Startup Iceland 2014- June 2nd and 3rd – Mark your calendars

Image representing Bre Pettis as depicted in C...

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The annual Startup Iceland Conference on Entrepreneurship and Building Antifragile Startup Ecosystem in Iceland is happening on June 2nd and 3rd, 2014. Mark your calendars. We have started planning and putting the program together. Our focus has always been about Building an Antifragile Startup Ecosystem, this year we will try to bring thought leaders and entrepreneurs to share and discuss the changes that is happening in the world of innovation and how it impacts a startup community.

One of the most intriguing innovation that is starting to make a difference is the world of 3D Printing, Wearable Technology and its impact on manufacturing. I don’t believe that traditional manufacturing is going away the same way people traveling on horses has not gone away, but it is going to be disrupted with the advent of the capacity for every individual to invest, create and participate in the manufacturing economy. I spoke to Jenny Lawton, the President of MakerBot and She has agreed to come and talk about the trend, and she is bringing Bre Pettis, the founder of MakerBot with her. I am so excited to hear them speak about this fascinating change we are seeing in front of our eyes. Someone told me that the future is now, because there are a number of people creating the future as I type this blog post.

As always, we will have a Hackathon before the Conference and we plan to have mentoring sessions and one-on-one meetings with the speakers and entrepreneurs who participate in the conference. More details about the conference to follow shortly. We are updating the website and starting on the promotion of the event this week. I just wanted to give a heads up and blog about what I have been thinking about this year.

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Third Wave of Innovation

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson from Innovation Center Iceland on Vimeo.

We are slowing starting to get the videos out from Startup Iceland Conference. Here is the first of the videos’s of President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson opening the Startup Iceland Conference. I have written about the leadership of President Grimsson, but he is extremely well articulated. Check out how he frames the next wave of innovation that is going to happen in the field of technology and its implication on everything that we do. I believe very strongly that we are embarking on tremendous new transformation and everyone of us need to get prepared personally and professionally to ride this wave.

Why you should be optimistic about the future

Dr. Randy Pausch

Dr. Randy Pausch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image representing Mark Suster as depicted in ...

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When I started on the Venture Capital education 4 years back, I started following Fred Wilson, Brad Feld and Mark Suster. I encourage all the entrepreneurs whom I interact with to do the same. Fred for Consumer facing web/mobile businesses, Brad for glue technologies and Mark for enterprise related startups. Although the lines blur when you look at their investment portfolio, each of these 3 individuals have a specialization and long term perspective on their respective cohorts. In addition, all of them are super super smart and regular contributors so one always learns reading their work and does not have a long hiatus between their blog posts. I finished reading an excellent analysis by Mark Suster with the title “Its Morning in Venture Capital” on why he believes the Venture Capital industry is not dead as is proclaimed by a number of organizations and pundits. I agree with Mark, the bad and inexperienced players will loose their credibility and/or their shirt when there are big market corrections… however the general trend to be optimistic about the Internet and the 3rd Wave of innovation is prevalent with many who are looking into the crystal ball everyday like Mark and his partners. I have had the previlege of interacting with Brad Feld and Brad Burnham, or “The Brads” as was called by the participants in the Startup Iceland Conference. Again there is enough evidence to go long on this thing called the Internet. Read the whole post by Mark to understand the entire dynamics of the interplay of the micro and macro, demographic and economic trends. I cannot image being in any other industry or applying these new infrastructure to traditional industries to disrupt them. It is going to be an awesome decade or two, if you have the stomach for it. It is going to be hard, bumpy and tough ride but whoever said this was going to be easy, nothing worthwhile is easy. I am big fan of Randy Pausch, the author of a fantastic book “The Last Lecture” where one of the chapter he talks about Brick Walls, basically all the hurdles one faces when you are trying to pursue your dream, ambition whatever… I love the way he puts it “…The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people“. Being an entrepreneur or part of a startup team is hard work, and a lesson in patience and perseverance. If one does not have the never give up attitude, it becomes doubly hard. If one wants instant gratification fugedabouddit… There is only one way to win in being an entrepreneur, have a long term vision about your goals, work with people you enjoy spending time with and do it in a place where you love living. To quote one of Brad Felds post “People Place Thing

Spend as much time as possible with PEOPLE you love in a PLACE you want to be on a THING you are passionate about.

All the macro challenges, Euro Crisis, US Government Debt etc will not matter if you followed the above simple advice and read Marks post on why you should really rethink where the world is going if you are stuck on a dead end job.

Ambassador Luis E. Arreaga – Sponsor Profile

Ambassador Luis E. Arreaga has been a big supporter of Startup Iceland. When I decided to organize this conference, I reached out to the US Embassy in Reykjavik and ask them to help in the effort. The US Embassy in Iceland has done more than that and Ambassador Arreaga’s leadership is cleary demonstrated in their participation and sponsoring the event. For those of you who have not followed the Ambassador’s Blog, yes, the Ambassador blogs about his experience of being in Iceland. How cool is that? When I reach out to him and ask him to help, he always tells me “I cannot promise you anything, but we will give it our best effort” so far the efforts have been fantastic at least from the Startup Iceland Conference perspective. The US Embassy in Iceland was the second Sponsor after Icelandair. The sponsorship was awarded through a Federal Assistance Award by the U.S. Department of State. Applying for the grant and ensuring all the relevant information is filled out is a lot of work and the Team in the U.S. Embassy did a great job and got us the Sponsorship… it allowed for the ticket prices to be discounted so that all students, young startups and entrepreneurs can participate in Startup Iceland. Once again there is a lot of leadership within the Community here in Iceland, I have always maintained the Embassies can play a critical role in bridging the gap between the Island of Iceland and mainland, which is something all entrepreneurs need to start thinking about when you are launching a business. In addition, this comes back to my perspective that there is no local business anymore all businesses are Global because we live in a globally connected world. Those entrepreneurs who realize that take advantage of the fantastic opportunities that exist in Iceland to solve the Global challenges are making a difference in this world. This blog post is filed under the category of Sponsor Profile, I am doing two series related to the Startup Iceland Conference Category:

  1. A Speaker Profile
  2. A Sponsor Profile

Although the Ambassador will not be a featured speaker in the Conference he has graciously agreed to introduce our two main guests Brad Burnham and Brad Feld before their session in the Conference. The Ambassador will say a few words about the importance of Entrepreneurship.

Be on the Bus With Brad

For those of you who have been following the development, organization and planning, setbacks and triumphs around organizing the Startup Iceland Conference know the reason why we moved the venue to Andrews Theater in Ásbrú Enterprise Park facility.

We are planning to make this a FUN event, so Brad Feld has agreed to do a Road Trip. We are calling this event “Be on the Bus with Brad“, what we think is going to be cooler is that will be roped into the bus ride and all participants can stream their experience of interacting with Brad Feld onto the Live Project platform to share with their friends who could not make it to the Event. In addition, we are planning to provide the access to to all participants so they can capture their experience the entire time. On the way back we are planning to have a FUN Guitar Party… The team from has agreed to make this a fun, musical trip back to Reykjavik. Of course I am happy to get more suggestions on how we can make the trip to and from Keflavik fun. If you want to ride on that bus, you need to register for the Conference and let us know in the registration notes section that you want to be on the bus. For those who have already registered we will be sending out our email updates with instructions on how you can book your seat on the bus.

For those who think driving 40 minutes is a waste of time, having 40 minutes with Brad and interacting with him and listening to him maybe Rap or maybe dance or perform the top 10 single “I’m a VC“? and others interact is going to be a lot fo fun. There are so many questions one could ask and get wisdom of 25+ years in Entrepreneurship, Investing, Venture Capital formation etc. In case you don’t know Brad is a Voracious Reader, check out his book shelf… so it is highly likely that he has read more books than you and I and everyone in the bus put together. I just want to find out how he manages to do that. Would’nt you?

2 Must have Skills for Entrepreneurs

Two of the most important skills that every Entrepreneur needs to have and never gets discussed or taught are:

  1. Networking
  2. Selling

Lets take Networking, it is one of the most valuable skill everyone needs to have irrespective of your background, you job or your company. People and relationships are what matters, everything else is not that important. You can create things, but building relationships take time. I believe we are all endowed with 3 resources, Money, People and Time, the first 2 we can make but Time we cannot so that is, in my humble opinion the most valuable Resource. Time and time again, I have seen successful entrepreneurs, professional and business person are prolific networkers i.e. they have vast connections to people. I am a big fan of the book Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell, because the book very clearly summarizes the reason why an idea tips and becomes viral, Connectors are key carriers of the message. Are you a connector? take the test here.

So how does one become a connector, this is not rocket science or selling, you basically go into the world and meet people, not just people you want to meet but meet everyone, randomly, in parties, in every possible Social gathering. Be proactive about finding connection to those whom you meet. There have been many instances in my experience where a serendipitous meeting led to some totally unexpected outcome and created tremendous value… the most notable one is how I met my wife. It has been one of those experiences that trivializes the phrase Life Changing. I am sure everyone of us has a story like that. This post is not about that but to show the importance of being out there and meeting people and connecting. My motivation to organize the Startup Iceland Conference is to bring that experience to Iceland. If we had an event focused on Entrepreneurship and bring entrepreneurs from all over the world and provide an environment for Entrepreneurs and people in Iceland to get connected, that builds networks, bridges and opportunities.  The value of being able to connect with like minded people from different backgrounds is immensely valuable for anyone. This is what is called the Network Effect.

The second skill is selling, everyone is a sales person. Whether you are selling your idea, or your opinion or whatever you have to make it interesting, valuable and useful for the person you are talking to. Gunnar Holmstein, the CEO of Clara always tells me that Selling is not Rocket Science but Harder! It is hard because selling cannot be a mechanical exercise, the best sales people I have met are also very engaging, relationship oriented people who care deeply about others. They really want to help people and solve their challenges. It is a lot of work to think that way all the time, but that is what it takes to be a great sales person. I have written about Pitching. One common theme to all this is you cannot fake it, you either commit yourself to working hard at acquiring the skill or you don’t. That is the final analysis, as Yoda says you either Do or Do Not there is No Try.

So, how does one start working on build the necessary personal strength and will to learn the above skills and make them into a habit? if you are not very inclined to it? I have written about Dr. Steven Covey‘s books on the 7 Habits. You really need to commit to following it. It is a lot of hard work, believe me it sounds simple but when starts living by it the Habits demand more you. It is an upward spiral.

Rebuilding Iceland through Startup Iceland

Under 30 CEO is promoting a Venture Tour Iceland, a package tour that I wrote about here. There is a follow up post on “Fixing the Global Economy Through Entrepreneurship and Innovation“. What is exciting to note is that there are young entrepreneurs from all over the world who are starting to show interest to travel to Iceland and participate in Startup Iceland Conference on Building Sustainable Startup Ecosystems. We have reset our scope of the conference,after our sponsor setback but we are more motivated and energetic because of the level of support coming from all over the world. This is overwhelming and exciting. Here are some practical updates about the conference:

The Venue for the Conference is moved to Andrews Theater in Ásbrú in Keflavik – yes, I know it is 40 minutes away but we believe that taking people in Reykjavik out of the comfort zone is a good thing and yes, we are planning on arranging transportation that would allow people to gather in one place and make a road trip of it. Haukur is working on making this a fun trip to the event.

We have a new young speaker Rebecca Kantar, Rebecca is the Founder & CEO of BrightCo, a for-profit social enterprise that leverages the talent and networks of the world’s top young social entrepreneurs (an untapped resource) for leading brands.  Rebecca has served as the CEO of Minga, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating the global child sex trade by harnessing the power of teens.  At Minga, Rebecca is launching Stay 13 a campaign to ensure teens get to worry about learning to drive and going to soccer practice—not being sold for sex. Beyond Minga, Rebecca has served as an advisor to Ashoka’s Youth Venture and to  For her leadership, Rebecca was awarded the TIME Magazine and Bentley University Tomorrow25 Award and a dozen similar honors. Rebecca won the Staples/Youth Venture Social Entrepreneurship Competition Grand Prize and delivered a TEDxTalk.  Most recently, Rebecca was named a Harvard College Faculty Club Fellow and appointed to the U.S. Committee to UNSECO.
We will changing the registration process for the event. For those who have already registered, we will contact you and figure out the best way to modify your purchase for the new changes, if we have not done that already.
The Hackathon is still on May 29th, hosted by Reykjavik University. This is going to be the first Hackathon event hosted by Reykjavik University and I think it is a fantastic way to showcase the awesome programming talent that exists in Iceland and for companies who are looking for talent. We are working on getting GreenQloud, Clara and Videntifier to participate in sharing their challenges and see if the crowd can hack a solution using the APIs and Open Source tools that are available on the Internet now. We are working on some exciting rewards and of course you will get recognition.

The Startup is YOU

Here is an excerpt from the column by Thomas Friedman of New York Times with the title The Start-Up of You – “Hoffman argues that professionals need an entirely new mind-set and skill set to compete. “The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone,” he said to me. “No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.” he is referring to LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Garrett Hoffman, one of the premier starter-uppers in Silicon Valley — besides co-founding LinkedIn, he is on the board of Zynga, was an early investor in Facebook and sits on the board of Mozilla — through his book “The Start-Up of You,” co-authored with Ben Casnocha. Friedman says the subtitle could easily be: “Hey, recent graduates! Hey, 35-year-old midcareer professional! Here’s how you build your career today.” How relevant and valid are these statements given the discussions we have been having in Iceland? I cannot imagine a better place to be having this discussion, Iceland does not have a huge market, it is an island, if we are to rebuild this country for the future what should it look like? Those were the questions I was asking myself after the Collapse of the Financial System in Iceland in 2008. I am biased towards action and I invested in myself and Entrepreneurship, the jury is still out if that was the right decision or not, but I have never felt more energized, motivated and passionate about what I am doing (you can tell from the daily blog post, 24-7-365 on Twitter, Facebook, Email et cetra et cetra).

Startup Iceland Conference is a fantastic way to be inspired, connect and start on the Entrepreneurial journey. The word Startup has been hijacked by the technology based early stage companies and initiatives but I believe otherwise. Here is the definition:

The word is about setting things in motion, Startup Iceland Conference is about setting Iceland in motion. It has to be a community effort, and it is about the Ecosystem. When a single group of people in a community try to move things we have seen it always leads to sub-optimal results. The entire community has to contribute to make the initiative really make a difference. So what are you waiting for? what action have you taken to take charge of your career? your life? Startup Iceland Conference is an event created to celebrate this spirit… so go register for the workshop and take charge of yourself. You owe it to yourself.