Tech Prom, Time Management, and the Future of Marketing: Q&A with Dave Balter

9/7/11Follow @gthuang

The best way to get to know Dave Balter is over a beer. The founder and CEO of Boston-based marketing firm BzzAgent (now part of U.K.-based Dunnhumby/Tesco) is known for speaking his mind, but over a beer it’s even better. I’m not sure what he was drinking when he replied to my e-mail yesterday as he flew across the pond at 39,000 feet, but it appears to have loosened him up nicely.

I saw Balter speak at Angel Bootcamp in June, and his straight shooting impressed me then. Basically, he said that many entrepreneurs and execs have an inflated sense of themselves and their companies just because they’ve raised money and have had some success. Savvy investors should look for humble founders who are always learning, work harder than others, and have a fearless, grind-it-out mentality, he said. The following week, Balter came out with an article in Inc. Magazine in which he admitted his ego nearly destroyed BzzAgent; he implored entrepreneurs to stay humble, a process that he calls “the humility imperative.”

In addition to his CEO and angel investor duties, Balter is the author of two books on word-of-mouth marketing and the creator of numerous blogs, so he’s a bit of a polymath. He recently became a co-founder and executive chairman of Smarterer, another Boston tech startup. He’s also a newly minted Xconomist.

But his latest project (back to the beer now) is “DB Tech Prom,” a blow-out gala for the Boston tech community, to be held on October 20. There has been a lot of talk about creating a culture that celebrates entrepreneurship here in Boston, and this event seems to address that. At the same time, there’s no shortage of tech parties and gatherings these days, so I wondered what the real point was. Balter answered that, and much more, below.

Here are some highlights from our e-mail exchange:

Xconomy: Why is Tech Prom important for the Boston startup community, and what are its goals? If it’s about fostering a culture of celebrating entrepreneurship, how do we balance that with the humility imperative?

Dave Balter: After some very non-scientific poll-taking and survey-manipulating, we found that most individuals in Boston’s tech scene didn’t have the perfect prom experience. Some of this is of course due to intense, paralyzing high-school-nerdiness and less-than-impressive early-development social skills (see Sixteen Candles for widely referenced examples), but oh how things have changed. Now the techies have inherited celebrity status, and nerdiness…well, it’s in baby, it’s in.

This event should be a watershed moment that allows Boston to strut its stuff. And we’re not talking about flail-dancing during some Def Leppard song, but rather the celebration of how current … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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