It’s true that the V2V is a much smaller SXSW event than the huge happening in Austin, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch! With a focus on start-ups, VCs and the entrepreneur experience it has a smaller track of classes and an emphasis on one-on-one mentor-ship. When my workshop was too specific to be chosen, I was thrilled to be asked to be a Mentor.
The conference started with a keynote by Ari Horie featuring a couple of messages I particularly resonated with including…
Don’t let fear stop you from pursuing opportunities.
Believing in yourself is one of the most crucial aspects of accomplishing anything in life, both personally and professionally. It’s a message that needs to be heard many times in life to really sink in!
My favorite workshop was by Justine Bloome & Patrick van der Pijl called “From Vision to Business Model to Brand” which offered a thorough look at the start to finish journey of creating a new product/service or articulating what you’ve already created. They even included simple (yet effective) worksheets!
Though I was (affectionately) mocked twice for describing the experience as exhilarating, that’s exactly what mentoring was for me! I deeply enjoy problem-solving and helping others with their obstacles has a special edge. My entire hour was booked (both with pre-scheduled appointments and walk-ups) and I’d like to share the action oriented solutions we discussed.
First Appointment – The first woman who walked in was in many ways exactly who I would have expected to come see me. In the midst of building a business she’s been suffering a crisis of confidence in herself & her body image. Her dynamic personality was shining in my eyes, but weight gain has been leaving her feeling down on herself which has resulted in a lot of procrastination.
My Solution: A saying that I’ve taken to heart this last year is that #selfcareissexy because my own health & happiness is as much a part of the success of my business as sending 10 more emails or crossing another item off my to do list (although that feeling is SO sweet!). It’s so important to take SOME kind of time for ourselves, even if it’s 10 minutes and to be compassionate with ourselves. As for the procrastination, there are so many different systems for getting things done but what I’ve found to be the most effective is also the most simple. Each day decide on 3 action items (ONLY 3) that you commit to doing that will make concrete progress for something in your business. If you do more, great, if you don’t then you’ve hit your target and don’t ‘need’ to waste time on self-shaming
Second Appointment – I was happy to see a man walk in for my second appointment and our discussion gave me a few great ideas about possible speaking topics. He explained that his wife is also an entrepreneur and has been experiencing fast growth in the last year but hasn’t been able to keep up with the infrastructure. He said he’s been trying to help her by offering to spend a whole day getting her set up but they’ve both been frustrated by her resistance to learning new tools.
My solution: Another saying I live by is “success begets success” but it’s hard to feel successful when being overwhelmed. So rather than dedicating a whole day to training, I suggested he introduce 2 new features at once so she has a chance to feel successful. By starting with basic usability she can get comfortable with the new tool a little at a time, which is something she’s actually like to do. At the end of our 10 minute talk he said, “I got exactly what I came here for”.
Third Appointment – My third appointment came to talk about becoming a speaker. After more than a decade in her industry she wants to change her niche to something she’s more currently interested in. But, the requests for her previous expertise keep coming in which can be hard to turn down as paying work.
My Solution: First, I was delighted to tell her about NSA which just had its annual conference in San Diego a few weeks ago. I attended and soaked up a lot about the industry and found it to be a great resource for learning and networking. In terms of whether she should she do a broader topic (that she’s no longer interested in but keeps getting requests for) or push forward with the niche she’s trying to develop, my advice was to go with her gut and pursue the new topic. Or, one way to compromise is pick a single broader-topic presentation she could continue to offer while emphasizing the new focus.
Fourth Appointment – Another woman came in feeling a bit stuck and unconfident that her business, while successful in branding and growth, still isn’t really as profitable as she’d like it to be after 6 years. Although the technology she employs is interesting and has a strong customer base, it’s not very glitzy or glamorous. She didn’t think that any VCs would be interested in investing but didn’t have a specific question about it.
My Solution: I immediately thought that it wouldn’t make sense for her to spend time doing it, but that she needed to shop around for investors that would be interested in a more steady growth business like hers rather than the newest razzle-dazzle off the snazzy-app production line. By using a virtual assistant to research possible investors (given a certain set of investing-personality guidelines) she could then use that information in a couple of different ways. For example she could cold call one investor per month (after a bit more research by the VA) or pick the one she’s most interested in to start to cultivate a relationship and gauge interest.
The hour zoomed by and was like speed dating for problem solving. I’m known to be a bit excitable regarding these things so I left with a spring in my step, it’s a rather selfish thing to help others sometimes! I’ve loved doing group workshops for as long as I’ve been offering them (over 10 years now!) but this reminds me of how much I enjoy digging into someone’s specific experience.
Wednesday was the last day and ended with bowling, at which I lasted about an hour as a voyeur before I gave up for some social time with my start up buddy Kalli Meisler (of MozelTov and StartupChicksNY). She’s been in the tech world for the entirety of her adult life and is charmingly incisive and direct. Kalli also introduced me to Wanda during my only other social outing of the event, when the three of us had drinks and laughed for a couple of hours straight!
As with every other South by Southwest event I’ve attended (this was my 4th!) it was well run, full of interesting content and attended by a variety of people.
I love that SXSW does the one massive event in Austin where diverse ideas can mix and mingle. And I also love that they do smaller, more themed and focused events so that it’s easier to find peers and industry collaborators. If you’ve never been (to SXSW or SXSW V2V) then you should seriously consider attending (which one depends on your interests). What you take home isn’t just what you learn from the workshops and keynotes, it’s also the ‘Southby Serendipity’ of meeting the next person that could change the course of your career or life!