This week, I was one of 3,000 attendees (comprising mostly of professionals and students) who along with 55 featured Startup Founders, joined together with 200 venture capitalists and members of the foreign press (e.g., Central China Television, et al.) to participate, pitch, learn, or simply experience Startup Grind’s “2016 Global Conference.” This second annual conference by Derek Andersen, founder of Startup Grind, was hosted at the Fox Theater in Redwood City on February 23-24th.
Startup Grind made good use of stage time as leaders in the global business world introduced and delivered keynote speeches, offered inspirational advice to founders, and candidly responded to questions from the audience. Leaders gave the audience more than we could ask for through their intimate and often amusing micro-glimpses into their business experiences and even personal state of affairs. For example, the brilliant venture capitalist Vinod Khosla (cofounder, first chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems) surprisingly announced his personal email address to the audience with a promise to read each and every message that he’d receive. Audiences could text and send questions to be answered during each live segment via a web-based question app, or sometimes in person at the end of segments. This was a brilliant attempt to transform the linear presentation format into an interactively dynamic one.
Events also occurred on two other adjacent venues. In my opinion, you would be hard pressed to have found a couple of the presentations at other “global” startup conferences. The “VC Stage” allowed venture capitalists to start grooming the interest of potentially successful startup founders. Christine Tsai, founding partner of 500 Startups, described her firm’s success and how they get out of comfort zones and their Silicon Valley offices to go into local places to purposefully find ethnically diverse founders in which profitable investments could be made. At the “Expert Stage,” I founders who achieved various levels of success, speak of their amazing choices for organizational and personal development. Take Christopher Johnson for example who preached about faith and fear. The local Sacramento-based inventor revealed a highly interesting twist in his personal story about how he successfully won an offer from business tycoon Mark Cuban on ABC’s television show “Shark Tank.” He claimed to exercise a faith that overshadows the dreadful fear that’s recognizable to founders on grind. Oh, and do I need to mention that Johnson and his wife (whom he introduced during his presentation) just happen to be Black American, Christian entrepreneurs? Only if you think that Black lives also do matter.
For me, this event was overall well-paced and mind-blowing. I learned firsthand that the conference is designed to provide a forum for startup founders, especially those affiliated within the Startup Grind’s global network, to give first (rather than to take), to make friends (as opposed to gathering contacts), and to help others before helping yourself. I appreciated a business conference environment where I could meet various individuals. Some were open to conversing with me about everything from personal concerns to fun-filled interests, from profound business and political issues to questions that sparked healthy debates. It was during those conversations when I realized that perhaps I may have found my peoples: globally-minded business individuals who have strong ties within their respective local communities and are open to networking and mutual support. I look forward to further developing these diverse personal ties while I keep grinding away at developing my own global coaching practice.
What regional or global startup conferences will you have attended by the end of this year? What are your most anticipated moments, or the greatest take-aways that you’ll have experienced at a startup conference? Tell us your story!