After applying for the Inc Magazine 30 under 30 award, I was sent an invite to attend the Inc Founder House. I was told the event was to celebrate Inc Magazine turning 40 years old. Also, at some point 40 successful mentors would be paired with 40 start up entrepreneurs.
Little further information was provided, so I had to trust that the strong brand of Inc would take care of me (I had just watched the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix so I was suspicious of any event.)
It was also an excuse to travel to Texas for the first time and checkout what I expected were farms, trucks, and honest hard-working people.
I booked my flights from Orlando and attended the events March 8-11, 2019. How does one dress for a technology event? Am I meant to wear pajama’s? Shorts and a short sleeve shirt? I decided to go with khaki pants and a company branded t-shirt.
Upon landing, I realised that the Inc Founder House was part of a much larger event, SXSW (South by Southwest). Ubers were backed up 30 minutes, so I decided to take the bus into town from the airport.
I am use to going to lawyer conferences, which almost always take place in conference rooms and involve back to back PowerPoint presentations.
The Inc Magazine event took place at La Volpe, a restaurant downtown Austin, Texas. Being unfamiliar with “pop up” events, I was very confused how a large event could take place at a restaurant.
Upon arriving downtown Austin, I was greeted by motorized scooters, roads blocked off, and the youngest group of expo attendees I have ever seen. Everyone seemed relaxed and eager to learn.
The Inc Founders House kicked off with a meet and greet. I met several entrepreneurs and was also given a pass for Fast Companies event, “the Fast Company Grill.”
I saw that the Inc Founders House and the Fast Company Grill had back to back talks, networking events, and lunches/dinners planned so I did what is expected from a law firm CEO, I went back to the hotel to study and plan.
I was at the Founders House sharp at opening time, but others were not there yet. When they showed up, I learned that some had attended a “Facebook party” or “Linkedin party” until 2am. I was in bed by 11pm, but that’s just how I roll.
We started off the day with mimosas & breakfast tacos. I met a lawyer named Reda Hicks who was starting her own co-share space. I talked to her about the plan of my law firm to do an IPO.
Ravi Patel cofounder of “This Bar Saves Lives” talked to us about the importance of giving back to the community. The part of the talk most interesting was that Ravi shared the best way to get celebrities behind your brand (I was again reminded of Fyre Festival.) He said that celebrities want to meet other celebrities, so find out ways to connect people within your company. Even celebrities need to network for new opportunities!
The rest of the speakers included many successful CEO’s, politicians, Matthew McConaughey, movie directors, a retired CIA officer, and editors for Fast Company and Inc Magazine.
Below is a list of 5 key takeaways:
1. Regardless of the industry you choose to start a business in, there will be many challenges.
2. Try and work through those challenges, and don’t give up too soon.
3. If things are not working, fail quick. Things may be hard, but you should be moving forward everyday and making progress. If things are staying the same for too long, move on.
4. Most of the companies mentioned that raising capital was the most stressful part of the entrepreneur process.
5. Building a team is the second most difficult part of building a great company. Good is the enemy of great. You need to be working at being the best. You can never be satisfied with your company, or someone will take you over.
The rest of the event involved interesting conversations, activations and strategy-sessions, complimentary lunches, and happy hour parties.
I have a stack of business cards and information to go through. It will take me many weeks!!
Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearWay Law, a family law firm in Toronto. Google him to learn how he got shot in the army.