Recap of Vancouver’s GROW2010 Conference – Part 1

On Friday I attended the 1st annual GROW Conference in Vancouver.

GROW2010 was a technology conference that brought together today’s leading entrepreneurs, thinkers, influencers and investors from Silicon Valley and Canada to inspire innovation and entrepreneurship.

The event turned out to be an incredible herd of the most influential minds in the industry today. It
was a constant stream of insight that spurred loads of ideas for Spring. Here is a recap of some of the event’s highlights, along with some key quotes that we can all learn from. There was a lot going on, so I have broken my highlights into 2 segments. Here is part 1:

Mayor Gregor Robertson

Gregor touched on Vancouver”s low carbon emissions and promises the city will be the world”s greenest region within a decade. Vancouver is a city of entrepreneurs. He said that although Vancouver lacked corporate headquarters, he also attributes it to Vancouver”s “business edge”—which is a conglomerate of world-class universities and healthcare system, as well as a city-wide web savviness and multicultural acceptance, on top of globally renowned livability.

Key Quote: Vancouver has the most entrepreneurs per capita than any other city in North America.

Dave McClure – founding partner at 500 Startups, an internet startup seed fund and incubator program.

Dave’s presentation, titled “Startup 2.0: The Lean Investor”. Never in my life have I heard the f-bomb dropped in a 30 minute presentation so many times, however Dave’s talk focused on “venture capitalism 2.0,” which he says will feature fewer and smaller funds. Wearing one of the greatest t-shirts I have ever seen, he diffuses peoples” worries over the future of e-commerce, saying don”t fret over concepts “based on people buying shit. Is that going to stop any time soon? Fuck no.”

After fighting off the host, who attempted to kick him off the stage for going over time and adding “You”re not gonna take me off the stage. No fucking way”, Dave quickly ran through his three-stage model for startups:

  • First, reinvent a web 1.0 business
  • Second, add web 2.0 technology (think social, mobile, e-commerce)
  • Finally, distribute your product or service

Key Quote: “If you”re not feeling out of control, you”re not going fast enough.”

Tony Hsieh – CEO of Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness

Tony was interviewed by Wall Street Journal Co-Executive Editor, Kara Swisher. I was actually sort of disappointed with her – as I felt she tried to draw more attention to herself by interrupting constantly with wisecracks on more than one occasion (it wasn’t the last time). However, Tony was an absolute pro. Tony explained to the audience the importance of creating a company with strong core values, then hiring based on people having those same values. These values should be rewarded separately from

job performance. Zappos is all about creating a strong customer service experience. In fact, Tony considers Zappos to be a “service company that just happens to sell shoes.” In fact, Tony shared that all executives are given a 2 week stint in the Zappos call centre before they start their position (no matter how high up the ladder they are).

I was lucky enough to be picked to ask Tony a question. I asked him what his favourite customer service story is to tell. He told us of a time where some executives from Sketchers called the Zappos customer service line at 3 in the morning from a hotel room in Santa Monica, because they couldn’t find a place that sold pizza that late. Within 5 minutes they were given a list of 5. No questions asked.

Key Quote: Strong foundations (core values) create a “flock of birds” effect, where all members of an organization move in unison by instinct and habit, not by command and direction.

Tom Conrad – CTO of Pandora Radio

For us Canadians, Pandora Radio is an automated music recommendation service and custodian of the Music Genome Project. Users enter a song or artist that they enjoy, and the service responds by playing selections that are musically similar. Users provide feedback on approval or disapproval of individual songs, which Pandora takes into account for future selections. Unfortunately, our government has made making this available to Canadians a gigantic pain in the ass. Nonetheless, Tom was fascinating.

After touching on his much storied Pets.com escapade, where he “nearly destroyed the U.S. economy by myself,” Conrad laid out what he thinks makes for a successful entrepreneurial pursuit:

  • Love it – follow your passion
  • Move fast – be nimble and react to opportunities as they come along. Conrad noted that Pandora does not have a product roadmap. It is entirely based on market data and at most consists of a 90 day outlook (wow!)
  • Decide – a room full of the smartest people freezes the thinking process when no decisions are being made

Conrad then told a cautionary about his time at Pets.com. To launch the site, the CEO wanted to run a 50% off pet food sale. At the time, Pets.com offered free shipping through FedEx for orders. Luckily, someone asked the question before the sales started “what’s the most amount of pet food someone could purchase?”. It was decided that $1,000 was the limit. So the sale was launched. One day Tom got a call from the shipping department. It turned out that $1,000 worth of dog food weighed a metric tonne, and it turned out that shipping that much food to Hawaii would cost $15,000!!

Key Quote: “At Apple a vote of 1000 – 1 is a tie”

Ellen Levy – VP, Strategic Alliances of Linkedin

Ellen’s presentation “Being a Super-Connector in a Digital World” began with her asking how many attendees use LinkedIn. 99% raise their hand.

Ellen then continued to talk about the size of Linkedin and its incredible stats, including:

  • LinkedIn is currently gaining one new member per second
  • Linkedin gains 3 million new members per month
  • Linkedin will exceed 90,000,000 by the end of 2010

Levy finished by touching the key principles of LinkedIn, which have always remained the same: safe, trusted, and user-controlled.

Key quote: “A Linkedin account is an individual asset for yourself, strengthened by others” individual assets—a mutually beneficial system that truly defines the word “network.””

In the next couple of days I will post the 2nd half of the conference. Stay tuned.

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