Lessons From ECSW2015

startup communities Mar 21, 2015

Last week I attended the East Coast Startup Week conference in the eye of a snowstorm in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. This is exactly the type of event I enjoy, small with a high-caliber of speakers in a unique environment.

Although during these types of events I usually drink a lot, hardly sleep and my head is spinning the whole time, I always learn so much and this event was no exception. To better process all the information from this event I thought I would share with you a few of the things that I learnt, that inspired me or that got me to think.

1. The importance of happiness in the workplace

The first speaker of the day was John Stix who very honestly and sincerely talked about his experience of building up a large business and how the culture of the business had played a key role in making his business successful. Building up a company can be a very difficult task so why not unite all your employees through positive culture and happiness.

“Culture isn’t buying a ping pong table or putting up a poster on a wall. It’s all about storytelling.” -John Stix

2. Stop complaining and just get shit done!

Jeff Grammer from Rho Ventures came next on stage and what I enjoy about listening to Jeff is that he both inspires me to believe anything is possible and also makes it impossible for me to complain about anything because I know he has gone through harder times than me. He shared his stories of meeting a young Michel Dell, dealing with Steve Jobs and the process of trying to build up the first computer company in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, at that time Russia lacked all infrastructure and doing business was so dangerous that you needed two body guards at all times. After you hear those stories you better stop complaining and start working on getting your business to the next level!

3. Zombies + sincerity = great talk
Ken Seto from Massive Damage did a great talk about “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” and through that shared a very honest perspective on what he had learned being an entrepreneur. Honestly I would have loved to share his whole slideshow with you but instead I will just share a few of his slides that I thought contained great advice. Ken is currently doing a kickstarter project for his newest game, check it out.

4. Marketing in school books is often far from the reality.
This is the second time I hear April Dunford speak, the first one was at Startup Empire in Halifax last year and she is awesome. Her experience of marketing gives her a great perspective on what works and what doesn’t. April gave some great examples on how much of what we learn in school about marketing has no functionality in the real world. Check out her talking at Startup Empire last year, awesome stuff 

4. Investors are people too.

The panel with the investors was really good where they opened up and gave us a great insight into how they work and since this was a very informal and friendly event it was easy to meet up with the investors to talk with them in person during the breaks and at the bar afterwards. Heather Anne Carson did a great job moderating the investors and Sean Power, as the only none VC on the panel, made sure to keep the entrepreneurs perspective in mind during the discussion.

5. The value of good mentors
I also got a chance to get one-on-one mentoring sessions with Jeff Grammer, Sean Power and Matt Roberts from BDC capital. Over the years I have met up with a lot of “mentors” and the difference between a good mentor and a bad one is huge, and these were all great mentors. You usually know if you had a good mentoring session because your head is spinning. During these sessions the mentors gave me so much to think about, so many questions to answer and they made me doubt aspects of my business, which is great because now I can improve those aspects even further and make the business stronger.

I am still learning so much and I am very thankful for everybody I met because I learnt so much from every one of them. As soon as we as entrepreneurs stop evolving and working on ourselves that is the time we start decaying and turn into “zombies”.

I also learned that I should be drinking tequila, but that is another story 

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