One of my favorite parts of running VentureFizz is the opportunity to speak with so many entrepreneurs in the tech industry. I really enjoy hearing their stories, advice, and lessons learned. I also consume a lot of this content through videos and podcasts. Needless to say, I’m a junkie.
I was excited to attend the Forbes’ Under 30 Summit in Boston this week. There was a great roster of entrepreneurs and investors who spoke and opportunities to hear from people outside the tech industry. I took full advantage of the entire event.
Here are some takeaways and pictures from the day.
Here’s the parameters that Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary of Sound Ventures look for when making investments:
- What does the company do? Is it an original idea?
- The people behind the company are critical. What is their domain expertise and how does it apply to the business?
- Do the founders have clear thoughts on the business and do they have the ability to sell the product and vision?
- Do the founders have the ability to overcome the obstacles from building and running a startup?
Jessica Alba finds inspiration from this Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Never allow a person to tell you no, who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” So true.
Musicians are the Epitome of Entrepreneurship
Recording artist Halsey encouraged everyone to follow their heart and stick to their gut.
She was originally offered $30K for a record deal and passed. She had met other musicians who ended up being a one-hit wonder and regret letting people control them. Halsey wanted to do things her own way because ultimately she had nothing to lose. She was already broke. If things didn’t work out, then she would probably learn something from it.
The music industry is a business. It is a machine and artists are the ultimate entrepreneurs. Everything artists do relates back to their brand and convincing people they need the artist’s product. Artists are the startup. Artists are the brand.
Jason Derulo had similar advice as Halsey and reminded attendees to be true to themselves.
Bart Baker, a YouTube star, has over 8M subscribers to his YouTube channel, which largely features music parody videos.
Based on his massive following, he is obviously making content that people want to consume, but SEO is also critical in his business. It’s important that his video is the second one to appear after the artist’s original video.
TV is Rapidly Fading
I knew that TV numbers were declining, but this stat shared from John Shahid of Shots Studio really told the story.
Among 15-year-olds, only 9 percent watch TV (and that number continues to decline). Yet, 60 percent watch videos on YouTube. Staggering numbers.
Danielle Weinberg and Carly Zakin, co-founders of theSkimm, quit their jobs when they had just $3K saved and started the company.
They hustled and focused on grassroots marketing efforts, like having people wear their t-shirts or passing out fliers in dorm rooms at college campuses. They realized that it would be impossible to do everything well at once, so they focused on user acquisition until integrating native ads almost two years later.
Interesting side note, theSkimm has helped over 106K people register to vote and have become one of Rock The Vote’s largest partners.
Chase Your Passion
Adam Neumann, co-founder and CEO of WeWork, emphasized passion and loving what you do.
After starting four failed businesses (including a baby clothing line), he learned from his wife that success is not about how much money you have, but about being apart of something larger than yourself. If you chase your passion, the money will follow. Today, WeWork has 80K members and 10M square foot of space.
The biggest difference between Boston and NYC? People drink more beer here.
A VC Story
Rob Biederman, co-founder and CEO at Catalant, shared the story of a time he got some interesting feedback from an unnamed VC on the west coast.
At the very start of the meeting, the VC told him that they would never invest in his company. Biederman went on to the pitch and afterward the VC reiterated his decision with greater emphasis by saying, “Now we are really never going to invest in your company. You don’t need three Harvard MBAs to start a company. You probably need zero.”
Catalant has gone on to raise almost $35M in funding and the company is still run by three HBS co-founders.
Athlete Turned Entrepreneur
Maria Sharapova, tennis champion and founder of Sugarpova, wanted to take on the responsibility of owning her own company. She looks for the opportunity to put herself in an unfamiliar territory and in a vulnerable position. One might fail, but ultimately, you will get something out of it.
Bobby Flay, chef, entrepreneur and TV personality, emphasized passion (a common theme) as a key to success, but also hard work and the relentless pursuit of getting things right.
If you can do something right and better than your competitors, the money will come. If you take short cuts, it will bite you on the ass.
Another interesting point: he has been part of the Food Network for 20 years and says it has been an amazing platform, but ultimately prefers being in his kitchens. He is a chef by nature and that is what makes him happy.
Anything is Possible
Michael Phelps, Olympian and founder of MP Brand, was a seven days a week swimmer and never missed a workout for five to six years. While most swimmers take days off, he didn’t. It was an opportunity to get more training days in and a competitive advantage.
He offered words of encouragement that anything is possible by referencing his sport. Typically, when a swimmer is in their upper 20s, it’s time to retire. He was 31 at the Rio Olympics, where he added five more gold medals and a silver at the Olympics this past summer.
Forbes Under 30 Summit was an awesome event. Kudos to Forbes, General Catalyst, the City of Boston, and everyone else responsible for bringing this conference to Boston. We need more events with national exposure like this and Boston proved it is the perfect setting.