Dream...Build...Grow - HBS Entrepreneurship Conference Recap

Wednesday Dec 5, 2012 by Melissa Pocek - Contributor, VentureFizz

You’ve likely heard of the high failure rate for startups -- “9 out of 10” according to Quora. However, it is still possible that one good idea can become a successful business venture. In order to have a successful startup, one must be able to find the tools one needs to help their business grow, and that’s where the 2012 Harvard Business School Entrepreneurship Conference this past Sunday, December 2nd, came into play. There were plenty of colorful speakers, all of whom had taken risks. Some experienced early failures but picked up the pieces and endured, some took risks that paid early, unexpected dividends... But all of the panelists had one thing in common: they tested out their ideas and now run successful companies.

This year’s panelists and speakers included Matthew Brimer (Co-Founder of General Assembly), Robert Lenne (Head of Design at Art.sy), David Chang (COO of the PayPal Media Network), Wayne Chang (Co-Founder of Crashlytics), Jennifer Lum (Co-Founder of Adelphi Mobile), Tim Rowe (founder of Cambridge Innovation lab), and many, many more. Inspiration poured forth from the prestigious, hallowed halls at Harvard Business School (HBS) where the conference lectures took place.

This was the tenth year of the conference at HBS and the theme was, “Dream. Build. Grow: The Lifecycle of a Startup.” Open to students and the public alike, a diverse cross-section of aspiring entrepreneurs populated each panel discussion. Perhaps the flashiest panel was titled Angels and Incubators where the panelists included Katie Rae (TechStars) and Hugo Van Vuuren (XFund) along with a couple others who discussed how to look for angel funding, as well as the application process for one of Boston’s many startup incubators.

One panel addressed the high risk, financially and emotionally, of becoming an entrepreneur. In the panel discussion titled Pivots and Failures, Kent Bennett (Bessemer Venture Partners) and Kathryn Minshaw (Muse) advised listeners on what to do when they sense warning signs of an impending problem. All the panelists discussed their own experiences and detailed the sometimes drastic actions they took to change their business’s trajectory, as well as what they learned from the experiences.

One of the highlights of the conference was the pitch competition. The judges selected three participants to pitch their ideas at the conference’s closing ceremony. The host of the event encouraged everyone to yell “pitch” to get the one minute and thirty second countdown for the pitch to start. The winner of the event (who didn’t want us to disclose the company’s name because they were still in ideation stage) won $1,000, mentorship from the judges, and office space in the iLab for use in start-up operations.

The quote of the day came from keynote speaker, Matthew Prince, Co-founder and CEO of CloudFare who said, “If you find a rocketship. Get on it.” Prince’s comment highlighted the mission of the conference, which in short was: follow your ideas, back them up with education, get help from your network, and make as big of a difference as you possibly can.

Melissa Pocek is a freelance journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Melissa on Twitter (@MelissaPocek) by clicking here.

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