Startup School 2008 – Saturday & Sunday

I woke up at 6 AM to get ready and head over to Startup School. It was further away than I thought, and the Google map just showed the driving route, and without knowing where fences/etc… were on campus, I chickened out and took a cab to the building that Startup School was in. I ended up there a little early, around 7:40, but met up with some Seattle folks who were also there. Notably, Mr. Tom Music, the creator of, a collaborative haiku site. Tom is a great guy, and while I totally envy his name, it’s impossible to hate him:) We talked and milled around with some other folks until they finally let us into the auditorium around 8:45.

I sat down and pulled out my laptop. Sometime between when I packed it up that morning after checking my e-mail and looking at Google Maps, the screen had decided to die. I strongly suspect it is a bad logic board, as Russell had the same issue. Worst. Possible. Timing. There I was, at this big tech conference, with a useless laptop. Of course I hadn’t brought any paper to take notes on, so I was out of luck.

The talks themselves were great! Really amazing. People covered many facets of the tech startup world from law, to investment/VCs, to raw tech, to business plans, etc…

You can watch the talks here:

And I strongly recommend spending the time. There are great chunks of information in there, and they’re all pretty good speakers.

My personal favorite talks were Paul Graham, Jack Sheridan, and DHH. While I don’t use Rails, and am pretty far from a DHH worshipper, I have to say that I LOVED his talk. It stood in stark contrast to the rest of the talks which were often focused on the increasing common approach of building a company/site with the sole goal of being acquired. Sure, an M&A event is great, but it’s also really unlikely. The road there, if you take outside investment, can be stressful and partially out of your control (for better or worse). And if you miss, you have nothing. Personally I really prefer the approach of having a viable business plan and revenue model for your business. If you do get acquired down the road, great, but if not, you’re still making money. Maybe it stays your passion, or maybe it becomes a solid revenue stream freeing you to explore what you really want (as Tim Ferriss discusses), or maybe it dies, but regardless, you’ll come out in the black and having learned a lot.

There’s lots more I could say about the talks, but it’s probably best if you just watch them for yourself. I’ll probably bring up my thoughts and reactions to them in later postings here.

After the talks were over, Tom Music, Alex Barbara, and I walked back to the Westin. I rested for about 30 minutes, and then the three of us walked to the Super Happy Dev House event that night. I really mourned my useless laptop at this point. It was rough not being able to use it for notes and the like during the talks, but to be in a building filled with people hacking away on their projects and having no computer was rough.

I did talk with some new folks, which was great, and I saw the OLPC XO laptop in person for the first time which was pretty cool. Eventually nine of us walked up the street and got some great Thai food. Afterward some headed to a RoR meetup, others went back to the SHDH, and I headed back to the hotel. I crashed around 11 PM.

— Sunday —-

I woke up at 6 AM, again, packed, checked out, and was driven back up to SFO. Virgin America was great again on the way home. I was driven home, unpacked, drove over to Russell’s to borrow his extra laptop to use for work, and spent the rest of the day doing post-trip stuff (laundry, moving stuff over to the loaner laptop, etc…).

All in all it was great trip, and even with the laptop issues it was really valuable and I learned a ton. I also met a lot of new people who are all smart, motivated, tech focused, and good people.





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