December 4, 2012
Dream...Build...Grow - HBS Entrepreneurship Conference Recap

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, 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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