Alex Barrera is incensed by lazy, entitled entrepreneurs who complain about the price of conference tickets. Where’s that fabled entrepreneurial resourcefulness when you need it?
One of the things democratisation of start-ups has brought is founders without spines. There is a clear line between entrepreneurs that will do anything to get to the mountain-top and the start-up wannabes that now saturate the market. While it might seem obvious, the mountain-top is different for everyone and I’m not honouring those people that would sell their own grandmothers to achieve what they assume is success.
I’m talking about resourceful people. I’m talking about entrepreneurs that will figure out ways to achieve whatever they want in unsuspected ways.
Too often I meet entrepreneurs bitching around how hard everything is: about how evil the government is, how impossible it is to get a visa or to hire talent. More recently, I’ve heard complaints about LeWeb: about how expensive LeWeb is and how inaccessible it is for most entrepreneurs, particularly in Eastern Europe, where money is tight.
Well, yeah. It is expensive. And, yes, as a start-up you probably don’t have much money. That you can’t attend LeWeb as a result is just bullshit. As I’ve said many times before, if I had to choose a conference in Europe that is a must for any start-up, it’s LeWeb. You can argue for hours about the return of investment of the conference, and I will get into this in a second, but what’s undeniable is that the second largest nationality that attends the conference is American. To be more precise, West-coasters. Silicon Valley, mostly.
The funny thing is, the companies crying about how bad things are in Europe, tend to be the ones who praise and aspire to the Valley. When given the opportunity to meet the Valley crowd, however, they shy away, arguing it’s “too expensive”. For these whiny, entitled entrepreneurs, everything is a problem. This isn’t solely a start-up issue: you can see this behavior in many big companies, many teams and in many societies.
Like Spain, for example. Spaniards are queens of drama. Everything is wrong, everything is shitty, but beware of asking for solutions. Who wants solutions when you can bitch all day until someone else fixes the problem?
Back to the subject of conferences. I’ve been shocked to learn how few people from Eastern Europe attend. The arguments I hear are so full of crap they make me speechless. Here’s why they don’t make any sense. First, while the regular ticket is very expensive for a start-up, there are plenty of ways to attend the conference without paying for it.
If an entrepreneur isn’t resourceful enough to find a way to get a free ticket, then maybe they should reconsider doing a company, because start-ups are about solving a never-ending stream of problems, each one worse that the last one.
LeWeb offers free tickets for official bloggers and media covering the event: can’t you get one? LeWeb offers discounts for students: can’t you get one? LeWeb sponsors have loads of free tickets: can’t you get one?
The first time I went to LeWeb, I paid full price, but I covered the event for a local newspaper in Spain. I asked the paper if they were willing to pay for a bunch of articles covering the event and future tech trends. They said yes. After the conference, I wrote the articles, got paid and recovered my money. The point is: this isn’t about the money, it’s about being creative.
The return of the investment not being good enough for start-ups is also a ridiculous claim, particularly when you take into account that ROI is personal and depends on what you do while at the conference. LeWeb has all the ingredients to make it or break it for plenty of start-ups. You have corporate sponsors, you have other start-ups, you have the tech media and you have all the VCs and angels in attendance.
The venue is quite big but still manageable enough to do effective networking – and with 3,000 people! The problem really is expectation management. If you think that coming to LeWeb and sitting in a corner like a lemon is going to work, you should definitely avoid it. ROI in networking is about how well can you pinpoint interesting and helpful people around you and zoom in on them.
While many people go to events for the parties, the goal for a start-up is to get as many useful contacts as possible. Going to a party and not talking to influencers while they’re drunk is mind-blowingly stupid. That’s what parties are for: to harass influential people while they’re dancing and drinking.
Last but not least: in the year 2012 there are entrepreneurs still thinking about the market in terms of historical regions. It’s so wrong I can’t even begin describing it. Skipping the opportunity to talk to investors, to potential customers, to key influencers that can propel your user adoption in other regions is amazingly myopic.
I still haven’t figured out why most founders hamper their international opportunities by thinking so locally, but even in trendy hubs like Berlin you have people that discuss the priority of having your website in English. If you’re anxious not to expand your customer base beyond Belgrade, then yeah: maybe LeWeb’s not for you.
In conclusion, I’m sick of whinging entrepreneurs. How about you put your balls on the table and start getting things done, instead of whining?
If you’re presented with two options, one that scares the shit out of you, one that doesn’t, you should always take the scary one. If it doesn’t scare you, you’re doing it wrong. You want money? Take a trip to London. You want media? Take a trip to one of the big conferences. You want talent? Check out Poland.
Can’t find ways of working around your obstacles? Frankly, you may as well just close your company now, because you aren’t going to survive the next two years.