Top 10 Quotes from XSITE 2012: Bill Warner, Andy Ory, Phil Libin, & More
Yesterday was our fourth annual XSITE conference, and our biggest to date, with 500+ registered. It was a glorious day out at Babson College. Thanks to our hosts and all of our sponsors for making it happen.
We tried to bring together a mix of big companies and small startups, first-time entrepreneurs and public company CEOs, investors and innovators, over a wide range of industries including software, Internet, healthtech, energy IT, and transportation.
Impossible to recap it in any comprehensive way, but here are 10 highlights that stood out to me (not counting plenty of private conversations and networking moments, of course; stay tuned for a separate post with pictures from the day):
10. “If you have a great product, that’s all you have to do.” That was Phil Libin from Evernote, talking about the confluence of app stores, cloud services, open source infrastructure, and social media that has led to a “geek meritocracy” in tech products. (Not everyone would agree with this statement, of course, which Libin acknowledged. But he said it is more true than ever.)
9. “Apple.” PayPal chief scientist Mok Oh, on which company—Apple, Google, Facebook, or Amazon—would be worth the most in 10 years. (Nabeel Hyatt of Spark Capital picked Amazon, while tabbing Google as least relevant, though still a big player. Veddy interesting.)
8. “Metrics are people, too.” That was entrepreneur-turned-VC Nabeel Hyatt quoting Eric Ries (I think) about the importance of balancing data-driven analysis with creative design aspects, in building consumer-tech products and companies. That might very well be the next evolution of the lean startup model, popularized by Ries.
7. “You have to convince really smart people to do a really stupid thing.” Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot, talking about recruiting top talent to a startup. Working at HubSpot, he said, is like doing a “startup MBA.” His advice to wannabe entrepreneurs: “Just go do it. Get in the game.”
6. “Middle-size to big companies can’t do anything truly new.” That was Andy Ory of Acme Packet (NASDAQ: APKT). He was talking about how big, established companies have to make acquisitions to bring in new DNA and innovations. Ory’s advice to entrepreneurs: “Test your convictions without losing your faith.”
5. “First, defend what you’re excellent at.” That was Gail Goodman from Constant Contact (NASDAQ: CTCT), talking about branching out to new products very carefully, and only after solidifying your core offerings. Her company-building advice: Hire leaders, not managers (and by the way, leaders are born, not made.)
4. “It drives better than an empty U-Haul.” Carl Dietrich of Terrafugia, describing (with an engineer’s modesty) how his company’s, ahem, “flying car” handles on the road. The vehicle will be in initial production in about a year, he said. The long-term goal is to “get everyone up in the air.”
3. “10 percent of entrepreneurs should raise venture capital. The other 90 percent should bootstrap.” That was Jo Tango of Kepha Partners. On the same panel, General Assembly’s Brad Hargreaves lamented the fact that entrepreneurs and the media tend to glorify VC funding as “winning the lottery.” (Happy birthday to Brad, by the way, who turned 26 yesterday. No singing, thankfully.)
2. “Winter is coming.” Some cautionary words from Atlas Venture’s Fred Destin (referencing Game of Thrones) about the European debt crisis and its impending “deep repercussions” across all sectors of finance, including venture capital. (Always good to hear some straight talk on a funding panel.)
1. “Businesses will not pay for joy. But consumers will, as long as they’ve already paid for pain relief.” That was entrepreneur evangelist and renowned techie Bill Warner, talking about what he sees as, fundamentally, two classes of companies—those that are based on passion and joy, and those that address markets and pain points. Which are you?