#OliveSavvy: 5 Things We Learned at TechBreakfast
Two co-founders, two interns, and two bagels pile into a Zipcar set for Delaware. No, this isn’t a setup for an elaborate joke. It’s the beginning of a special Tuesday for the Olive Devices Family, as we attended TechBreakfast in Wilmington, Delaware to present a demo of our smart glasses. TechBreakfast is a monthly event series in over 11 cities where entrepreneurs, techies, developers, designers, business people, and interested people can see showcases on cool new technology in a demo format and interact with each other. We were one of the three companies to present in Wilmington, hosted by 1313 Innovation, and after, a panel of three successful venture capitalists and angel investors that included Pedro Moore (First State Angels), Wayne Kimmel (SeventySix Capital), and Brett Topche (Red & Blue Capital) spoke and answered questions from the audience. And yes, this TechBreakfast event was, of course, kicked off in the morning.
Sounds like a major source of tech and entrepreneurial insight! It absolutely was, and we took notice. For this week’s #OliveSavvy post, we want to share the five main things we learned from our trip to TechBreakfast and how you too can learn by attending futureTechBreakfast events.
You've got to get off the couch and make it happen. Investors want you to.
Seems self explanatory right? Yet, time and time again this is the hardest part for aspiring entrepreneurs. Putting yourself out there. Stepping outside of your comfort zone. But as Wayne Kimmel pointed out, this is not the sort of stepping outside of your comfort zone your mom tells you to do before your first day of middle school or your high school buddy explains to you when he makes you ask out that cheerleader who’s out of your league. No, what we learned at TechBreakfast is that stepping outside of your comfort zone means giving and receiving a business card. That’s it! Investors are not going send out invitations, but they want to find people to invest in (hence, the name). Go to events. Or as Wayne says, go to the money. Introduce yourself. Give a card. Get a card. Just like that, a potential working relationship has begun all due to “the ultimate icebreaker.”
The Greater Philadelphia Area is not Silicon Valley. And it doesn't need it to be.
We get it. Silicon Valley is the current hub for tech startups. It’s what New York is to theater, what LA is to the big screen. But guess what? There is no reason to complain, and we should stop doing it. What we learned at TechBreakfast is that you can build a great company anywhere, especially in today’s hyperconnected world. Every place has pros and cons, good news and bad news wherever you go. However, Philadelphia is no slouch when it comes to business. Wayne helped bring Microsoft to the City of Brotherly Love, and he encouraged us to help enhance the region ourselves. There is still great tech talent here, nationally revered universities, a rich culture full of history, and plenty of opportunity. The key is to keep working to build great companies so that even bigger companies will buy them. And yes, believe it or not, we do have our own “Wolf of Walnut Street.”
Say goodbye to tech wizards, and say hello to the hustlers.
Brett Topche gave a very insightful explanation of a universally known fact: It’s not 2002 anymore. Amazon changed the game for tech startups and in a big and helpful way. Years ago, a large team would have to ask venture capitalists for millions and millions in funding so that after a year, they could come back with a prototype. Now, he went on to explain, a small group can work in their garage all weekend without showering, show up with a prototype, user feedback, scaling costs and strategies asking only for a few hundred thousand. Basically, the declining of capital intensity for tech startups and overall advancement in technology means you don’t have to be a unicorn to be a successful entrepreneur. You don’t have to be a tech wizard. You just have to hustle. Work harder than the rest. It’s not being annoying; it’s being persistent. We can now do so much more with so much less, but the key to making that happen is to be a hustler.
You don't need to be a businessman or tech engineer.
During the panel, a doctor asked for advice about navigating the tech industry as an entrepreneur without formal business or tech experience. He asked how to feel more comfortable and welcome in environments that he does not necessarily know a lot about. The panel unanimously responded: never ever feel unwelcome. It's a community no matter who you are. Better yet, if you are not a businessman or engineer, you are what is known as a subject matter expert. You have insight that most people in the industry don’t, for example the doctor’s medical knowledge, and even insight that the market might not possess. Still worried? There are startup groups and incubators to help as well. You could also easily be paired with a business expert. Ultimately, we learned at TechBreakfast to never sell yourself short because you may be exactly what someone is looking for.
Failure can be valuable. Be thankful for every experience.
As mentioned by multiple CEO’s and founders covered on this blog, failure is an inherent part of the startup game. If a startup were a sport, it would be baseball, except in this version batting .001 would be considered a success. Venture capitalists and investors don’t know with 100% certainty what will be successful or what won’t, and they will be the first to tell you this. They still have to make decisions based on their personal and professional judgement. This means that just because one person tells you no, by no means are you out of the ballgame. And that’s okay. To extend this tired baseball metaphor further, it’s much more valuable and efficient to go after someone who’s strike zone you’re in rather than trying to be someone’s exception. It’s not about convincing the skeptics, but instead finding the true believers. In addition, when you do come across a skeptic, don’t be afraid to ask why. Ask for advice. Be open to adjustments. Perhaps, your greatest benefit is not walking away with money, but instead new insight or an impactful experience. The investor who tells you “no” could be the same investor who gave you the knowledge to get your big “yes.”