Tag Archive: entrepreneur


6 480x245 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Last Friday, my friend Shak pathed, “Productivity at tech companies must be low today. Half the folks are headed to Utah while the other half are looking for an ice cream truck.”

Told to pack for a camping trip but not much else, 850 like-minded individuals showed up in Eden, Utah last Friday for the first Summit Outside event, hosted by the Summit Series team famous for its weekend retreats like Basecamp and Summit-at-Sea. For Outside, attendees were encouraged to disconnect, with the promise of “finding a better connection.”

Without WiFi or outlets, a group of the world’s most Internet-addicted human beings found immense freedom letting go of the digital world and reconnecting with nature.

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It was the first major event held in Eden, Utah since the 45-person team purchased Powder Mountain for $40 million earlier this year. Weekend tickets started at $2,000 and went up to $12,000 depending on housing options like a 10-person dome, quad tent or air-conditioned RV.

Summit donated a portion of ticket sales to local nonprofits and attendees made optional donations at registration. In total, Summit Outside raised nearly $100,000 for Ogden Valley and Weber County nonprofits, including the Weber School Foundation, Ogden Valley Land Trust, Weber Pathways, Weber County Fire Officers Association and The Nature Conservancy.

When the mountain purchase was announced, there were several complaints from local townspeople who were dubious of the team’s ability to preserve the mountain’s old-fashioned charm. Change is still a thing you should believe in, as the event drove more than $2 million dollars into the local economy and resulted in over 300 local jobs.

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Upon arrival, attendees geared up for the weekend with free Nike Fuelbands, headlights, tin cups and camouflage backpacks for carrying around their new Tom’s sunglasses. After chucking bags into tents and strapping on hiking boots, attendees were delighted by surprises at every turn like a sonic meditation deck, a late-night noodle truck, a flash sale of coconuts and LeWeb founder Loic LeMeur giving office hours in the middle of a forest.

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Attendees stopped by the activity tent to sign up for paint ball, hiking, horse-back riding and mountain bike riding – or a knot tying workshop with Philippe Petit, the man featured tightrope-walking between the World Trade Center towers in the documentary Man on Wire.

Somewhat retired, Petit decided to climb the stage at the event’s closing plenary instead.

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Each morning on Powder Mountain, we practiced yoga on The Lotus Deck, overlooking Ogden valley. Teachers included Sasha Bahador, Founder of ShaktiLife and Kenneth Von Roenn III, Creator of Skanda Yoga.

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Just a 5-minute walk down the hill, Taylor Kuffner’s robotic orchestra, known as “The Gamelatron” was tied to trees in a forest of hammocks, providing an oasis of relaxation for weary Summiteers.

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One of the more popular surprises was the Duck Pond, a hedonistic escape from the killer content and outdoor adventure experiences. Aerated and perfectly clean for swimming in, the Duck Pond served as an ideal cool down during the 90 degree days. Summit’s Chief Reconnaissance Officer Thayer Walker says the Duck Pond will be a permanent structure for the years to come.

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As entrepreneurs do, the Summit team members are building a permanent community that didn’t exist before, a home they’re proud to live in, and one they can call their own. “Our goal is to create a center of gravity for the innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought-leaders of the world,” says Summit co-founder Jeremy Schwartz, pictured below with fellow co-founder Brett Leve. “We hope Summit Eden will become a community built around a shared ethos that emphasizes collaboration as tool to drive positive, multidisciplinary output.”

 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Many will compare Summit Series to TED, Davos or even Burning Man, but lining up such energetic entities side-by-side is boring. While there were quite a few speakers at Summit Outside who have also spoken in Long Beach, and people important enough to fly to Switzerland each year, and a lot of dust and dancing in The Electric Forest, what’s more interesting is why events like this exist, and how The Summit Series team has brought such magical experiences to life that are shaping a generation of change-makers.

Content

The Summit Team offered content and activities ranging from a 3-hour mountain biking tour to a discussion of the female hormonal system to an hour-long talk about the recent Trayvon Martin trial. When asked to reflect on a high point from the weekend, Shervin Pishevar, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Sherpa Ventures, answered:

“The Trayvon talk. Cheeraz [Gorman]’s tears opened a flood gate of love and truth. It changed hearts and minds and planted the seeds of a new social justice movement. Our nation still needs a process of reconciliation. There’s too much locked within our hearts. We need to get in that circle we formed in the forest and widen to all so we can all feel what we did that day.”

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Humans weren’t the only ones leaving Powder Mountain with new flight patterns. Summit partnered with Earthwings, a raptor nonprofit, to release two rehabilitated birds of prey into the wild at the event.

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Summit also partnered with Pack and Pounce, a local animal shelter to create a puppy pen where attendees could adopt puppies destined to be put down. 9 puppies were adopted and saved.

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The event could’ve been called the “Summit of Love” – not because of the plethora of mountain-top sessions – but because love was on everyone’s lips, particularly speaker and therapist Esther Perel, who wins the award for giving the most talks in a 48-hour period.

As entrepreneurs, we are used to giving all of ourselves to our companies and careers, then we come home at night with just leftover scraps of our energies for our loved ones. How will we ever have as successful relationships as we do careers if we keep carrying on like this? Esther didn’t have all of the answers, but she made us realize that if its a fulfilling love life we want, we need to explore the possibilities of adjusting our current priorities.

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Production

The Summit team’s production talents are extraordinary. On Saturday night, attendees were invited to have dinner around a quarter-mile long picnic table in a field. The walk to dinner was led by jazz musician Jonathan Batiste.

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For many photo-takers, this visual feat and delightful feast was a highlight of the weekend.

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The Summit team knows how to throw a party too. After dinner, the electronica ensemble Thievery Corporation played a 2-hour set before 50 fans jumped on stage for a late-night dance party. There were all dozens of artists and DJs, like Big Boi, RAC, Sean Glass and DJ Equal, who played until the wee hours of the morning for sparkly-pantsed dancers. To listen to all of the artists who performed this weekend, SoundCloud’s David Noel made a playlist for you.

Curation

While Summit is often knocked for being exclusive, its curated community creates an environment for some of the world’s most ambitious people to open up professionally, emotionally and physically. “It’s going to be a place on Earth that becomes a sacred space for growth and development,” says Nicole Patrice De Member, the Founder of Toi and the woman responsible for introducing Summit to Greg Mauro, the entrepreneur and Eden, UT resident who brought the Powder Mountain opportunity to the team. “The people who need love will end up here. We want the world to be a part of this. It’s not a secret journey, but you still have to go on that journey to get here.”

Summit designed the event with serendipity built-in so that porch-front dinner conversations, afternoon walks down dusty Main Street, or late night discussions in the tea hut became places where we shared journeys of success, failure and personal hardship. “No matter where I went or what I did, I stumbled upon some of the most amazing, interesting people I’ve ever met. It’s a magical experience unlike any other,” says Summit first-timer Ryan Matzner, Fueled’s Director of Strategy.

The first night of Summit Outside I stood next to a stranger as we waited for our camp mates. I said “Hi” and gave him a warm hug the way you might a friend. He said, “Thank you, I really needed that.” He then told me his father had just passed away that morning. And instead of canceling plans to be with his immediate family, he decided that his first step towards healing was to be with his Summit family. In a place so loving, empowering and supportive, I understood.

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Summit Outside was the team’s first big event on Powder Mountain – and for most in attendance, those 72-hours were a transformational experience. The Summit Team’s passion shines through everything it touches, and they’ve fortunately chosen to build their home in one of the most beautiful settings on Earth. In Eden, once again, we feel like we’re just at the beginning of it all…

99662103 520x245 How prequalifying your potential clients could save you time

More than likely when you bought your house, you went through a process commonly known as pre-qualifying. The lender looked at all of your financials and made a determination on if and how much they can lend you. Ever wondered why they wanted all of this information while you were just shopping around for the best mortgage provider? You had it in your head that you were providing them business, so why were they going through the process of determining if you were a good fit for them?

There are several other times when pre-qualification just makes sense. Ever been on a job interview and they asked you to come back for a second interview? You just went through the employer’s pre-qualifying stage. More than likely, your prospective clients are “interviewing” you to see if you are the best fit for their project. They are secretly running you through their very own pre-qualifying process. They want to know if you can deliver what they want, within their budget, and provide great results.

But why should they be the only one in the conversation using a pre-qualifying process? I have come to the realization in my business that I not only need to bring my A-game when prospects approach me, but I should also pre-qualify them as well.

While my process isn’t as sophisticated as a loan officer about to offer someone a six figure (or more) mortgage, I do have a few set “rules” that I try to stick to when prospects contact me. I do this because I stay fairly busy and do whatever I can to save some time.

Thus, I run my prospects through the pre-qualifying process to find out if they are a good fit for me. Not every email or phone call from a prospect is a good fit for me or my business. Instead of spending time on these prospects that won’t pan out otherwise, I quickly pre-qualify them to determine if they are a good match for the services I provide. The operative word being “quickly.”

With all of this said, establishing a quick pre-qualifying process for your prospective clients can not only save you time but also allow you to focus on the prospects that are a match made in heaven. Below are a few guidelines to help you create your own pre-qualifying process for clients. Just keep in mind that this process is meant to be a quick one, so you can achieve this by keeping your process simple.

Are they requesting services you offer?

Are they looking for services that are not in your repertoire? Or are you 1000% sure you can help them given your current service offerings? For example, are they requesting changes to their current website when you only offer this service to existing sites that you manage? Chances are they are requesting something outside of the scope of services you offer (they may not even know it either).

Determining if the client is requesting services you offer shouldn’t be the final factor for if you take on the project or not. You can take what you learned here about the client’s project and use the following questions to help make your determination. For instance, if you develop websites for a living, but don’t really like making changes to existing sites, your current schedule may be what makes you say “yes” to the project if your cash flow isn’t up where it should be.

Are they serious?

How serious do they seem to be? This one for me is one of the hardest to judge. I normally evaluate how serious they are on a few different levels, such as their overall excitement about the project, how much detail they are willing to give, if they only focused on my price, their deadline, and their willingness to work with me.

However, even after going through these things, sometimes it isn’t enough to determine how serious they are. One key thing that seems to work is stating that I require a deposit and a signed agreement before I start work. The serious clients will often not be shaken by this request while those who aren’t so serious will run for the hills.

What is their budget?

Asking the prospect for their budget shouldn’t be a bad thing. If a client doesn’t have the adequate budget for their project, you can do either one of two things: ask questions on why and how that budget was set and work to see if the budget can be changed; or politely explain that the budget will not work for the type of work they are requesting.

Depending on how you conduct business, the budget question can be the major factor, or even the only factor, in determining if a prospect is a good fit for you. If the client’s budget won’t work, it’s up to you based on your other pre-qualifications for if you would like to continue discussing the project with them.

What does your schedule look like?

Why should your schedule play a role in the pre-qualifying process? Well, it has everything to do with how your business is performing. Is your schedule full of projects? Then you are blessed enough to be a bit more selective in the projects you can take on and in turn allow you to take on your dream projects.

However, if you don’t have that many projects on deck, you may need to be less picky on the projects you take on, even if it means sacrificing a bit on the other pre-qualifications. Keep in mind, you have bills to pay, so you may have to take on a project from time to time that is less than ideal just to put food on the table.

Gut feeling: is it a good match?

Then of course is the “gut feeling” rule. How do you feel about the project? Are you excited and secretly hoping you land the project? Or are there several red flags are making you think twice about it? Your gut feeling is a good indicator on if you should take on the project.

Of course if you are excited about it and everything checks out, then go for the project. However, if you are sick to your stomach over the possibility of working with the client or on their project, do you really want to put yourself through that misery?

Conclusion – you are your best judge.

There have been clients of mine that didn’t meet hardly any of my pre-qualifications, but I still took the job anyways. The reason is often because there are other things that come up that make the project more desirable to work on than what you had in your pre-qualification checklist. For instance, are you needing to build your portfolio and this project will help you do just that? In the end, you are your best judge in determining if a client is a good fit for you.

However you decide to set up your pre-qualification process, make sure it is something you can execute quickly (within the same phone conversation or in a couple of emails), so you can save your precious time and use that time on prospects that make you excited to go to work everyday.

Image: Thinkstock

people-Chris-Dixon

In mid-November, longtime entrepreneur, active angel investor, iconoclastic blogger and hardcore New Yorker Chris Dixon told the tech world something it least expected — that he had taken a job as a venture capitalist at one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful firms, Andreessen Horowitz.

Well, he’s arrived finally, and moved himself to San Francisco and his office to Sand Hill Road for real — even though he is still keeping his apartment back East.

It’s been a long and winding road to here for Dixon, who was CEO and co-founder of SiteAdvisor, which was acquired by McAfee, as well as recommendations engine Hunch, which was bought by eBay a year ago.

He is one of the founding members of Founder Collective, an East Coast-based seed-stage venture firm run by entrepreneurs, making a lot of investments in companies such as Skype, Invite Media and OMGPOP. Previously, he programmed financial algorithms at a high-speed options trading firm, and has also worked at Bessemer Venture Partners.

And, perhaps most intriguingly, Dixon has also blogged a lot about what needs fixing in the VC industry (a lot, according to him).

Yesterday, I motored the Mazda 5 down to Andreessen Horowitz’s office to talk about the move with the always clever Dixon, who is hoping to focus on a range of consumer-focused investments, and perhaps cast his freshly monied net more widely.

Here’s the video of the interview:

[ See post to watch video ]

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