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Start Conference wrap-up

Tiff Fehr

August 7, 2008 at 5:15 PM

Today I’m attending the Start Conference in Fort Mason, San Francisco, hosted by Mssrs. Veen and Mason. Rather than live-blog a short event, I’m going to try an adactio-style summary. The conference was in interview format; the first session featured Veen walking Ev Williams (Twitter) and Matt Mullenweg (WordPress) through their projects’ conception and early growth (along with wayback screenshots and back-of-napkin notes, including a pen drawing of, which later became Twitter). Mullenweg made a side point that startups shouldn’t limit their talent pool—a selection bias toward dudes around San Francisco, thereby ignoring ’99.9%’ of talent, including the Ev Williamses or Matt Mullenwegs in the tech “boonies” (though both are male and relocated-to-SF). Beyond the history and business decisions of MoveableType, Mena Trott answered questions about gender assumptions she’s seen during the growth of Six Apart.

The pre-lunch session featured a variety of beyond-the-web entrepreneurs—Ritual Coffee in SF, Rare Device and a Hollywood screenwriter (Josh Cagan) talked about their entrepreneurial efforts. It also featured a foray into business how-to (the room really perked up for that) with various legal/finance experts about taking a side-project into a full-time gig and protecting your work via ‘chain of title’, corporate entity types, non-competes, employment definitions and more.

Post lunch featured the inimitable Merlin Mann, with funny, cogent soundbytes that made the audience immediately look for podcast recording equipment. Wesabe‘s Marc Hedlund and VC David Hornik followed up with a solid talk about motivation and priorities while being a startup CEO, courting (or avoiding) VCs. Which—post a beer ‘n ice cream and Om Malik’s counter-futurism—led up to the pitch round, which (to my mind) was a weird end to a conference strongly focusing on discounting startup/VC myths. Good conference, conflicting conclusions, but a lot of positive support by smart people…as expected. Were we trying to summarize the startup vibe, or evolve it?

On a final note, it was fantastic to attend a conference where there was almost a line for the women’s room.



August 7, 2008 at 7:38 PM

Tiff, thanks for a great summary of the conference. I was curious, and always enjoy your smart take on things.

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