A look back at Entrepreneur Week

The fourth annual Entrepreneur Week wrapped up Friday with a talk by Jim Estill. I missed Doug Hall, the guy from the first season of American Inventor, but attended all the other "Startup Camp" sessions, as well as BarCampWaterloo. Larry Borsato provided some terrific summaries in his blog entries, and there will be video (edited) of all the presentations available online soon, so I won't review the content.

There were early-stage entrepreneurs from a wide age range -- which I was glad to see, since it's been a peeve of mine when entrepreneurs are segregated by age. You can start a company at any age, and there were entrepreneurs born in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s all sitting together (maybe some older than that, and it won't be long until the 1990s are represented). The speakers also covered the same age range, from their 20s to their 50s.

Almost all of the sessions addressed a key topic for startups. There were sessions on life as an entrepreneur (that's what it was supposed to be, anyway), financing, marketing, and business strategy, which are all essential. I'm sure some people would have liked to see other topics covered too -- Web 2.0 or n.0 is always popular -- but you can only shoehorn so many events into one week and this was as full as I'd want it to be (and Web 2.0 was a major topic of this year's Tech Leadership Conference).

The two Thursday sessions were notable for presenting viewpoints that were about 180 degrees removed from each other: Tim Jackson in the morning and Bill Tatham in the afternoon. Guess which one didn't have a very high regard for VCs.

Tim's term sheet session was interesting, and one I'd recommend that everybody watch once it's online. You may not agree with all his conclusions, but it's useful for entrepreneurs to understand why investors ask for -- or demand -- certain terms.

Using the label "Startup Camp" might not have been the best choice, since that name is becoming strongly associated with unconference-style events, which Entrepreneur Week wasn't. Initially, it was being called "Startup Bootcamp" and that was shortened. In the end, Entrepreneur Week wasn't a bootcamp (maybe the Doug Hall event was, amd Tim Jackson's session was very interactive) and it wasn't an unconference (although BarCampWaterloo was, and it was part of EWeek), and maybe more elements of each could be integrated into next year's events.

It was unfortunate that Ray Simonson's "life an an entrepreneur" event got turned into a session on structured interviews. It was okay, but Ray has great stories to tell, tells them well, and isn't shy about giving his opinions. The audience only got a taste of that near the end. There are few people more enjoyable to listen to than Ray.

Overall, the turnout was very good, and the people who came -- with very few exceptions (other than sponsors) -- were real entrepreneurs and not people looking to sell services to startups. The "Chapter" event had been the anchor of the first three Entrepreneur Weeks, and we saw that you could give it a year off and still have a successful week.

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