Los Angeles and the Web business both boil down to how well you manage traffic, except in "start-up" culture there are clear-cut metrics or quantitative measures of success that don't involve getting from Hollywood to Long Beach in under 20 minutes. Startonomics' promise of a strategic approach to success with which to battle the hype surrounding the present economic contraction motivated me to spend a good part of my Friday morning stuck in a bottleneck on Wilshire and Robertson, trying to reach the day-long conference at UCLA Andersen School of Business.
Founded in October 2008 by Dealmaker Media CEO and Silicon Valley rainmaker Debbie Landa, the fact that Startonomics has found a home in L.A. speaks volumes about how much the technology industry is thriving here. The reason Landa vetted L.A. as an ideal location for the innovative event is same reason yours truly gets to write this article; the scene here is phenomenally vibrant and rife with triumph. If the 350 people in attendance all want to start or grow their companies, whither the econocalypse?
"I know what its like to be sitting in the audience with an idea," expressed Jasmine Antonick, Management Consultant at Dealmaker Media, over the dun of click clacking of fingers on keyboards, the audience a sea of Macbooks and iPhones. "I put together these conferences because I wanted a place where you could come and seal the deal," Landa emphasizes.
It's true with all the mixers and drinks and charity balls, it's easy to forget (as speaker Jay Weintrub reminded us) that we're all here to make money. Even though few attendees passed up open bar and "make your own" burritos at the Mediatemple after party, most came for sustenance of a different sort, absorbing real content on how to make your business more profitable. "L.A. is all about making money; it's much more advertising friendly and has a drastically different philosophy from the Valley," attendee Alex Gonzalez articulated. Antonick agreed, "All these big media companies - down here they're all chasing the buck." With such unlimited profit potential, why not spend a day brushing up on your new media acumen?
Dan Mapes, president of Magnet Solutions, summarized it thus: "The industry moves so fast, it's really good to come and hear [the updates]." Whether it was search marketing rockstar Neil Patel taking us to SEO school, or DocStoc CEO Jason Nazar teaching us the 7 ways to drive traffic (1. SEO 2. Blogs/Press 3. Soc Media 4. Partnerships 5. Viral loops 6. Refreshing content 7. Solve a compelling need), or social media guru Sean Percival proving his point by incorporating the use of Twitter hashtags into his "Social Media is Dead" presentation, Startonomics played out like crash course in the art of Internet business -- a "one-day Marketing Degree, and Engineering Degree and MBA mash-up."
As David Sacks, CEO of Yammer, pointed out in his keynote, the technology industry is the only one that has not asked for a bailout thus far (outlasting even the porn industry). In fact, as he succinctly put it, "We are the bailout." Sacks maintains that the culture of sharing within Web 2.0 doesn't exist anywhere in the economy. "Web 1.0 was about things, Web 2.0 is about people," he explained, reminding me of the maxim "love people, use money" (shrewd advice when you consider that people don't "bubble").
The next Startonomics event on "Revenue" will attempt to answer the lingering question on everyone's mind: "How do I get rich and famous using the Internet?" (or in industry speak "monetizing"). You can bet I'll be there offering my support to the innovators who move the L.A. tech ecosystem forward into a sustainable future - AND pick up a tip or two on how to get rich and famous.
LAWeekly.com's Top 10 Tips for Surviving the Recession via Startonomics
10. "Solve a compelling need - tap into things we think about most, i.e. ourselves" - Jason Nazar, DocStoc CEO. There's a reason Facebook is valued at 3B and it's not the "poke people" application.
9. "Learn how to flip burgers" - Mark Suster, GRP Partners. Entrepreneurs need to learn to "flip burgers" or fill every role from the head of Marketing to secretary and gopher downwards - unless you've actually done the job you won't know if it's being done right.
8. "Don't take money from people who aren't passionate about what you're passionate about" - Richard Rosenblatt, Founder, Demand Media. It's that passion that'll get you through the long days when your only revenue is a $20 bill stapled to a coupon for Advil.
7. "Your avatar must speak for who you are and what you represent" - Sean Percival, Director of Content, Tsavo Media. Social Media is oversaturated with static and noise, so build your brand with one cohesive and flattering image - which means no more pics of you in booty shorts dancing to "Single Ladies" at Senor Frogs!
6. "Obama won because people voted for him. The Internet works in much the same way" - Neil Patel, Director of Marketing, KISSMetrics. The Internet is all about critical mass, build momentum through good content and smart SEO. (Another more techie Patel tip: "Never underestimate that power of Google images, use alt tags, long descriptions, and make sure the photo has a high pixel count.)
5. "Have a lot of friends" - Jason Nazar, CEO DocStoc. Most people underestimate the power of friendship, build your connections and use them to disseminate buzz surrounding your feature, product, business or company.
4. "Do more with less, do what you do best" - Peter Pham, CEO Billshrink. First you decide what it is you have - i.e. feature > product > business > company and then work it. Twitter took the "updates" feature of FB and turned it into an empire.
3. "Don't be afraid to suck in public" - Mark Jeffrey, CTO Mahalo. "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but when you find them fix them, and FAST!" The road to success is paved with failures.
2. "The day you start your business may be the last easy day of your life" - Jim Benedetto, Senior Vice President, Technology, MySpace. That's why they call it work and not play - you're going to have to put in your 10,000 hours.
1. "Have fun... We're not saving lives" - Frank Adante, CEO Rubicon Project. When the "Business" section seems more like the "Layoffs" section it's very easy to forget this golden rule. Breathe, this too shall pass.
Top 5 overheard (OH) comments at #STNX and #STNX after party @W Hotel
5. OH: "What's the name of this building again?" "Kornhall" *pause* (nervous giggle)
4. OH: "Your social activity is a river, don't pollute the river."
3. OH: "How is being Asian? I've always wanted to know. Is it badass?"
2. OH: "Recession survival tips? It's called Cartel..."
1. OH: "So glad we're not in the auto-industry."
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The next event in the Dealmaker Series is "Revenue: the Internet Wants to be Free - But You Gotta Get Paid!" on March 5th in Rustic Canyon.