I am writing this on the plane trip back to Boston from SXSW in Austin, Texas. This was my first time down to the conference that’s been referred to as “Spring Break for Geeks”. I’ve been meaning to go for the last couple of years, but have always had some conflict. This year, I was invited as a speaker to talk about my new book, “Inbound Marketing”, so I went.
Super Awesome Startup Dinner
The highlight of my entire trip was not the conference itself, but a last-minute dinner I organized with some startup founders that also happened to be there. Here were the folks in attendance:
1. Jason Fried, 37signals
2. Drew Houston, DropBox
3. Mike McDerment, FreshBooks
4. David Greiner , CampaignMonitor
5. Kevin Hale, Wufoo
6. David Heinemeier (DHH), 37signals
7. Adam Smith, Xobni
8. Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot (me)
This was a fantastic group of startup founders all of who have been doing some amazing things with their companies. We spent 4+ hours at the table eating, drinking and debating some of the finer points (and not so finer points) of running a software startup.
So, what did we talk about? A bunch of stuff including (but not limited to): hosting (managed services, colo and EC2), the importance/unimportance of a board of directors, user/customer analytics, referral programs, credit card info and the pain of PCI compliance, user incentives, employment agreements, Jason/DHH’s new book (“Rework”) and whether expensive Scotch was really any better than non-expensive Scotch.
Sessions / Speakers
I attended as many sessions as I could, and live-tweeted many (apologies if you follow me (@dharmesh), and you’re not into that kind of thing). In most cases, I attended the “featured speaker” session (vs. some of the smaller ones). Exceptions were when I knew the speaker. This was for a couple of reasons: a) I figured it was a “safer” bet in terms of quality of the presentation and b) As a frequent speaker myself, I’m always looking to get better and watching the pros helps a lot.
On average, I’d say the sessions were very good — but not great. A few of the sessions fell a little flat. I’ll admit, my expectations were high because I’d figured that SXSW has the pick of the litter when it comes to who gets to speak there. But, given the sheer volume of sessions at the conference, I can’t really blame them for all of them not hitting it out of the park.
And, Of Course, The Parties!
As an introvert, I find it hard to have a good time in large groups but I decided that if I really wanted to get the full effect of SXSW I had to go to the legendary parties. So I did, for several nights. Even at these, I find myself talking “shop” with smaller groups of folks which was fun. And yes, the parties were big.
Overall, I liked SXSW -- a lot (and will definitely be going back next year). It was a great opportunity to meet people I've known online for years and chat with old friends.
Look forward to SXSW 2011. Will you be there?
I’m going to be presenting at the big and boisterous SXSW conference in Austin, Texas this Saturday. I’ll be talking about Inbound Marketing. More specifically, I’ll be talking about some insider lessons we’ve learned building a marketing machine at HubSpot. We’ll even be sharing some relatively confidential data. The session is at 11:30 a.m. on the Day Stage. Here are the details: Inbound Marketing at SXSW
In any case, from what I hear, the event is supposed to be lots of fun, but
huge. As an introvert, I’m generally not a big fan of huge events. So, I made a list of people that will also be at SXSW who I’d love to connect to. I figured by having a list, I’ll feel more guilty if I head back to Boston and haven’t talked to at least a few of them. I’m also hoping that a few of them will come across this article and be kind enough to reach out. I made it a bit easier on myself by including some folks that I know pretty well.
If you’re on this list and reading this, please leave me a comment. I’d be very grateful.
People I Want To Connect With At SXSW
1. Lane Becker, GetSatisfaction
Why: I met Lane at a Startup2Startup event in Palo, Alto. He was at my dinner table. Smart guy and I’m intrigued by this overall category (though I’m hoping Lane doesn’t ask me why I’m a customer of UserVoice instead of GetSatisfaction).
2. Chris Brogan, ChrisBrogan.com
Why: I always learn something new from Chris and it’s been a while since we had our list dinner plotting global domination. It’s unfortunate that despite living within driving distance of each other, we don’t meet more often.
3. Dries Buytaert, Acquia
Why: I’ve talked to Dries a couple of times on the phone and Acquia’s a local (Boston area), venture-funded startup. Have met several people on the Acquia team (they’re great). Want to ask Dries how Drupal Gardens is going. I’ve been meaning to play with it, but havn’t yet.
4. David Cohen, TechStars
Why: I’m an investor in the new TechStars Boston cohort for 2010 and will be a mentor again this year. David’s super-smart and a big supporter of early-stage startups. I love startups.
5. Evan Cohen, FourSquare
Why: My most recent project (currently in alpha) is SquareGrader (a free tool for analyzing FourSquare users)
6. Dennis Crowley, FourSquare
Why: As I noted in #6, I’m building a new, free tool for FourSquare. I reached out to Dennis just a couple of days ago and he was gracious enough to respond almost immediately. Would love to help FourSquare win in their market (and I’m an avid user too). HubSpot reaches over a million users a month -- many of them should be FourSquare users. We can help make that happen.
7. Chris Dixon, Hunch
Why: I’ve been reading the blog for a while (Chris has been on fire!), it’s one of the better, more practical ones out there on the topic of startups and funding.
8. Laura Fitton, oneforty
Why: I’m an investor in oneforty and Laura’s great. I’m always happier after having met her. She’s energy-generating. And, she might introduce me to some folks because she’s a rockstar and a networker extraordinaire.
9. Pete Cashmore, Mashable.com
Why: I’m an avid reader of Mashable. Mashable frequently writes about HubSpot or one of our grader.com tools — and I’ve love for them to write even more. And, Pete’s a social media celebrity that at least a couple of the women at HubSpot have a crush on (not naming any names or anything, you know who you are). It’ll raise my street-cred to go back to the office and say I met Pete.
10. Jason Fried, 37signals
Why: Jason was kind enough to let me interview him for my graduate thesis and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Want to chat with him about how his new book Rework is doing and what I can do to help.
11. Paul Graham, Y Combinator
Why: He’s on my short-list of really, really smart entreprenerus and I’m a major fan of Y Combinator (and many of its portfolio founders). I also understand that the recent Y Combinator conference went well (Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz spoke there) and that the next one is going to be about monetization, lead generation and freemium. I’m going to see if I can finagle an invite to it.
12. Kevin Hale, Wufoo
Why: I just love what he’s done with the company and Kevin’s got talents that I’d give-up 10% of my net worth for. And, he says useful, practical stuff about how to actually grow a startup. If I accepted board positions (I don’t) or they’d invite me (they havn’t), Wufoo’s on the short list of companies I’d actually do it for.
13. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn
Why: Major, major fan and not just because LinkedIn is so successful. He’s just a super-savvy, strategic thinker (and angel investor). He’s the kind of guy that I’d love to have involved with HubSpot some day. (Yes, I aim high).
14. Beth Kanter, BethKanter.org
Why: I first came across Beth because my wife is passionate about non-profits and was working on a paper for a Harvard class she was taking (the paper was on social media). Beth is just awesome. Smart, well-written and has done more to help non-profits than anyone I know. And, she was kind enough to provide some great feedback on a recent, mostly-failed idea I ran to help Room To Read. She’s speaking at the NewComm forum in California — but unfortunately, my session is at the exact same time as hers.
15. Guy Kawasaki, AllTop
Why: Guy’s written what I think is the best books on startups,
ever. Art Of The Start and Reality Check. He’s also been kind enough to respond to my emails, write a back-cover blurb for my book and all-around supportive of my entrepreneurial efforts. Would love to actually meet him in person.
16. Ross Kimbarovsky, CrowdSpring
Why: CrowdSpring’s an interesting company, and I’m working on a crowdsource-based project for HubSpot this year. Want to hear how his new project is going and see if there are ways I can help. [Disclosure: I’ve also met the founder of CrowdSpring’s main competitor, 99designs, and like him a lot). I wish both companies well.
17. Jason Kincaid, TechCrunch
Why: Jason’s going to be talking about scaling LAMP applications (which I could totally use help with). He also writes for TechCrunch, and it never hurts to know people at TechCrunch (they’ve been kind enough to write about HubSpot and grader.com several times).
18. Marshall Kirkpatrick, ReadWriteWeb
Why: He fundamentally gets all of this new fangled social media stuff. I’m an avid reader of ReadWriteWeb.
19. Scott Kirsner, Innovation Economy
Why: He’s a great guy that I’ve gotten to know pretty well. I try to meet up with Scott every chance I get — will be interesting to see this “other side” of him (i.e. film/movie stuff). I always think of him as being a tech/startup kind of guy. He’s done a lot for the local tech scene here in Boston. I’m also speaking at his Nantucket Conference coming up next month.
20. Andrew McAfee, MIT
Why: He’s smart and witty and is now at MIT (instead of that
other top-tier school in the Boston area). Andy’s a good friend of HubSpot so it’s always fun to catch-up.
21. Dave Mcclure, Founders Found
Why: He’s the hardest working man in show business. I wish I had half his energy or had done a tenth of what he’s done to help startups. It’s humbling, really.
22. Mike McDerment, FreshBooks
Why: All-around great guy and growing a great startup. I learn something from Mike everytime I meet him (which has been several times now).
23. Lori McLeese, Room To Read
Why: I’m a big fan of Room To Read and given my recent failure to generate much money with the Inbound Marketing Charity Challenge, would like to see how I might do better next time.
24. Marc Nathan, Bulldog Financial
Why: I feel like I’ve known Mike for years and am surprised we’ve never crossed paths in person. Hoping to fix that.
25. Charlie O’Donnell, First Round Capital
Why: Charlie and I go way, way back (he may not even remember). We’ve intersected many, many times online — but have never actually met. Now, Charlie’s an investor in Backupify (a company I’m a seed-investor in), so we have even more reasons to meet-up.
26. Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group
Why: One of the more analytical and thoughtful writers on the topic of social media. Minimal hand-waving and such. Would like to hear his thoughts on weighted social graphs.
27. Aaron Patzer, Intuit
Why: Had dinner with Aaron during my last trip to the west coast. Smart guy. Would like to hear how things are going post-deal. I have a suspicion that he’d actually tell me
28. Aviva Rosenstein, Salesforce.com
Why: I’m really impressed with the business they’ve built at salesforce.com. I’m also a customer. I’d love to hear how Aviva is tackling some of the usability challenges in the product. We’re dealing with some of those same issues in my startup.
29. Darren Rowse, ProBlogger
Why: Much of what I know about blogging in the early days, I learned from ProBlogger. He gets this stuff.
30. Chris Sacca, Lowercase Capital
Why: He’s a legend in the tech/investor/startup world. Chris and I are now co-investors in Backupify.
31. Ryan Sarver, Twitter
Why: He’s from the Boston area and I almost met him several times. Now he’s at twitter so a little harder to connect with.
32. David Meerman Scott, WebInk Now
Why: The “Inbound Marketing” book wouldn’t have happened (literally) without him. Great supporter and an all-around fabulous guy. We need more of him.
33. Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
Why: Earlier tonight, I did a late night webcast/seminar thing for his members in the earn1k program. Oh, and he’s a NYT Bestselling author. Want to get some inside secrets as to what it takes to break into the list — and what impact it’s had since.
34. Brian Shin, Visible Measures
Why: Brian’s a friend and former classmate. I invested in Visible Measures, and he invested in HubSpot. We go waaay back.
35. Julien Smith, Blah Inc.
Why: He’s partner-in-crime with Chris Brogan on “Trust Agents” and I feel like I should know him.
36. Brian Solis, Future Works
Why: Great guy and recently came out with a new book “Engage”, which I’m reading on my Kindle. Want to show him Book Grader.
37. Jonathan Stark, Jonathan Stark Consulting
Why: Because he knows a thing or two about building iPhone apps. And, I want to do one of those this year.
38. Wayne Sutton, @waynesutton
Why: Wayne’s big in the whole social media thing and was nice enough to be one of the first alpha testers of Square Grader.
39. Gary Swart, oDesk
Why: Awesome entrepreneur that was kind enough to spend some time with me to talk about startups and fund-raising (we were raising our Series C at the time).
40. Gary Vaynerchuk, Vaynermedia
Why: Because he’s a force of nature. And, to congratulate him because he’s #1 in the web marketing books category on Amazon. And, I’m usually #2 or #3.
41. Tim Walker, Hoovers Inc.
Why: Heard him speak at the Inbound Marketing Summit and chatted with him briefly afterwards. Really nice guy — and he knows his stuff.
42. Chris Winfield, 10e20
Why: Have had the chance to spend a bunch of time with him in the last year. Great guy, and was kind enough to donate directly to Room To Read as part of my (mostly failed) experiment, the “Inbound Marketing Charity Challenge”.
Phew! That took some effort. If you’re on the list, please leave me a comment if you’d like to connect (or if you’d like me to stay the heck away, that’s fine too). And, if you’re attending SXSW, and I happen to be on
your list — leave a comment too. I’m planning on carving out some time while at the conference to meet with folks. The best way to (initially) find me is to attend my inbound marketing session at the conference. It’s going to be a busy few days.
Hope to see many of you there.