A Columbus Startup Week recap from Ohio State student and developer, Claudius Mbemba, as originally posted on medium.com.
Take Aways: Columbus Startup Week
For those of you living under a rock (or just didn’t know), this past week was officially Startup Week in Columbus OH. An “unowned and radically inclusive” full week of 70+ events centered around entrepreneurship, tech, fashion, restaurant, retail and more!
Startup Week tracks
Honestly a conference like this around the world would cost upwards of $1000/person. But the best part to Startup Week was that it was all free! Thanks to the very generous sponsors that made it all happen.
Columbus Startup Week was great primarily because it was an amazing show of the Columbus startup ecosystem. Getting to interact with known and aspiring entrepreneurs all around Columbus was worth the time on its own.
One of the inherit questions I had when I heard about Startup Week was “How are they going to expect people with jobs to show up?” But to my surprise people were turning out in record numbers. Professionals of all kinds were in attendance which was great because I got to meet a lot of new faces! Columbus based businesses really promoted Startup Week as professional development opportunity, allowing their employees to attend and take advantage of the events.
Some Key Take Aways:
This is simply the scientific method applied to startups.
Rev 1 Ventures
Lean Startup model
Measure — Learn — Build: On Friday, Mike Blackwell, Mike Doel, and Gina Winkler gave an insightful presentation / QA session on taking something from concept to development. Mike B., SVP of Entrepreneur Development at Rev 1, provided a new outlook on Eric Ries’ the lean startup. Offering that instead of the building to learn (Build->Measure->Learn), measuring which directly yields the data and thus the learning should be the 1st step. Only build once you understand what the customer wants next, after you’ve measured. This is simply the scientific method applied to startups.
“this a bit overreaching but we’re gonna try to hit it”
2. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators): Along the same lines of measurement & metrics, on Tuesday, David Geiger of CrossChx gave a great early morning talk on early stage sales processes and building your sales team. One very important thing your sales force must keep in mind, daily, is KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). KPIs are derived from top company goals. David mentioned that one of CrossChx’s KPIs is 20 conversations daily. These KPIs have to be (1) obtainable and (2) stretchable — the latter meaning “this a bit overreaching but we’re gonna try to hit it.” By trying for that stretchable metric you make huge strides even if you don’t hit it always.
3. Tell a compelling narrative: On Tuesday, Chris Volpe, CEO of Multivarious Games, schooled us on video game creation and game development. Chris’ talk was a very informative look into the art of game development. We touched on a lot of vocabulary including Illusional Narrative: A technique for visually skipping parts of the narrative in a manner that allows the gamer’s mind to later piece the gap together. Environmental Narrative: Using the visual design of the environment to convey a certain narrative. And Ludo-Narrative Dissonance: Referring to conflicts between a video game’s narrative and its gameplay.
This pivot was not easy as Sqrl had already taken some VC funding…
4. Pivots: On Wednesday, Ryan Watson, CEO of Sqrl and now Incline, recounted how his startup Sqrl — a SAAS (Software As A Service) product for accountants — eventually pivoted into this vertical integrated model, based off what Uber has been able to do in the taxi industry. You see Uber wasn’t the first one to notice flaws and subsequently attempt to disrupt the taxi industry. Nope! Early predecessors to Uber went to taxi services with technology offered them a fix in the form of SAAS, but the taxis just refused to implement it. So Uber came along and said “screw it” we’re gonna leverage the tech to build out a better vertically integrated model. Similarly, Ryan was having trouble getting accountants to use their product due to the fact that accountants generally don’t look to technology to help solve their issues — After listening to a talk about Uber’s history, Ryan realized his company was facing the same issues and saw the solution as an accounting office that provided the physical service but that leveraged their proprietary tech to yield a competitive advantage. This pivot was not easy as Sqrl had already taken some VC funding and had to basically tell their investors that they were going to have stop building out what they’d promised to build and instead take this new unknown direction. But as Ryan says, “just be 100% honest.”
5. It’s all in your head: Startup Week closed out with a great talk about creativity by Dr. Chris McAlister. Chris talked about the 8 fears that stifle our creativity and ability to lead. Chris took the audience thru some eye opening exercises aimed at getting to the fruit of some of our most intimate experiences that hold a profound effect on how we operate in situations where we either have to prove or hide! Chris ended the day before we all headed over to StrongWater for the after party, by saying “remember that none of these fears are true”. It’s literally all in your head.
The future of startups is bright in Columbus OH. What are you waiting for?
With that concluded a great week of running around Columbus to enjoy great talks by local Columbus entrepreneurs and hustlers. It was a crazy, fun week and I wouldn’t have traded it for doing anything else.
Startup Week Sponsors
Big thanks to UpGlobal, Chase, and the countless sponsors who helped, once again, put Columbus on the Startup map and make Columbus Startup Week a success. Thanks to all the volunteers and moderators who worked from dawn to dusk to make all this happen. And lastly thanks to all the participants whom, without their attendance, none of this would be possible. The future of startups is bright in Columbus OH. What are you waiting for?