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What happens in Vegas shouldn't stay in Vegas.

If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together

The UP Summit 2014 was from May 29 to May 31 in Downtown Las Vegas. UP Summit is organized by UP Global a non-profit dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship, grassroots leadership, and strong communities. The Summit was just A-W-E-S-O-M-E. With 500 + crazy community leaders, I really felt like I had a new family. I guess you don't want to read about my drinking stories, so here's a summary of what I've learned.

Zappos

Zappos sells shoes online and was acquired by Amazon, in 2009, for $1.2 billion. They make about $2 billion in revenue each year. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos since 2000. Zappos headquarter is located in the old Las Vegas City Hall.

Lessons learned :

  • Find your company Core Values and focus on it.
  • Warning : You CAN'T throw a bunch of Buzzwords on a sheet of paper and try to apply it all at once. You have to grow with it or implement it gradually.
  • Keep It Simple. Zappos has 10 Family Core Values and a much simpler vision, the 3 C's : Culture, Customer Service and Clothing. (Sidenote: I used to be on the board of my local credit union. They have a great business culture, but they you have to read a 30-40 pages binder about the culture. My brain is NOT that powerful. Don't. Please Don't).
  • Hire people based on their culture fit.
  • Create a work environment where people will be happy to come to work and grow as a person.
  • Stop being a jerk. Try to be 100% transparent with your customers and your employees. A culture of secrecy works, until it doesn't. Same with authoritarian managers.
  • Respect your customers and deliver awesome customer service. Customers hate to be routed in India with people following call scripts. As a matter of fact over 75% of Zappos customers are repeat buyers.

If you want more info about Zappos and Tony Hsieh :

Downtown Project

Hsieh has invested $350 million of his own money to develop and revitalize Downtown Las Vegas through the Downtown Project. $200 million in real estate, $50 million in small business, $50 million in education and $50 million in tech startups. According to their websites the goal is to create the most community-focused large city in the world. It looks a lot like college.

Lessons learned :

  • Focus on the 3 C's : Connect, Co-Learn and Collide. I'll add a P. People. The bet of Tony Hsieh is that it will lead to happiness, luckiness, innovation and productivity.
  • Bottom-Up planning > Top-Down & Central planning. Why ? Skin in the game.
  • Note for central planner : If you want people to come to your city and create business, it's much more than fiscal incentives; You have to create an environment where people will want to come, live, raise their children and express their passions in the community.
  • Downtown Project does that through Arts, Music & Culture, Education, Small business, tech startups and co-working space.
  • Urban planning should be done with Antifragility in mind. Las Vegas is the perfect example, because the city is an orgy of fake. Casino is a pretty fragile thing as we saw with the 2008 financial crisis. Downtown Project helps to make the city more robust.

If you want to know more about the Downtown Project :

Creative Productivity : How to Get More Done in Less Time with Melissa Joy Kong

Today, there's a LOT of distraction, so Time Management and Productivity Hack are always a good thing.

Lessons learned :

  • FOCUS on your Most Valuable Goals (1-3 goals).
  • In your schedule try to do things in batch. It takes around 60 minutes to switch from task to task and be concentrate. For example, do email one hour each day on a given time. Not 2-3 minutes all the time. (Might be different for customer service and developers).
  • Choose 1-2 important things a day (Most important task).
  • Decision: Empirical evidence > Subjective Validation.
  • Be honest with yourself.
  • Ask yourself question everytime (What I want to do ?, How it's going ?, What I've learned today ?)
  • Always learn + have fun learning. If not, move on.

Principles of Innovation @ Google with Eze Vidra

Eze started Campus London with Google in 2012. The mission of Campus is to create an environment that encourages innovation through collaboration, mentorship, and networking. With speedy wifi, a café, frequent networking and speaking events, and coworking space, Campus is seven floors dedicated to startup success. Now he is the Head of Google for Entrepreneurs Europe.

Google 8 Pilars of Innovation :

  1. Have a mission. Make it matters.
  2. Think big, start small.
  3. Iteration, not Perfection. See Peter Sims Little Bets
  4. Ideas come from anywhere.
  5. Open will win. (Because of Speed + Efficiency).
  6. Foster entrepreneurship, Disrupt yourself.
  7. Think like or be a platform. People will want to participate. You will never have all the answer. It opens creativity to the community.
  8. Never fail to fail. Always learn.

Next Steps for Established Startup Communities with Brad Feld and Andy Stoll

Brad Feld is the general partner at the Foundry Group an early stage VC funds and at TechStars an accelerator. Andy Stoll is a media producer and social entrepreneur.

Lessons learned :

  • Building a community is a long, long road. It's a 20 years game.
  • Stop trying to be like Silicon Valley. Find your ADN and focus on it.
  • Create communication pathway in your community.
  • Me to We. Try to get people in the room.
  • Give before you get & Put energy in the system.
  • You can't motivate people, you can just create a context that will motivate people.
  • When you have competition for your events or from an other ecosystem, stop complaining and go learn from it.
  • Don't fix the problem. Facilitate it.
  • A community is a network. In a network you have nodes. There is an increase in node size based on what you do with the other nodes on the network, not how many nodes there are.
  • Some institutions work like a hierarchy (government, big institutions). They don't behave like network. However, you have to attach hierarchy to the network because they are an important part of the community.
  • Startup Communities Are Up To The Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurs should lead the way and reinvest in the system. Everyone else are the feeders.
  • Top-Down = Toxic .

If you want to know more about Startup Communities :

Other

  • At Startup Diplomats: The Impact of Entrepreneurship on the Future of the World with Ambassador Ned Walker, we talked about the role of government in Entrepreneurship. I learned an important lesson. You may see the government as a big, unreachable entity. However, at the end of the day, you always talk to people and it's people that takes decision. So focus on people, try to understand people and try to think like if you were in the person position.
  • We had the chance to have Brad Feld and Steve Case in a fireside chat with Marc Nager the CEO of UP Global. Since is depression/burnout, Brad Feld rarely moves from Boulder. Actually, we were the first place he went outside of Boulder, since is depression. Depression/Burnout is an important issue for everyone including entrepreneurs and high-achiever. We live in a fast paced society with almost no room for failure. A high pressure society. Don't fight Depression. It's a great time to reflect about yourself and re-align your life with you're goal. Listen to yourself, your mind and your body. Don't forget to have fun doing what you do and learn about life every day. Medication can help you, but it should not be an end. I know some people who were focused on medication to treat depression... until they had an other depression. Depression is really a moment where you should find yourself and ask you good/meaningful question.
  • We had a lot of fun, maybe too much. At a rooftop party me and one of my partner were discussing how the architecture of Vegas is ugly.. Until a random guy came and said: This is bullshit; It's not startup, we are not supposed to have fun. Startup is hard, startup is painful. A good reminder.

Finally I want to thanks all the UP Summit Organizer (Victoria Schramm & al.) and the Startup Weekend Organizer all over the world. It was a life changing events, where I truly felt that I was being part of a worthy community.