National Business Technology Conference 2012
I went to the National Business Technology Conference 2012 this weekend (Mar. 24-25). I'm going to write about what I thought of it and my experiences. In general though I feel two sided about this. It's a good conference in the sense that it's really an eye opener for people who have not been to business conferences before. It's bad in the sense the speakers are way to general, so they would not be who technology people would be interested in listening into.
While the keynote speakers were reputable, I thought only one was really what I needed to hear about – the founder of Kobo. He actually did a startup and took an entrepreneurial path. I want to hear more about people who have taken an idea and created a product. I thought while the other speakers were certainly interesting, they didn’t “startup” and had gotten to their position by other means. Some of the speakers talk about things too general, trying to inspire the crowd. I thought this was fair, but as someone who’s been exposed to the startup environment; it doesn’t get me an adrenaline rush like before (while the Kobo talk did, however). Speakers should talk about their personal experiences, instead of boring people with mundane inspirational speeches. I want to hear about your personal experiences and not what you think is next big awesome idea. I really enjoyed Michael's talk about Kobo, I guess because I can relate to him the most. He was interested in taking a scientific idea like e-ink technology and sell this idea to a team and have the project completed with a group of 8 in 9 months. This kind if startup talk is exactly what I want. I don't know, I think ever since I switched majors into Physics from Business, and being in velocity, I think I get biased towards business students - I think this is justified because I think I know how it works. Business students think they have things to contribute, things like business plans, but when you're with a startup, you can't build things. People with technical skills can actually take that idea and build with it. I would be interested in systems design engineering because that actually gives me an ability to create things I would be interested in.
There seems to be two groups of people here - fancy dressers and casual people. The majority of people are different types of business students, some engineers, and lastly a handful of people who did not dress up. I think once one becomes more familiar with the startup environment, one realises that dressing up for events is not you wanted to do. I understand that you're a business student, and in business you're expected to dress up very well. I know. When I was doing business at Laurier, I had to do the same thing. Whenever I go to conferences, I would try to dress uber fancy because I wanted to shine people on, by saying: here I am, better dressed, more intelligent, better than you kind of idea. The second group who doesn't dress up is kind of like - well here I am, average guy, judge me if you are shallow, but I know I have good skills and have the abilities to do a startup successfully.
I think being in the velocity program really helped me gain important startup experiences. For example, prior having experienced this startup environment, I didn't have a clue of how to do anything. After having lived in the velocity residence for two terms, I feel like I have understood how most of these events function. I think being exposed to the startup community and having been in the incubator program has made me a total bs-freak. The instant that I find that you are making up bs, I start to disregard your feedback.
The wannabe entrepreneur
There is this select group of delegates at the conference going around asking mundane and “business” questions, like asking “what’s your goal for the next 5 years?” to a startup. Well, they don’t even know! So the speaker is left with making up some bullshit as they go. I'm naturally inquisitive, and hearing some of the things people ask makes me think: please get to your point. You should not have to build up your question and fancy word it, because that shows you don’t know what you want to ask and you’re just buying time to think of some question. You pretty much fail as a business-person if you can't finish asking a question in a minute. A question does not require two minutes of build-up. Ask your question, give brief details, and let the guy ask YOU questions - because the things you say would then be relevant to his response. If you take such a long time to put up a question, it gets to the point that the question becomes so terribly long. And speakers, I can't stand some people bullshitting their way through a question and response. I despise people that talk like a politician. If you don’t know it, admit to it. But, I digress; I suppose being able to bull on the fly is considered a skill in certain cases, but it really shows that you don't understand what you're talking about, which is irritating.
Now to those people who have not had startup experience: Take a course in mathematical proofs, you’ll see how logical reasoning works and why it’s so effective.
I remember when I just decided to enter the startup community, I felt like I didn’t belong because people would look down at me. But ironically, it seems like I am in the same position – I despised people who looked down on other people when they haven't taken the time to know them but yet I am doing the same thing. I’m not exactly sure why this happens.
In some sense, I think being able to figure out who you should and should not invest time to talk to is a networking skill. Figure out who is giving you the bullshit and eliminate those people from your potential networking time. With so many "fishes" out there, you need to be efficient and accurate in judging competency of the person before you. I would classify people as incompetent if they try to hide something without making it obvious. If I detect a hint of that, my bs-radar goes out the roof. These people are a terribly waste of time. No exception. You just don't know your thing. If you're a youngling who’s eager to learn, then it’s different. I will invest the time and get to know you, share my knowledge, and teach you what I can.
I thought the business case competition was a waste of time, the speakers were mostly good, and lastly, the networking was the best. It's not that I don't like the conference, I do. I enjoy the experience, and I enjoy talking to other people who have the similar interests.