Entrepreneur Week is the Buerk Center’s annual window to the world of entrepreneurship. Over the course of a week, we host events featuring Seattle’s high-profile thinkers, dreamers, innovators, and doers. Whether you’re a die-hard entrepreneur, interested in working for a start-up, or just entre-curious, this is your opportunity to meet and learn from venture capitalists, start-up CEOs, and serial entrepreneurs.
Since we started EntreWeek in 2007, guest speakers have provided us with more than a few kernels of wisdom, and this year was no exception. Kristen Hamilton, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Maveron, Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources, and Christina Lomasney of Modumetal left audiences with a deeper understanding of entrepreneurship and the value of embracing innovation, change, growth, and failure.
While this year’s words of wisdom were plentiful, we’ve chosen a few favorites. Here are our Top Four Takeaways from EntreWeek 2013.
1. Fail early, fail cheap
“Failure is learning,” said Kristen Hamilton, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Maveron, during Think Like a Start-up, EntreWeek’s panel focused on how entrepreneurs’ curiosity, creativity and fearlessness drive their start-up ideas. Hamilton, along with co-panelists Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, and Kelsye Nelson, CEO of Writer.ly, stressed the importance of allowing yourself to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and move on. “At the end of the day,” said Price, “you just have to take action and try things. You will fail, but your failure might take you to that next place where you can make an incrementally better failure.”
2. Get comfortable with a to-do list that’s never done
Entrepreneurs never have enough time. Getting a start-up running involves back-to-back schedules, little time for extracurriculars, and minimal sleep. So how do you avoid the exhaustion, and the guilt of saying no to friends, family, and work-life balance? “I no longer say I’m too busy. Instead, I say it’s not a priority,” said Kelsye Nelson. “When you start a business, you have to let go of some things. You might not be able to have all the friendships or hobbies you want. It’s a choice.” Dan Price offered another solution – he’s figured out how to combine some of his to-do’s into one. “I want to exercise and I want to talk to a client,” he said, “so I ask some clients to go jogging with me.”
3. Know yourself and believe in your abilities
EntreWeek’s Wonder Women panel featured three CEOs: Christina Lomasney of Modumetal, Adina Mangubat of Spiral Genetics, and Katie Thompson of Sigby. When asked how she managed to pursue her business idea despite criticism and fear of failure, Lomasney responded, “Have a vision for what you want to be. If you know what you’re trying to accomplish in your own life, it won’t matter if someone else comes along and tells you you’re not going to make it.” Thompson added, “I don’t think it’s fear of failure. I think it’s fear of judgement. If you can embrace the fact that you are going to be judged, you can look at every encounter and say, ‘what can I take from this’?” The point is clear: believe in yourself and your abilities, and let criticism be an opportunity for improvement, but never a force to knock you off your path to success.
4. Stand Out from the Crowd
To succeed, new businesses need to cut through the noise and make an impression in the market. So how does a start-up stand out? Jeff Shaffer, founder of Agave and Bluer denim, spoke during a presentation titled Designer Denim: Born in the USA. His company is dedicated to recycled and American-made denim products. “Gimmicks don’t have any lasting value,” he said, “but if you create social value for your brand, and you are true to those values, your message will resonate with a lot of people.” Rick Hewitt, CEO of Emerald City Brewing, chose to focus on niche craft beer product: canned lagers. Hewitt, who spoke during Off the Vine Ventures, a panel of wine, beer, and alcohol entrepreneurs, said, “Cans are new. It’s a segment nobody else is really playing in right now. We were the first in the state to offer lager in cans.” The message is clear: Be a little different, identify your niche, and you won’t get lost in the crowd.
To see videos from EntreWeek 2013 visit the UW Entrepreneur Week page on our website.