Sunday, January 27, 2008

Recap: HBS 2008 Entrepreneurship Conference

Today was the Harvard Business School's 2008 Entrepreneurship Conference: Life Outside the Box. Being in the neighborhood and feeling a bit daffy, I checked it out.

Wait a minute... they're IN boxes... and wearing suits.

Thanks to the Entrepreneurship Club for putting this event together!! Here's my assessment. Logistics - good. Speaker & keynote lineup - great. Keynotes - good. Panel topics - good. Panel moderation - mediocre. Schwag - good. Food - mediocre. And last but far from least, Networking - good.

The keynotes emphasized the need to be bold, take action, get your ass out and do stuff, and be prepared for people to think you are crazy or doing things wrong. I think it's a great message and I don't get tired of hearing it from successful people.

Ken Howery, co-founder of PayPal, gave a cool summary of how to find a good startup idea: it is at the intersection of two circles - (1) Good Ideas and (2) Ideas that People think are Bad Ideas. The intersection of these two circles basically are overlooked opportunities... great areas to move into. Of course, while (2) is easy to determine, (1) is not. But I think it's an accurate summary of what entrepreneurs who aren't strictly lucky might chalk part of their success up to.

The biggest "delta" (that's business school wimp talk for an area for improvement) was the panel moderation. In the three panels, the moderators, students and profs alike, gave mealy-mouthed introductions, asked spineless questions, and made no contributions in framing or summarizing what was said. They should take a lesson from James Schrager, or just listen to NPR a bit more. Modest improvements would have doubled the value of the panels.

BUT I was glad I went, despite my general dislike of sitting still and listening. And I met some cool people.