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99% Conference 2012 Wrap Up

After my inaugural attendance of the 99% Conference last year. I was super excited for my second year. It’s a new conference and one that’s getting better with each year after launching in 2009. I’m  trying to vote with my time & money and how I give back to my communities. The line up of speakers this year was phenomenal:

I’m happy again to share with you the talks that I loved. The ones that left me thinking about how I work and the small changes I can make that will have an (a huge) impact on my work. This conference is about helping you make your ideas a reality and not giving you more.

USV – Economies of The Network
Most who know of Union Square Ventures know of Fred Wilson. For many, myself included, he’s the face of the investment firm through his blog A VC. He shares his wisdom and thoughts to make our community better.

His partner Brad Burnham gave this talk about the idea around social networks acting like governments and it’s users being citizens and not the current mindset of a company with users. His main point was the relationship between a social network and its users… where it’s not about property but exchanging mutual data (Brad has a better word I can’t recall right now) that we could move with us as we shift around the web. This relationship only worked when both the social network and citizens both need each other to be successful. It’s his hope for a future that we may not see pass. The Q&A after his talk was interesting to see Brad be honest with what he doesn’t know and that backing a start-up is almost more about gut instinct then having all the answers.

Johan Lehrer – Grit and Single Focus
Johan feels that the reason people succeed is because of grit and a laser focus on a single objective. Successful people like Bill Paxton, Oprah and Andy Warhol are all people who ooze this character trait. The military use a test to find out which recruiters are going to survive training at West Point. The ones that survive have grit and a the single focus of wanting to get into West Point. Intelligence, fitness or having high marks wasn’t enough. You can’t just have grit or a single focused mindset, you need both to be truly successful in the 21st century… and to finish West Point. Do you’ve what it takes?

Teresa Amabile – The Process Principal & Keeping A Journal
Do you keep a journal? This single question was the focus of Teresa talks and a book she co-wrote with her husband. As a professor at Harvard Business School and a researcher, she knows the power of keeping a journal. She talks about how corporate executives and entrepreneurs are using the journals to keep them focused and on track for their ideas. Writing down your small wins, achievements, roadblocks and having a history road map to look back on can be a powerful motivator to keep going in the long run…especially when things get difficult and you want to throw in the towel. When things get hard, it’s the small wins that add up to create success.

Keith Yamashita – Finding Your Superpower?
Now I should admit that I thought Keith’s talk was a little to much about his company in that he referenced his firms products to much for my liking. However, the crutch of his talk was around finding out about your superpower. Focusing your energy to make everyone around you better is important. You’ll spend less time & energy being who you’re then trying to be someone you’re not.

Alexis Madrigal – What’s Next For Big Culture?
Young white guys… that’s who makes up the majority of start up founders. Only 6% of VC backed start-ups are for women and the stats are even less for other minorities. Instead of asking what’s the next big thing(s). Maybe we should be asking what’s the next big culture. Alexis feels that diversity in start-ups will be the key to the next phase we’re entering as we try to tackle the world’s problems and culture shift.

These are just some of the talks I loved. There were many I liked and a few I didn’t, however, attendance is what makes this conference great. You can’t get the same feeling watching the videos online. I literally meet people from around the world: Turkey, and New Zealand to name a few spots. With the conference selling out 8 months in advance this year (5 months last year) and 1,800 on the waiting list to attend this year. It’s not an easy conference to get into.

Scott Belsky, CEO of Behance, left us with some parting words this year:

…a sign in Scott’s office about strategy:

Don’t miss out on the 99% Conference next year. It just might be the best conference you’ve heard of … and haven’t been to yet.

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