Big Omaha & Cats

Already two weeks ago (damn, time flies when you’re having fun), I attended the Big Omaha conference in, surprisingly, Omaha. This conference has named itself ‘The nation’s most ambitious conference on  innovation and entrepreneurship’, so the expectations where pretty high. And, without spoiling everything, I think they did a very good job at meeting those expectations. Oh and off course I wasn’t there all by myself, I was supported by Leila, Eric, Michael and my man Dilip.

First of all, it is not a simple straightforward conference; all the stuff around the conference was organized into detail, beginning with the opening party on Wednesday night. The idea was not go give everyone a hangover so we would miss the following day, but it was a really nice change to meet all the people that where attending, and to pick up your badges, saving you costly coffee time next morning.

Thursday

Anyway, the first presentation on Thursday morning (including hangover…), was given by Ben Hu, better known as the man behind the Cheezburger network, which is known from ‘I can haz cheezburger‘ and failblog. I expected him to talk about ‘lolcats’ and misspelled captions, which he did, but he also talked about his vision on the creation of content and media. Nowadays, we create more data in a single day, than that was created from the beginning of times until 2001 combined. Also, the ‘official’ media produces much less then 1% of the content every day, so we have to reinterpret our use and vision on media and content in general. Interesting view!

One of the best talks this weekend was done by Sarah Lacy, Techcrunch, about her new book. Well, actually it wasn’t really about the book, it was more about innovation outside the US, and how surprisingly clever and smart these can be (which is also what the book is about btw). She showed several innovations, such as a mobile mobile-phone signal station invented and used in India. This reduces the price per connection from tens of dollars to under 2 dollar per connection. She showed very clearly that it is stupid for the US to be so inward looking for innovation, there is so much going on around them. Highly recommend reading her new book: ‘Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the top 1% of Entrepreneurs profit from Global Chaos‘.

That evening we had a party @ the Slowdown, where The Hood Internet was spinning the records. Very nice combination of different tracks and very danceable. Together with our newfound friends Carlos Arellano (@carlosarellano) and Michael Roling (@michaelroling), and 3 stoned and drunk almost graduating college girls we showed the crowd how to party!

Friday

You thought cats couldn't get more awesome? You where wrong!

The morning talk was a real wake-up call, brought to us by Gary Vaynerchuck, talking about social media and its importance in your marketing strategies. Unbelievable how much energy this guy has and how he is able to transfer that to the audience, incredible.

Later that afternoon, Marc Ecko took the stage and gave a very interesting presentation about his vision on your companies message and how to convey that message to your customers. He managed to write a formula which describes these relationships and which can tell you if you are on the right way or not. Sometimes difficult to follow but he showed a very good understanding and almost philosophical view on running a business (Hate that I can’t precisely remember the formula right now, I’ll see if I can find it somewhere).

The last talk of the day was done by Bo Fishback, my former mentor at the Kauffman Foundation, who left the foundation to take the role of CEO of Zaarly, a hyper local, buyer driven marketplace. After Bo pitched this idea at StartupWeekend in California, he got 1 million investment from several high profile VC’s, including Ashton Kutcher, which made him decide to pursue this startup challenge. Over the past 2 months they have been working hard to be able to launch Zaarly last Tuesday, and over that period received offers for in total over 400 million in venture capital. I’m very curious about how Zaarly will be doing in the comming years, they did have a good start is the least I can say about it.

The party this night was @Nomad Lounge, where we enjoyed free beers, good conversation and a great photo session.

Saturday

Dome of the larges indoor desert in the USA

Since we where in Omaha, we had to take the opportunity to see that famous zoo everyone was talking about. So on Saturday morning we headed out to see the largest indoor desert and the largest indoor jungle. The picture here on the right gives you an idea of the size of this desert. Inside they have a tour all the way through it, where almost every 10 feet you see another ‘desert’ animal. Very nicely done.
Same thing holds for the indoor jungle and the aquarium, very very nice facilities with a lot of different animals. I’ll post a load of pictures on facebook, it is a bit too much to put it in here right now. What I do want to show though is a movie of the aquarium.

And then cats! I like them, a lot. So here a load of pictures of the cats I have seen in Omaha’s zoo!



Keeping an eye on the public


Posing nicely


Hiding, but not quite


Proud kitty


Peacefully asleep


Zzzzzz

History Tells Us… #1

Nice views on the way back to the foundation after a night of heavy snow

So, since there is a gap of around 8 weeks in my blog history, it is time to bridge it. I will do that with a few posts on these weeks and the things I did and learned. Today part one:

Looking back at what we did at the Kauffman foundation in the weeks we where in KCMO, I have to mention a few things specifically. Ted Zoller came back to the foundation to subject us to his 2 and a half day ‘Venture Bootcamp’. And he did! Ted worked with us from 8:30 in the morning to 16:30 in the afternoon, non stop touching on the most important aspects of startups, only to dive into every detail a moment later. The picture here shows one of his explainatory sheets, which look like complete and utter chaos, but is very useful and logic with his explanation (ok, I can’t find the sheet… In return I did find a very nice video of Ted @ the Kauffman Foundation)
This session ended with a short session from Nathan Gold, a presentation coach from The Demo Coach (www.democoach.com). Nathan started his presentation with some very nice magic tricks to get our attention and to clear our minds, and then, in as little as 45 min he reveiled all the secrets of a good investor pitch to us. Amazing how simple this stuff can be, yet so many people keep making the same mistakes (not to say that I’m not, but I’m now at least prepared to spot them).

Bill posing with the gang

The last thing I want to mention here, is the presentation from Bill Aulet. Bill is a professor at MIT Sloan, and worked with us on perfecting your value proposition and the determination of your customer. He showed the importance of being able to exactly, in complete detail (yes, even the type of underwear he/she wears), dertermine your customer. This is absolutely vital for determining how to approach your market, position your products or services and even for finding investors. Bill is one of those guys who can present in a convincing, yet very funny way, and still keep his full credibility. Amazing and great sense of humor, so if you ever have a chance to attend one of his speeches, make sure to be there!

There is life after silence!

I’m back! After almost 10 weeks I am finaly ready (as in, I have a good coffee and a nice cake in front of me ;)) to share a bit more about the America experience, so here we go!

Around 3 weeks ago I started my internship at Rhythm Engineering, a very fast growing company, delivering real time adaptive traffic light control systems. They are planning to tripple there revenues this year and they have hired around 25 people in the last 9 months. Currently they have 5 new employees in the interview or training phase, and they also find time to learn me a little bit about the company and the product.

Nice ride for the first day in Silicon Valley

My responsibilities will be mainly divided amongst 3 different sections of the company, Sales, Operations and Administration. I will do the weekly sales forecast, I work on the P&L, cashflow and balance statements and I’m working on re-inventing their inventory system. Oh and I help with preparing quotes, increasing the efficiency of the sales team and I help with some miscellanious tasks (like making coffee), it is to say that I am pretty busy.

The CEO of the company is Reggie Chandra, a traffic engineer, double master and phd, with 3 previous startups. He will be my mentor in the entrepreneurship field during my internship, and he is constantly challenging me to increase my knowledge and think about the decisions founders have to make. Very inspiring and helpfull for me, although it also amounts to a lot of work; he has me read around 1 business book a week and listen to audio tapes in my car. A bit an overkill I thought in the beginning, but I have to say that is works out really well.

So the next 2 and a half months I am staying in the Marriott Execustay on 909 Walnut street in downtown Kansas City, 17th floor. Very nice apartment, I’ll upload some picuteres on facebook and the picasa that I’m setting up. My buddy here in KCMO is Dilip Parasi, he is from India, and in the weekends we are totally owning the Irish pub in the Country Club Plaza area. Very nice to have some company while drinking beers and socializing with the locals.

Ok, that’s it for now, a very short update, I’ll be posting more here in the comming week, so that I have some room to tell you about the past 8 weeks which where absolutely fantastic!

God Bless America! (ahum…)

Treats:

What a view!

Who is that dude!?

Week #2

Our first busy week, immediately caused a decrease in blogging time, so time to catch up.

Beatiful weather on the road to the Foundation

Noam Wasserman was our first teacher this week, a Professor from Harvard Business School, talking about the struggles when starting a new venture, and he explained the Rich vs King concept. Are you in for the big bucks, or do you want to stay in control of your own empire? A question that almost no entrepreneur asks himself during a startup, but which will influence almost all of his decisions. Better get to know yourself!

That same evening we found Peter Kurzina, Seniour lecturer at MIT Sloan school of management, at our dinner table. He is a specialist in company’s turn-arounds and crisis management. He gave us a speed class on leadership the following day, sharing his insights in how to be a good leader, and not a manager. Very interesting and useful seminar.

One of the Entrepreneurship initiatives from the Kansas City area organized the Pipeline Innovator of the Year Award event on thursday, which we attended all day. Starting early in the morning with 10 presentations of innovative companies, followed by a 400+ person network drink and dinner, it was quite a long, but good day. I finnally spoke to the CEO of the company where I’ll do my internship, Reggie Chandra, who also won the Innovator of the Year 2010 award. Nice to speak to the guy that I’ll be working with for 3 months.

Builing along the road to the Foundation

We had another busy day scheduled for friday, an intellectual property lecture from Andrew W. Torrance from the University of Kansas, specialized in intellectual property law, and Peter McDermott, intellectual property lawyer and shareholder at Banner & Witcoff Ltd. They gave a very interactive, energetic and informative lecture on the legal side of intellectual property law. We also played a game made by Andrew that simulates the effect of Patents on the speed of innovation and the growth of wealth because of these innovations. Very interesting results, where it seems that the current patent system is hindering innovation and global growth of wealth, in contrast with the believes of most people involved in patents.

On saterday, with a very heavy cat (;-)), we went to the Harry Truman Presidential Library & Museum, where we indulged in the life and decisions of H. Truman during his presidency. He was the vice-president that suddenly had to step up, because the president died, in the middle of the 2nd world war. He decided to drop the atomic bombs on Japan, and he also tried to make rigorous reforms in the american goverment (including medical insurance law) and for the country as a whole. A truly great leader and visionary person.

Panorama view of the park in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum

More free days & Ted Zoller

On tuesday we had our first ‘real’ lecture from the CEO of Kauffman, Carl Schramm. Scharmm gave us a very nice and comprehensive introduction to american history and the way entrepreneurship shaped american culture. He also explained what exactly it is theKauffman Foundation is doing and why that is so important. For instance, research of the Kauffman Foundation showed that virtually every new job created in America is due to small (startup) companies, in contrast with the popular believe that it is the large established companies that create jobs.

Wednesday afternoon a snowstorm hits KCMO (slang for Kansas City Missouri), resulting in the cancellation of our shopping trip on thurseday for some reason, so we get the day off. This however gave us the opportunity to prepare the seminar on friday with Ted Zoller (Director & Associate Professor at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill): New Venture Bootcamp.

Very interesting and inspirational seminar, where Ted gave us new insights in doing business, heavily supported by funny stories and anekdotes. Know what you know and know what you don’t know; Networks are openings; think big, start small; seize every opportunity you get; you always have a second chance; dare to jump; are only a few wisdoms he shared extensively with us. He introduced us to his 5M Stochastic Venture Model, Meaning, Market, Money, Model, Management, but most of all, he put us to action. A very usefull seminar indeed!

The cancelled shopping trip was re-scheduled to saterday, where we went to a big Target market, we got us some new food, and a pre-payed contract so that we can call, text and use data, unlimited. My new american number is +1 816 616 9941. We also encountered a promotion for fighting poverty and hunger in a quite unusual way: Angry Birds.

In the evening we went to Mosaic, a club in the Power & Light district got us a table, a 300 dollar bottle of rum and showed those KCMO locals how to party. Tim and David K went on an advanture to nowhere, Stevens girl caused Marijns girl to leave and so in the end everyone ended up safely in our own beds. A great first party night in KC!

First day at the Kauffman Foundation

After 3 days of relaxing, in between the ‘drinking’ sessions, we where picked up this morning to go to the Kauffman Foundation for our first day of entrepreneurial education.

As expected, the whole first day was filled with introduction, loads and loads of information about the program and the surrounding area and off course a tour through the building. For the next 5 weeks we will be almost living in the Kauffman labs, a seperate part of the foundation, focussed on catalyzing entrepreneurship. This space is furnished quite luxuriously with ample space for conversation, relaxation, presentation and off course workshops, as can be seen on the foto’s.

We also had a breefing from Cory Olsen, the typical american security officer: Fat, a bit short, wearing a bullet-proof vest (indoors! oh yes), large belt with all sorts of ‘important’ stuff on it. Very funny. A short selection of words he used: Becoming a target, vulnerable, predators (about homeless people…), having a predatory lifestyle. To finish off with the information that someone got killed a few weeks ago, very close to the foundation. Yeah, welcome in America! All in all it was quite a confrontation that there is a fairly large part of Kansas City where you simply should not go to, at the risk of getting assaulted, robbed or even killed in the process. You read and hear about it on tv, but to actually being told not to go somewhere, and pointed out an area of a map that the security officers call ‘The no-man’s land’ is shocking.

The rest of the afternoon is filled with organizing some minor things, and doing some research for my internship and for my new company. Oh and I should not forget to read 2 (!) books tonight, the author of both is the CEO of the Kauffman Foundation and he will be our first presenter tomorrow.

Day 1 and 2

Friday night, 4:15, Rough wake-up from a very nice dream… Oh wait, today is the day!

5:20, schiphol airport (thanks Mathijs!), no problems at check in, so time for coffee and some breakfast at Starbucks. 6:00, through customs, last kiss from my girlfriend ( 😦 ) and heading for the KLM business lounge. There I find Marijn Berk, fellow scholar at Kauffman, who owns for some reason a Gold card for the KLM business lounge. This will turn out to be a very, very nice situation for the rest of the trip. So, in the lounge are free drinks and breakfast, nice large chairs and internet, perfect for waiting until we can check in.

(Oh, this is a long post, but also the longest of all, so don’t worry, the rest will be better)

At around 8 o’clock we have lift-off from schiphol and we head west to the country of unlimited possibilities (:-S)! About 7 hours later, we land at Detroit airport, only to disover that we are plane nr. 3 in the last 1o min, meaning that we have around 300 people in front of us at customs. Normaly this would be no problem, but with our 1.5 hour transfer time we got a bit nervous. And rightfully so, once we cleared customs, our plane already left, so we could be placed on hold for the 15:25 flight to Kansas and we could be checked in for the 19:30 flight. Luckily for me, Marijn waved with his gold card again at the SkyTeam business lounge, and suddenly we could be checked in for the flight at 15:25! So once again we saw the enormous task of waiting in a lounge with free everything. After getting some sort of lunch, followed by a good wine, and on the side some chips with wiskey and gin the waiting could begin. Quite a nice way to spend your time, I have to say.

The flight to Kansas was fast and comfortable again, however, going to the lavatory in such a small airplane is simply not possible if you are longere then 1.20. On the route to Kansas we also discoverd David Koper on the plane, also following the Kauffman scholarship. Arriving at the Fairfield Inn for the first night, we were greeted by the rest of the group, Tim Rutten, David Gernaat, Loet Rammelsberg, Omid Majipour, Steven Lammertink and Jeroen van Duffelen.

A quick shower and a free ride to a restaurant area later, we where in the Irish pub, trying to get us some beers, but strangly that was more difficult than we expected. We had to go back to the door, explain to the waiter that we wanted a drink, no dinner, so that he could assign us a place in the bar where we could stand. But not sit, or would we like to sit?, no we could stand. Strange… Ordering a beer also means that we all had to show our passport, cause we, handsome as we are, look way under 21 :S. Then we ordered a budweiser, but got some belgian beer.

Dinner was served at the Tomfooleries, together with some large beers, budweiser this time. I selected a large burger as you are suppost to do, and got exactly that. A large burger, with in total 1/8th of a pickle as vegetables :). Loet and Tim made sure we had a constant supply of beer, the conversation reached an all time low (yes, already on the first day…) and suddenly we had 9 margerita’s in front of us (something with happy hour). Then asking for the bill gave us a new surprise, the waitress actually made a coupon where she already seperated exactly what each of us had for dinner and drinks. Really great solution for groups where everyone pays for himself. The total damage for me was only 23 dollar, so for 4 drinks, dinner and a margerita quite a good deal I figured.

Day 2

Waking up at 4:58 in the morning, with a really bad feeling, made me so glad for the time difference. Second time awake was 9:30, perfectly awake and feeling good! After a breakfast with some very strange sausage wrapped in a pancake with really awfull meat sauce, I figured that loosing those calories would be a good idea. So I did a workout on a spinning bicycle, got showered and packed my suitcase for the trip to the Residence Inn Country Plaza Marriot.

After we pulled Marijn from his bed and the bus discovered its second gear again (it was sort of broke, but not always), we arrived at our location where we would be staying for the next 5 weeks. Very nice and spaceous (how do you write that???) rooms, in the center of the country club Plaza area. We got a short introduction and intro to the progam from Nancy Walker, one of the program managers.

The rest of the day was filled with visiting the apple store, eating a sandwich (with at least a cm of chicken on it, topped off with bacon and sauce…, uploading foto’s and writing this blog. We ended the evening with dinner in The Cheesecake Factory (yes, from the Big Bang Theory). I only had a salade…

Beers in an Irish Pub made me decide to start a company, Marijn and David, thanks for that!

So, all in all a very pleasant start of the scholarship!

My Blog

In this blog I will be documenting my experiences during my internship at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

I’ll take part in the Globals Scholarship Program, a program aimed at creating new successful entrepreneurs. During the first 5 weeks of this scholarship I’ll be following workshops, meetings, lectures and I’ll visit several companies in the Kansas City region.

This is followed by a 3 week period of travel to MIT, Stanford, Harvard and Silicon Valley. The exact planning isn’t available yet.

Then I’ll follow a 12 week internship at a company somewhere in the US. Which company this might be is still unknown, but possibly Deka research (Dean Kamen) or SoftVu (Tim Donnely), but lets not get ahead of ourselfs here.

This scholarship program is than finished with a final week in Kansas City, where the whole group shares their experiences.

After the internship I’m planning to use the visa’s ‘grace period’ to travel in the VS.

So a first and very short description of the program and my activities next half year.

Erik