SXSW Interactive – Sunday, March 9, 2008
Mar 9 2008

Although I’ve lived in Austin for quite some time, I have never made it to SXSW but now since a big part of what I do for my company is social media related, I finally had a great reason to go.  Most people associate SXSW with music, film making, bands, and people partying all night long.  For those visiting from out of town and attending the music pieces of SXSW that might be true, but for those of us attending SXSW Interactive who live in town and have kids to take care of, we aren’t able to party (or should I say not interested in partying) all night long.  Although tonight I was tempted to stay out late after having been asked by a couple of people to join some after parties.  But since I just got back from Los Angeles, I figured I should get home and give my husband a little back-up break with the kids.  Here are some brief overviews of the sessions I attend.

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Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of facebook
sxsw-zuckerberg.jpg

Mark who is a 23 year old billionaire, seemed to be more comfortable during the interview than what I’ve heard he has been before, but he seemed to say some of the same stuff over and over again.  I forgot my regular camera and my cell phone camera is not that great, hence the not-so-great picture above.  However, here are some interesting things he said:

  • He mentioned that facebook was going to change their incentive system to one where the more invites you send out that are accepted, the more opportunities you have to invite others to join your network.   
  • He also said that at facebook, they begin with the premise that everyone is fundamentally good and not trying to do evil/illicit things. 
  • He felt that all of the mistakes they have made so far have had to do with them not giving their users enough control over the process.
  • He believes terrorism stems from people not feeling connected to each other.

The interviewer, Sarah Lacy, from BusinessWeek.com, had a strange interviewing style.  Sadly, much of the audience was wondering why she was asking the questions she did and why she was asking them the way she did.  Honestly, it seemed like she was a teenage girl flirting with a billionaire 20 something entrepreneur and many of her questions weren’t really questions they were statements.  After, the audience turned on her, I thought she might wonder why but apparently she thought she did a great job and said Mark told her she did a great job.  Omar Gallaga, who blogs for Austin 360 Digital Savant did a post-panel video interview with her that you can see HERE.  Check it out, it’s a good interview.  She believes that since she is one of the few women tech journalists that she always gets flack and is misunderstood.  Since I’m a woman in tech, after seeing her today I wouldn’t agree with her assessment of why the audience didn’t like her, but kudos to her for putting herself out there and trying.  I know she is being flamed on the Internet for the interview but if she can bounce back from this and learn & grow from this experience, she will be on her way to achieving great things.

Thom Singer, Author and Speaker on Networking

I tried hard to make it to Thom’s book reading, but after getting out of the room after Zuckerberg spoke, it was something like a 3 block hike from one end of the convention center to the other.  I arrived as he was wrapping up his Q&A.  Thom is an author and blogs at Some Assembly Required.  He’s about to release a new book called Some Assembly Required for Women.

Kathy Sierra, Author and Speaker

Kathy Sierra was a very interesting speaker.  She gave tips and advice on how to get your customers (and employees) passionate about your products.  The room was packed and since I was coming back from the other side of the convention center they wouldn’t let us in!  As I came up to the front of the line to ask what was going on, they said they couldn’t let us in because of fire code violation stuff. I was in line with Francine Hardaway and we along with a few others made some noise about how full it had been at the Zuckerberg talk and surely they can let us in since there weren’t more than 20 to 30 of us waiting outside and we had seen some people leave.  After a few minutes, they let us in.  Since I haven’t been blogging for a year yet, I didn’t know the back story on Kathy’s blogging stalker weirdness almost a year ago.  She indicated that she might start blogging again, which I look forward to.

The Super Collider: A Hero of the Social Network

I attended this panel briefly and it wasn’t what I thought it would be.  One of the panelists discussed how she was using the various social networks and social media to promote her business.  It was interesting, but nothing new so I took off to the Entrepreneur’s Lounge at Fogo de Chao Brazilian restaurant for a short after party.  It was hosted by ATI and uShip.  Ran into Bryan Mennell of Austin Startup blog there.

Hearing these people speak was fascinating but what was even more exciting to me was meeting face to face with many of my blogging friends and meeting new friends including Wendy Piersall of eMoms at Home, Liz Strauss of Successful Blog, Tamar Weinberg of Mashable, Gina Trapani of lifehacker, Laura Mayes of Sk*rt, Annalee Newitz of io9 (she blogs on sci-fi stuff), and Tim Walker of Hoovers Business.

Stay tuned for more of my SXSWi experiences on Monday and Tuesday.

Author: | Filed under: blogging, conferences, entrepreneurship, social media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Venture Capital Investment Competition at USC in Los Angeles
Mar 8 2008

For the past few years I have served as an Advisor to The University of Texas at Austin MBA team that competes in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC).  

It all started when I was an adjunct lecturer of entrepreneurship at UT Austin and since then I’ve continued to advise as they need me and my schedule permits.  This competition did not exist when I got my MBA, and even if I had the opportunity to participate I was too busy trying to start my first venture.  What a plus it would have been for any entrepreneur to have seen a term sheet presented by experienced investors in an academic environment rather than in real life when you feel like you have to learn another language just to understand parts of the investment terms!

This year the regional competition was held at USC in LA on March 7, 2008.  The UT team this year was comprised of:

Ben Jones – MBA 2008
Kyle Reese – MBA 2008
Rajiv Bala – MBA 2009
Ryan Sanders – MBA 2009
Scott Chiou – MBA 2009

I connect them with local venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to help them prepare but we had a late start with only about 5 weeks to get ready and midterms in between this year.  Other teams have semester long classes to prepare for this competition!

At the competition, 6 teams were given business plans for 3 real companies including NiLA, makers of environmentally friendly lighting, on Wednesday, March 5 at 5:00 pm.  They use the Internet and other relevant sources to research the companies and come up with questions for the entrepreneurs.  On Friday, they heard the entrepreneurs pitch their business concepts in front of 11 real live venture capitalists, including Aditya Mathur of Revolution Ventures, Nathan Joyner of Pacific Ridge Capital, Neal Hansch of Rustic Canyon Ventures, representatives from Tech Coast Angel Group and many more. 

They then go into little rooms and subject the entrepreneurs to answering several of the same questions over and over again from the 6 different teams.  Why would any entrepreneur do this you might wonder? Because the VCs are in the room while they are being asked the questions so they are getting exposure that they might not have had otherwise to them.

After the questioning sessions are over, the teams again regroup and come up with a PowerPoint presentation which outlines which company they would chose to invest in and why.   For the company they choose to invest in, they create a term sheet.  They present their choice in 3 minutes in front of the VCs.  The VCs then grill them for about 15 minutes on their company choice and investment terms.

At the end of the day, the judges decide who wins and who takes 2nd place.  The 1st and 2nd place winners get money and the opportunity to compete in the national competition at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School in April.  I have personally seen one student get a job on a team I advised in venture capital because of participating in this competition.

As an advisor I get to be a fly on the wall and watch the VCs deliberate and observe the decision making process.  Plus I build my network in areas outside of Austin.  Personally, I believe this experience has helped me gain better perspective on what venture capitalists are looking for which is why I’m currently seeking money from angel investors or smaller boutique/seed stage venture firms. 

So I’m sure the suspense is killing you as to whether or not our team placed and unfortunately they did not. They picked the company with the biggest market potential but with the highest risk and the VC judges picked NiLa, which has a great opportunity but less risk and less upside.  Goes to show you that most VCs are not early stage investors!

There are so many variables that go into winning from judges backgrounds, to student’s experience, to understanding of the market of the presenting companies, etc. that you can’t always prepare for everything.  But what an experience! 

Flying back to Austin today for SXSW Interactive and will post about my experience as a newbie SXSW attendee.  I’m looking forward to meeting many of the people I’ve met through blogging and twitter!

Author: | Filed under: competition, entrepreneurship, fundraising, venture capital | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »