Social Marketing Rockstar Tour
Aug 21 2012

Today I attended the Marketo Social Marketing Rockstar Tour event in Austin for my company, Bulldog Solutions.  Marketo sells one of the leading marketing automation platforms that helps companies manage their marketing efforts and evaluate how qualified their leads are before they hit the sales pipeline.  It looks like they still have London and Sydney left on their tour.  It was really well attended…a packed room with 95% women attendees.  I was surprised because pretty much all of the conferences/summits I’ve attended since my career began have had 60 to 95% male attendees, unless it was a women’s conference.  That observation gelled for me the fact that I’m now working for a company that caters to the marketing industry, a field with a high percentage of women in key positions.

During the event, they focused quite a bit on the metrics related to measuring success when using social media to drive leads into your pipeline.  My accounting background made me wonder why measurement has not been a key focus until recently and my creative side said “Wow, this is really a perfect opportunity blend for my operations/numeric skills and my interest in the B2B/relationship selling experience.”  Even better was the fact that their company/logo color is purple, which is my favorite color, so I was happy to get a bunch of purple SWAG (sun glasses, speakers, cookies, water bags, etc.).

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SxSW Interactive Wrap-Up and Why Most Startups are DOA
Mar 18 2012

My 2012 SXSW Interactive experience this past week was very low key.  No badge.  A few days.  A few parties.  All productive.  Great networking for my consulting business where I’m focusing on operations and partner/client management projects.  I was home by a reasonable hour every evening.

I’ve had dozens of meetings scheduled since then, met people I haven’t seen in a while, and I’m helping organize a reunion for the B2C (business-to-consumer) and Web CEO groups I was a part of when I was working on Babble Soft.  Many of us are in transition times like I am, which is par for the proverbial entrepreneurial course.  I really enjoy networking and connecting people to each other.  I even made some almost random connections for the very cool 1 Semester Startup team I’m mentoring called beDJ.  If only I could charge big bucks to do that. :-)

I have seen so many start up companies with big dreams of launching at SXSW interactive.  Most of them make a big splash and then you don’t hear from them again.  I thought this post on TechCrunch the other day was very well timed: Why Entrepreneurs Fail And Most Startups Are DOA.  Entrepreneurship (especially in technology) is not for the feint of heart.  It’s mostly for the insane, stupid, independently wealthy, ones with extremely supportive spouses/pets/friends, ones who are calculated risk takers who can rebound quickly from mistakes and failure.

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It’s Over – SXSW Interactive Day 5
Mar 15 2011

Today was the last day and apparently this was the highest attended SXSW Interactive ever with 19,364 attendees up from 14,251 last year.  I made it for Reid Hoffman‘s keynote.  Reid is the founder of LinkedIn.  He had a lot to say and I wish he a few slides for us to look at because it was hard to keep up, but here are my notes.  I missed the first two “rules for entrepreneurs,” but here they are:

1. Zoned out, was checking email or twitter. UPDATE from Jeffrey in comments below: Pay attention to your customers.

2. Zoned out, was checking email or twitter. UPDATE from Jeffrey in comments below: Stay focused.

3. Aim big. It’s the same effort to do a small businesses as it is a big business so it’s better to try to change the world.

4. Plan for good luck.

5. Maintain flexible persistence.

6. Launch early enough that you are embarrassed by your 1.0 product release.

7. Always keep your aspirations and aim high but dont drink your own kool-aid.

8. Having great product important but good distribution more important.

9. Pay attention to the culture and how you hire from the beginning.

10. These rules are not laws of nature. You can break them.

Then I headed to the Austin Technology Incubator’s Entrepreneur’s Lounge for some networking and then to the Game Salad (an ATI company that is doing very well) party, which I left a bit early from.  I’m too old for loud music and late nights.  And so concludes another SXSW Interactive, but wait, I still have one more post to do about SWAG that I’ll hopefully have time to write later.

Good bye tens of thousands of out of town visitors.  We love having you here each year, but we don’t want you to all move here and clog up our roads anymore than they are! :-)

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Going With The Flow – SXSW Interactive Days 3 and 4
Mar 14 2011

Following up on my Day 1 and 2 post on SXSW Interactive, I continued days 3 and 4 following my zen-like strategy.  On Day 3 (Sunday), I went to the Girl + Guy party hosted by Guy Kawasaki (well known in the tech start-up world and a big supporter of women entrepreneurs) and companies like Culture Map.  Last year, I got a picture with Guy at the party they hosted at Allen Boots which I think was why I was wearing a pink cowboy hat.  Afterwards, I went to eat Indian food with some new friends that I met at the party and one of them emailed me the picture of her friend wearing the t-shirt that I put in this post because it’s pretty funny.

Today, I caught a panel led by my friend Thom Singer called You Can Impact Charity Without Being Rich.  Eugene Sepulveda (also a friend), who runs the Entrepreneur’s Foundation of Central Texas (where our company’s at ATI donate a portion of their equity) was on the panel.  I caught most of the keynote with Felica Day, a former World of Warcraft gamer who created an online TV series called The Guild, and although I had no idea who she was before I walked into the room, I was impressed with her youth and energy.

I walked the Trade Show (a whole separate blog post to come about that experience) before going to a panel run by another friend, Enrique Ortiz, on mobile development and applications.  He had the founder of Rovio Mobile, which makes Angry Birds on the panel.  My kids love playing Angry Birds so I asked him if he had a couple of those stuffed animals he could give away.  He didn’t have the big ones, but he gave me two small ones.  He was also giving away t-shirts that said “Chillin’ Like A Villian” with a St. Patrick’s Day theme.  My kids thought I was awesome for a few short moments.  He said they have surpassed $100 million in revenue, Angry Birds was the 52nd game they made, and it had 1.2 billion hours of played time last year.  Amazing!

Then it was off to the ATI co-hosted Entrepreneur’s Lounge to network with a bunch of folks and I got a Fandor (facebook fan page) video/flip book done with one of my co-workers that is supposed to be uploaded to their facebook fan page sometime tomorrow.  Then a few of us headed over to the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB)/NEA party which was pretty rockin’.  The CEO of Groupon was there playing the keyboards for one song that apparently had to do with some lost bet.  I’m not sure who the singer was, but it wasn’t his best voice night.

Overall, this year’s SXSW has been pretty low-key for me.  I think I tweeted (@aruni) more these past few days than I have all of last year.  I’ve been home by 10:30 pm each night despite the lure to stay at the parties longer and go to yet another party afterward.

One more day to go…

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My Calves Hurt But My Toes Are Fine – SXSW Interactive Days 1 and 2
Mar 12 2011

The second day of SXSW Interactive is still going on in downtown Austin.  I called it a night early since I’m too old for this stuff it’s become too mainstream and there are too many people.  I’m not a big crowd person, which is one of the reasons I have no real interest in going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans…I like a little bit of personal space.  As I mentioned in my first post about the conference, I was approaching this one in a zen-like, floating manner and so far I’m succeeding and my stress level and need to stay late at events has been very much reduced.

Yesterday, I made it to the keynote by Marissa Mayer, vice president of consumer products at Google.  As some of the panels/keynotes at SXSW Interactive are, her talk was pretty much a big commercial for Google.  They are focusing on location based services and maps.  I love Google Maps.  I don’t know how I lived without it since I’m directionally challenged and having a map on my iPhone telling me where to go, despite it being wrong about 10% of the time, has saved me much angst.  I have since transferred that angst to other things in my life, but still.

I then went to the Entrepreneur’s Lounge, co-hosted by the Austin Technology Incubator, where I work, (awesome new website alert!! - designed by Clutch Creative) and connected with people I hadn’t seen in a while and met some new people.  After that I went to Ignite Austin, but didn’t stay long because it was very loud so my friend Karen Banteverus who founded VolunteerSpot and I went next door to a restaurant to have hot tea and tortilla soup and catch up.  I did see Michael Dell and his brother Adam who were sitting a couple rows ahead of me at Ignite Austin.  I had met Adam for lunch with a couple of my co-workers before, but had never seen Michael that up close and personal before.  Then I went home.

I checked out the Blogger’s Lounge (sponsored by Samsung) yesterday and today and was surprised at how few people I knew there.  In just a few short years, the people I know/knew either aren’t here or aren’t at the Blogger’s Lounge.  Things and people move on fast in Internet time.

Today, I saw the keynote by Seth Priebatsch, chief Ninja at SCVNGR.  He’s something like 21 years old and dropped out of Princeton after his first year.  I was really impressed with his talk and how he delivered it especially given his age.  I think he’s someone to watch who will be doing some game changing things in the future.  It made me wish I was 21 again and knew what I knew now…how differently I would approach life and business.  He basically spoke about ways to apply a gaming layer to the world.  In other words, applying game theory to solving some of our biggest problems.  It’s not the first time to hear someone talk about this, but he presented it in a unique way.  The room was completely full and there were several overfill rooms where his talk was being simulcast.

Then I headed to the Entrepreneur’s Lounge again this evening and then to the uShip party at their new offices on 3rd and Brazos (sweet!).  I know the uShip founders from activities around the UT Austin business school and the CEO/Founder and I used to be in a Business to Consumer (B2C) group when I was running Babble Soft.  After that party, I realized my calves were killing me from all the walking around downtown in my Skechers, but my toes/feet were fine because I wasn’t wearing heels!  So I headed home to write this blog post and to see if there was a new episode of Grey’s Anatomy this past week that I could watch.

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SXSW Interactive – 2011
Mar 11 2011

It’s that time of year again.  The time in Austin, Texas where South by Southwest and Spring Break combine.  Thousands of people descend on Austin for SXSW Interactive, Film, & Music.  I think the attendees for Interactive surpassed that for music last year.

I’m approaching the experience in a more zen like fashion this year and seeing where the tides pull me.  I know I’ll be at the Entrepreneur’s Lounge, co-hosted by The Austin Technology Incubator (where I work) a few times this week and a few other events including Ignite Austin this evening thanks to the Entrepreneur’s Foundation of Central Texas.  I plan to attend some panels and meet up with people I haven’t seen since last year.

Some of you may remember that I coordinated a panel a couple of years ago called Building A Web Business After Hours.  My advice is don’t do it unless you have a clear path to get out of your day job, don’t have young kids, and aren’t going through personal turmoil.  So this year I’m going to float and see what happens.  I haven’t even uploaded my picture online for my badge so I’ll get an on site picture if I can find parking this afternoon.

Thankfully, the weather is gorgeous with high’s in the upper 70′s predicted for most of the week.  I hope to see some of you (my readers) during my floating around…

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SXSW Interactive Days 4 and 5
Mar 16 2010

Just to round out the series of posts on SXSW Interactive, I feel I must finish this one.  I’m not particularly motivated to do so, but here’s a recap.  On Day 4, I showed up and checked out one of the Accelerator panels where companies were pitching in the personal social media category.  One was about sharing your favorite foods on the iPhone and another one was about getting opinions on what you were wearing before you went to a big event by sending people pictures of what you were wearing.  Both were interesting, but I couldn’t really see how they would scale and make significant amounts of money.

Then I went with my friend Cindy Lo who runs Red Velvet Events to a keynote speech by Gary Vaynerchuck who hosts Wine Library TV.  He was mighty entertaining and dropped the f-bomb several times.  He wrote a book called Crush It that he mentioned a lot and was overall very motivating.  Then Cindy and I went to go hear the keynote of Umair Haque of Havas Media Lab, who I think also wrote for Harvard Business Review, interviewing twitter founder Evan Williams.  About 10 minutes into the interview, I was bored to tears because Umair was so low energy and the questions he was asking were so dry.  I was wishing that Gary was interviewing Evan instead.  We left.  Because I had a headache and had to go pick up my kids from a friend of mine’s house who was so wonderful to watch them because they are off from Spring Break, I left the conference all together.  For some reason, the fact that there were seemingly thousands of people watching this unenlightening talk, made me feel kind of sick and I couldn’t stomach being there.

I sometimes get overwhelmed in crowds of people and the sensory overload of colors, sounds, and desperate people seeking meaning and attention in this world gets to me.  I couldn’t deal so I left. I decided not to go back on Day 5 (today) and instead go back to work where the desperation is slightly easier to handle. :-)  Then I had dinner with some great long time friends who were visiting from Dallas at another one of our friend’s houses in Austin.  I had a wonderful home cooked Indian vegetarian food while catching up with friends who accept me for who I am…even if I don’t really know who I am at the moment.

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SXSW Interactive Days 2 and 3
Mar 14 2010

Although I didn’t get in too late last night, I figured I’d wait until today and do a post about both days.  For those who know me, I’m usually all about ‘the plan.’  I like to have a plan, know the plan, and resonate with the plan.  Not having a plan heightens my anxiety level above its usual anxious state.  But for SXSW Interactive, I had no real plan other than to show up and see what happens and that’s what I’ve been doing.  To every rule there is an exception and that exception was attending Austin Technology Incubator‘s Entrepreneurial Lounge the last three evenings.  And quite honestly, that event has evolved into the ‘place to be’ for entrepreneurs at SXSW Interactive!  Bart Bohn did a post about the Entrepreneurs Lounge for the ATI blog at  Entrepreneur’s Lounge at SXSW Interactive – March 13, 2010.

I attended a Porter-Novelli (PR firm) event, crashed a Women in Tech Digitini event at the top of the tallest building in Austin, and attended a couple of parties but didn’t stay too late.  I hung out at the blogger’s lounge sponsored by Microsoft with the irony being that 80% of the people in there had iPhones.  At the blogger’s lounge there was a woman giving out free jewelry and she gave me a nice turquoise bracelet from Charming Charlie (there’s a location in Austin’s Domain) that matched the shirt I was wearing.  I’m just not a late night bar hopper kind of person.  Now if there was dancing involved, I’d be more interested.  One party sponsored by Microsoft/TechSet had two women dancing in what looked like black/red lingerie near a guy who was playing the guitar.  Just goes to show you how male dominated the tech industry still is.

Today, I went into a SXSW Film panel where Jeffrey Tambor was giving an acting class.  He and two amateur actors were on stage with him.  He was coaching them through a scene where this man and woman were broken up but the man wanted her to pretend they were still together while they had dinner with his brother.  She refused and he was supposed to try to get her to do it.  It was a marked difference between how they first did the scene and how he pulled out the emotion in them to show the scene in a different more touching way.  The actress, in my opinion, was much better than the actor.  The actor wasn’t convincing when he tried to get her to pretend to stay together.  It was like he was trying to get her to do something more out of fear rather than love and because of that the actress reacted accordingly.  He was so non-believable, no woman would have been convinced by him.  It’s obvious he didn’t feel it.  Jeffrey tried to get him to be more playful to pull out the residual love the actress still felt.  It was a fascinating workshop because I could see how you could apply his same techniques to people management/coaching.

The weather has been gorgeous here.  California weather.  Tonight was especially nice.  I thought briefly about staying out longer but as I was walking back to my car from the convention center, I breathed deep and was glad I was going home to see my kids, do some laundry, have some quiet time to finish writing this post, maybe watch Grey’s Anatomy, and then go to bed.

Only two more days left…

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SXSW Interactive Day 1
Mar 12 2010

Another early night.  Maybe I’m just getting too old for these conferences or maybe I’m just wearing the wrong shoes.  Tomorrow, I’m wearing Skechers and will just have to not plan on going dancing anywhere!  Today was a pretty good day.  I had some meetings in the morning and then went back to the Austin Convention Center.  I went straight to the blogger’s lounge and saw some people I hadn’t seen since last year.  I thought about listing their names, but I’m too tired or is that lazy to list their names and link to them.  Needless to say, the hugs and hellos were nice.  I didn’t see any panels that were that interesting to me so I spent most of my time catching up with people and networking.

I always find it interesting going to SXSW because you see all sorts of people.  The world I live and work in, everyone is pretty prim and proper with conservative clothing.  At SXSW you see tattoos, piercings, and unusual clothing.  It’s a fascinating reminder of the world outside of business and high tech…everyone is living their own lives according to their different standards and we all live on the same planet and all attend the same conference for different reasons.

Walking around the convention center, I also ran into several Austin people I know but haven’t seen for a while.  The Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) co-hosted Entrepreneur’s Lounge at the roof top of Fogo de Chao and as I mentioned on my Day 0 post, the caipirinha’s, cheese bread (probably had about 6 of them) and meat were great.  The networking was awesome although I didn’t recognize about 80% of the people there.

After that we headed to a Microsoft event at Speakeasy and it was crowded.  I couldn’t find the guy I was trying to find, but I did run into a guy from Dell who I was trying to get to come speak at one of our Lunch & Learn’s at ATI so that was good.  Then I felt like it was just too crowded and my feet hurt so I figured I’d call it a day and come on home.

I was invited to two parties tomorrow evening so it may be a later night and if so, I probably won’t blog about Day 2 until Day 3. :-)

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Clean Energy Venture Summit: A Behind the Scenes Look at Smart Grid
Oct 4 2009

The following was originally posted by Laura Benold, marketing associate at the Austin Technology Incbutor (ATI), where I work, on the ATI Blog

The third annual Clean Energy Venture Summit: Bringing the Smart Grid to Life is scheduled for October 14 and 15, 2009 at the AT&T Executive Center in Austin, Texas.  The Clean Energy Venture Summit (CEVS) will focus on technology related to the Pecan Street Project (PSP), the largest clean energy laboratory in the United States and a place where researchers and entrepreneurs can develop and test their technology on the grid.

The day-long summit on October 15 will include a competition of 20-30 early stage clean energy companies in five focus areas: distributed generation and renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and storage, demand management and miscellaneous. From each area, the strongest company will emerge and compete to win overall. We summit organizers will pre-screen participating companies based on innovation, overall market opportunity, stage of development, intellectual property position, resource requirements, environmental impact and potential return on investment.

CEVS also presents an opportunity for networking and software companies, including wireless mesh companies, broadband power line companies, energy dashboard web interface makers and software systems developers.

In addition, CEVS will host an invitation-only, pre-conference event called the Smart Grid Showcase on October 14 for CEI-accredited investors and sponsors to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Smart Grid agenda from the Austin Energy technology pathway. The University of Texas at Austin Office of Technology and Commercialization will introduce presentations by key university researchers who will highlight clean energy and wireless solutions for distributed generation and renewable energy.

For more information or to attend at the great price of only $100, check out the Clean Energy Venture Summit site.  The Who’s Who in Clean Energy will be there!  We’re bringing the Smart Grid to life!

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SXSW 2010 Panel Pimping Time
Aug 18 2009


Vote for my PanelPicker Idea!
Last year I submitted a panel for SXSW Interactive on Building A Web Business After Hours that got selected.  It went really well and we got a lot of great feedback.  I really enjoyed pulling it together.  I’ve since learned that for me building a business like Babble Soft after hours is not something I can continue to do given the many things I’m juggling so we are looking for a new home.

This year I proposed a panel called Online/Offline Networking in the Age of Social Media inspired by one of my co-workers, Bart Bohn, Director of our IT/Wireless incubator at the Austin Technology Incubator.  I’m hoping to get some great speakers from key social companies to talk about the importance of leveraging online tools to enhance your offline networking in order to meet your personal and professional goals.

Please vote for the panel at http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/2851 and if you have any great speaker recommendations, let me know.  You do have to register to vote.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing some of you at SXSW Interactive next year!

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Who I Was Being Is Not Exactly Who I Am
Apr 7 2009

Photo by Sandy Blanchard

yelloworangeflower-sandybphotos

I just finished the Landmark Advanced Course that builds on the lessons learned in the Landmark Forum.  It was a very powerful course and although it turns out I’m not an elephant or a horse, I discovered courageous parts of myself that I have suppressed because of the fear of what other people would think of me.  And worse yet the fear of what I would think of myself.

To me, life has always been a journey of learning and self discovery.  The Landmark Education courses have been one of the most fascinating steps I’ve taken on that journey.  I’ve gotten more out of these two courses than all of the professional and personal advisers/counselors I’ve seen and books I’ve read…especially more than the romance novels I used to breeze through for mind numbing distractions from my text books in undergrad.

Some people stop pushing the envelope of self discovery because it can be a very scary process and others stop because they realize there really is no envelope to push and are at peace with themselves and the world.  I haven’t met any of the latter kinds of people who have kids…in fact, I’ve met very few of the latter kind.  So I wonder if the way to achieve the rare occurrence of enlightenment is not to have kids.  Hmmm.

I’ve been becoming more aware of an ability/talent I was given to sense people based on what they say, don’t say, their body language, etc.  I’ve heard that 80% of what someone conveys is not through words but through their body language.  I happen to be more attuned to that 80% than most people.  People tell me the most intimate things about themselves and their lives and sometimes I think they are surprised at what they tell me based on how I notice them.

I am sometimes pretty raw and honest about what I see in certain people with varied results.  Sometimes I don’t say anything because I sense the person would not get in the slightest what I’m saying and think I’m crazy.  But ironically, this ability doesn’t work as well with my close family and friends.  And people have had a hard time knowing me because to deal with the bombardment of cues I get from people, I ‘was being’ a person who unknowingly suppressed my ability to share what was going on with me.  In the words of Landmark, I was not being “authentic or fully self expressed” because fundamentally I didn’t trust people with my being.  I was loudly letting them trust me, but I was quietly not trusting them with myself.

There are no magic pills or overnight fixes, just different ways of looking at things, and I think the path I’ve chosen has helped me understand other people and myself a little better, and therefore be a better friend, manager and connector.  I’m sharing more and being more open and vulnerable than I have ever been in my life, and my close friends (and even people I’ve only recently met) and family are responding with such kindness and support that I have found myself with tears in my eyes more often than I expected.

There is another course in this 3 part series, but for now I am not planning on taking any more courses.  I’ll digest, make some changes, and consider what’s next.  I know they are a business so they will do their best to up sell me on their other courses…which is fine because I know I have the choice whether to sign up or not.  Landmark Education is a global, fast growing phenomenon written up in Harvard Business Review and other reputable publications, and I think they will continue to grow given how they deliver their curriculum.  They don’t do any outside advertising but rely solely on word of mouth and occasional press mentions.  Of course those who do the research also pull up stories of their roots in something called EST.  But from what I’ve heard of EST, the courses I’ve taken are drastically different and much less intense.  The only way to know that is to see how it has changed the life of someone you trust and care about.

At any rate, I have met some amazing, brilliant people in these courses who I dare say I’ll probably be in contact with for quite some time.  I’m a bit envious of the younger people who are taking the course because what a head start they will have in making transformation happen in their lives and their organizations.  We had a few 18 year olds  in the group.  What a gift they have been given to have access to this technology at such a young age!

It’s all about Living A Powerful Life and Living A Life You Love!  That is the reason I signed up for the Landmark Education courses.  I’m on my way…stay tuned…

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A Quick SXSW Post – Guy Kawasaki
Mar 14 2009

028I just finished my second day at SXSW.  The first day left me a little hung over, tired, wanting a nap.  I got my 2nd wind right about the time I ran into Erica O’Grady in the Microsoft Windows Mobile Blog Lounge mid afternoon.  Ironically enough 95% of the people in the lounge have iPhones.

Erica is so awesome!  She is one of the 25 people selected as the Austin American Statesman’s Texas Social Media Award recipients.  I was also nominated but people like Erica, who are the master-esses of the social media world, truly deserve it.  I don’t think I had seen her since last year.  She’s one of the happiest people I’ve ever met and tweeted with.  When she stepped out of the lounge, I borrowed her pink hat and asked Brian Solis (who Erica introduced me to) to take a picture of me with another social media/entrepreneur great: Guy Kawasaki.

We spoke with Garage.com (founded by Guy) back when we were doing our first high tech start-up and at one point we had a t-shirt our son wore when he was a toddler that said “Garage.com. My favorite letters are I, P, and O.”  8)

Guy is one of the most down to earth tech entrepreneurs you can meet.  He graciously has me and my blog listed in a few places in his AllTop library sites (Mom Bloggers, Twitterati, Startups, etc.).

I hope I and my panelists are coherent by the time my panel – Building A Web Business After Hours – rolls around on Monday, March 16 at 3:30 pm!

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Building A Web Business After Hours at SXSWi
Feb 15 2009


South by Southwest Interactive is just around the corner!  I was honored to have my one and only panel idea selected and it’s called Building A Web Business After Hours.   The idea/thought came to me to submit this topic because I found myself living it when I took on a day job back in June 2008 so in October when they were looking for panel ideas….  If you keep up with my blog, you’ll realize that I get some strange thoughts sometimes and I’ve been known to unwittingly follow them.  This time I got lucky!  It will be on Monday, March 16 at 3:30 p.m.

Many entrepreneurs spend time after hours building businesses for a variety of reasons and let me tell you it’s NOT easy but given this economy, it’s a very viable bootstrapping option.  I have lined up some really credible, fun, and amazing people to be on the panel.  All of them have either built businesses after hours or are currently doing so now.  Here’s the info:

Building a Web Business After Hours
Room 18BCD
Monday, March 16th
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Many businesses are built after-hours or during odd hours of the day and night. Join us for a panel discussion by entrepreneurs who built (or are building) their Web/E-commerce/Other business while holding a day job, multiple jobs, or who are currently balancing two+ career options.

Gretchen Heber CEO/Co-founder,   NaturallyCurly.com

Jeremy Bencken Co-founder,   Buzzstream

Aruni Gunasegaram Founder/CEO,   Babble Soft LLC

David Altounian President/Founder,   iTaggit

Lisa Stone Co-Founder & Pres Of Operations & Evangelism,   BlogHer LLC

Please tell all your friends who are attending SXSWi about this really cool panel.  8)

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A Transformation In Process
Dec 13 2008

Photo by my friend, Sandy Blanchard.

Last weekend I had a profound experience at a seminar called the Landmark Forum.  At the beginning of the forum, they tell you the goal is to experience a transformation.  I don’t think I achieved it in the intended way but the insights I gained have been phenomenal! 

I was extremely skeptical when I first heard about it.  I usually approach things from a very analytical viewpoint so I had a hard time getting over ‘I’ve seen this all before‘ mentality.  I even went to one of their orientation sessions at the recommendation of an amazing person, Marlene Merritt who founded Merritt Acupuncture, and left feeling like they were trying to ‘hard sell’ me on signing up.  I don’t like it when people try to convince me to buy something when I’m not ready.   

I saw Marlene a few times after that and each time she said she really felt I would get something out of attending and how taking it profoundly affected her life 7 years ago.  She didn’t get anything out of me signing up.  Nothing at all, except for the joy in seeing me go through a life changing event.  And for that I’m grateful.  I had been experiencing many diametrically opposing feelings leading up to my standing at The Entrepreneurial Ledge, so I signed up. 

After signing up, a friend sent me a link to an article on a well respected online site with a note saying it seemed like a ponsi-scheme.  In addition to acknowledging that CNN and Reebok executives have successfully participated in the forum, the article strongly insinuated that it was cult-like.  I was hurt when I read the article because it took a lot for me to share that I was taking the course.  After taking the class and thinking about it, I decided to re-interpret his response and apply a different meaning — one that meant he cared enough about me to research it and share his concerns.  

Another friend who had taken the course also said it was a good course but she could see how people could think it was a bit cult-like because of the terminology they used.  After taking it, I determined it’s no more cult-like than the Episcopal or Southern Baptist churches I attended growing up!  She said she thought it might help me surface some issues so I should go in with an open mind.  And boy did it really unearth some stuff for me.

It’s hard to explain everything I got out of taking that course in a mere blog post but suffice it to say, I now view the world differently.  I’ve been able to have very different conversations with my kids, my husband, my mother, my sister, and my co-workers.  I even called my father who I haven’t spoken to in probably a couple of years…although we exchange email from time to time. 

I’m still me, but with a different view of my life and my world.  They describe the transformation as something like when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.  It is still the same creature but the butterfly has a vastly different view of its world because it can fly.  I don’t feel like I’m a butterfly yet, but I understand more of the mechanics of how one becomes one. 

The Landmark Forum can’t really be compared to anything else, but humans learn by comparing so while I was sitting there, many of the concepts reminded me of what is written in The Power of Now, Siddhartha, and A New Earth (book links below) as well as what many philosophers and psychologists have mentioned in the past.  After all, even the Bible states “there is nothing new under the sun!” 

I 100% believe that if everyone took the Landmark Forum, there would be fewer wars and misunderstandings in this world.  Before finishing the Forum, we were all supposed to come up with a possibility we were inventing for ourselves and our lives and one 50-ish year old man got up at the microphone in front everyone and shared his.  His mother and brother had both died when he was fairly young and he had been angry for most of his life.  He was angry that they had left him and he had not even realized how hurt and angry he was for so many years.  The possibility he invented for himself was the possibility of having every teenage orphan in the United States take the Landmark Forum for teens.  He felt if he could save those kids the decades of pain he felt, he could make a huge difference in this world.  I gave him both of my cards and said “let me know how I can help.” 

You’ll have to take the Forum yourself for the punch line, but one of the possibilities I invented for myself and my life is the possibility of being courageous and empowering people to achieve their dreams.  Now people might think I already do some of that but it’s always been laced with fear of people not liking me…or worse that I will be abandoned and not loved. 

And coincidentally enough on Tuesday at my day job, before the last late night session of the Forum, I was presented with the opportunity to be courageous.  And I was and still am afraid, but I took a stand anyway.  I may not have this day job for much longer because of the stand I am taking, and people might not like me, but I don’t want to look back and say I was not true to the possibility I invented for myself and my life…

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