Denver

Denver Startup Week 2015

Having just learned about Denver Startup Week the year before, back in 2014, I was better prepared for this one.

I attended sessions every day and worked two volunteer shifts. With all the publicity, presentations, parties, positive energy, and free food, I find it puzzling that more of my friends are not interested in this event.

Some of the Sessions

Following are a few of the sessions I attended:

Virtual Reality 101
Mark Schell, founder of Denver’s Google Development Group, gave a talk covering the basics of Virtual Reality (VR). Among many other things, described why he thinks it will be huge in the coming years.
How Denver Is Leading the Internet of Things
This was a panel discussion featuring a wide variety of members. Among other things, it was interesting, but not really surprising, to learn that the Internet of Things (IoT) has actually been around for a long time, known by the much less catchy term Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication.
How to Work Remote, Effectively
This session featured a round-table discussion of tips on how to work from home (WFH) better. A few of the topics discussed were:

  • balancing availability with the need to focus
  • being mindful about working too little or too much, and
  • the importance of wearing pants

It should come as no surprise that as time goes on, more and more tools are available to help with working like this.

The Art and Science of Finding Customers for Your Startup
One of the best sessions I went to was this one, presented by Chris Franks. The room was packed, and I and several others wound up having to sit on the floor. If you are interested in this topic, you are definitely in luck, because he has been gracious enough to put the entire presentation online. In it he goes over New Rules, Tools, Tactics, and Voodoo. The last one, “Voodoo,” is not magical by any means but simply well-informed and hard work. This included an example of how to get started by targeting ads and using A/B testing to improve their effectiveness. It was very cool to learn about some of the new tools that google and facebook make available for free, and Chris mentioned some tactics for making the best of them. It looks like he might be back next year!

If you are interested in more information, visit the Denver Startup Week FAQ.

Volunteer Shifts

I signed up to volunteer at the event and was granted two shifts, working the Job Fair on Tuesday and the Soirée on Thursday.

My job at the Job Fair was initially to greet people on their way in, and ensure they got their name tags and the handouts that were available, while they lasted. As the night wore on, there was less and less to do, so I got to visit a few booths and make some new friends.

The Soirée was quite a bit more interesting. The company hosting it, in Denver’s up-and-coming RiNo district, actually had a Bouncy House inside the office! It became my responsibility, and my job was to enforce the standard rules:

  • No shoes
  • No smoking
  • No drinks
  • No more than five people at a time
  • Thank you for your cooperation

As you might imagine, this made for a very fun and memorable evening!

Highlights

Here are a few highlights of the week:

  • There were probably more people at the kick-off breakfast than at any of the other events I attended. It marked the first time I saw Governor John Hickenlooper in person, and I believe this was the first time I saw any governor of any state give a talk. It was, for the most part, a whirlwind of speakers giving brief shout-outs and stoking the crowd for the week ahead.
  • The talk by Marcus Lemonis was well-attended and inspiring. I did not know who he was prior to this evening. You may be surprised to learn that he considers himself to be “unemployable.” Right. Seriously, I heard him say this; you had to be there to believe it. (In case you have never heard of him, he has his own prime-time TV show.)
  • A common theme running through the IoT sessions I attended was concern about security. We take the ability to easily update our phones and other computers for granted. Will it be so simple to send newly developed and essential security releases to our things?
  • In addition to volunteering at the Soirée, which offered a bunch of free booze btw, I also attended one of the parties at Denver’s Union Station on Monday night. Lots of people were having a lot of fun, but I for one had the nagging sensation that I should be doing something more productive.

There’s much more, of course, such as the personal branding sessions at MetroBoom, the Closing Party on Friday — where we volunteers were given free food — and my own personal mentoring session, which for me was the single most useful event of the entire week.

Looking Forward to the Next One!

Are you inspired, or at least intrigued? If not, I have failed to describe it accurately, because Denver Startup Week is definitely inspiring and intriguing.

Here’s to hoping I see you there next year!

Denver Startup Week 2014

I first learned about Denver Startup Week through Denver’s Google Development Group in late summer of 2014.

I went to only a few sessions in 2014, but they were enough to pique my interest to be ready for the next one,
in 2015.

Women in Tech

The first session I went to was Women in Tech, led by Ingrid Alongi and Wendy DuBow.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

As Science-turned-Math major in undergraduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), I could not help but notice that there were very few women in the Math and Science classes I took — with the exception being Biology. Taking some art classes several years later, I noticed that those classes were biased the other way, having mostly women and very few men in them.

Because I was still very young, this seemed to be just “the way things are.”

Flash forward to Denver Startup Week in 2014, and I finally learned that just because this is “the way things are” does not mean that everyone likes “things” this way, or that it is the best way for “things” to be, or that “things” need to stay this way. So this session was extremely enlightening, to say the least, and it made a lasting impression!

One could fill a book with details about these “things.” Rather than expand on how change is finally happening, I will just offer this link to a site I learned about at the end of Wendy DuBow’s talk, NCW&IT.

You might also consider attending similar sessions at the next Denver Startup Week. I anticipate they will have similar sessions, because it is obvious that this sort of gender bias is definitely a “thing.”

This year I also attended sessions on Building Teams and Pushing Back.

Building Teams

The Building Teams session was a round-table discussion, with participants from Send Grid, Solid Fire, and Photo Bucket, and a few other companies that did not make it into my notes. The topics discussed by members of the panel included:

What was your biggest mistake?

Interestingly, hiring the wrong person and waiting too long to hire someone can both be wrong moves.
What is a Startup?
Although tech companies get a lot of attention, Denver Startup Week is about all types of startups. The intent is for it to appeal not only to technology companies but also to restaurant owners, landscapers, and anyone else interested in going their own way.
How to maintain a Corporate Culture?
One recommendation is to embrace qualities that can scale, and that will still be relevant as the company grows. And one caveat is that a single person can ruin the entire culture, so it is important to listen to employees.

Pushing Back

The last session I went to was about Pushing Back. Here we learned that startups go through the following phases:

  1. Idea
  2. Launch
  3. Validation
  4. Growth
  5. Transition

Pushing Back is most relevant to the Validation and Growth phases.

The take-aways from this session include the need to listen to customers, perhaps by watching them as they use a new app. Relying on experimentation, and being aware of and not trusting your assumptions and biases, is also extremely important.

When a problem surfaces, one technique for finding the root cause is to use a technique known as the “Five Whys.” This may seem a bit childish, but it is effective.

It looks like this:

  1. Why?
  2. Why?
  3. Why?
  4. Why?
  5. Why?

Sure it may be difficult to do this, but I guess that’s why it’s called “Pushing Back.”

Next time you have a problem, try solving it using this technique see here. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Sign Up Already!

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to the Denver Startup Week Website and sign up for the next one.

It’s totally free and I guarantee there is enough variety for it to offer something for everyone!