dozen more organizations.

Of course, my experience in some ways was quite different than those at TechStars. First, I didn’t have all the mentor ship that they received in the program. However, in some respects I feel like I have some of the same mentors. The blogs (Fred Wilson, Brad Feld and Mark Suster are some favorites), websites, videos, etc that are out there on internet startup companies are tremendous. Twitter and my Feed Reader have been pretty amazing mentors for me.

No doubt I didn’t have the same type of exposure that they have had. Nor did I want some of the exposure they get for my product. While I’d love exposure to the tech crowd, those aren’t my customers. So, it would be little more than stroking my ego to get coverage from the various tech outlets that cover internet startups.

I also haven’t paraded in front of investors for my website either. I’ve certainly built a number of relationships with investors this summer, but there’s something beautiful about bootstrapping the startup. As I grow I may change my mind on this, but for now bootstrapping is beautiful.

I guess I’m just struck by the power of the internet. First, to be able to build a product (website) in such a short period of time. Second, how it provides amazing access to resources that were never available before. Third, that some little guy like myself in Las Vegas could create his own summer TechStars/Ycombinator experience is just awesome!

Now it’s time to make sure I get the same type of results out of my company as those companies have achieved.