Tech808 is actually where the idea of Startup Noire was born. The guys at The Phat Startup put on an awesome conference in 3 major tech hubs: Washington, D.C., Oakland, and New York City.
Tech808 is a one-day tech conference for minority and millennial entrepreneurs. I missed the inaugural event last year in New York, and got too busy to go to the D.C. event, so I headed to Oaktown on August 15th to soak up the information.
The event took place at Impact Hub Oakland, which is an amazing venue in downtown Oakland. It made me feel good that a coworking space was available in the neighborhood, not forcing people to go to San Francisco or Silicon Valley just to do something tech related. It made me smile to see how many faces looked like mine.
In our swag bags was the notebook and the pen that made this all possible.
I’d say “we learned” but I don’t know what resonated with other people. Just what gave me aha moments.
Supply and Demand is Everything
The keynote speaker was Tracy Sun, the founder of Poshmark. What started out as Tracy sitting in bars hoping a couple people would show up so that she could share her idea, turned into a multi-million dollar company of women selling the things in their closets. The business is genius, really.
One note I wrote down was “scalable supply, scalable demand“. Some ideas sound good in theory, but the question is, can you sustain it in the long run. Will there be enough supply to meet the demand? Will there be enough demand to match the supply? If I remember anything from my AP Macroeconomics class in high school, it’s definitely the concept of supply and demand.
Another thing Tracy mentioned in her talk was how Poshmark partnered up with USPS to create PoshPost, a simplified shipping method for their buyers and sellers that came out of Tracy and her cofounders almost going to jail for postal fraud. Love it! Not the fact that they almost went to jail, but the fact that they turned that potential failure into an epic win.
How to Validate an Idea
Side Hustle 101 was an impromptu session with Anthony Fraiser of The Phat Startup. He gave us a fool-proof formula from seeing if your side hustle is worth pursuing, or if it just won’t work out.
Know Your Value
There was a legit fireside chat format session between James Lopez of The Phat Startup and hip-hop artist and tech entrepreneur Divine. Divine talked about how he went from selling drugs and doing time, to manifesting his meeting with his mentor Ben Horowitz. Divine read Ben’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things in prison, and he didn’t stop until he met him. He claims “it was hip-hop that brought me and Ben together.”
So many quotables were dropped during this session. My favorite was:
— Briana M. Ford (@brianamford) August 15, 2015
Another huge lesson was “don’t let anyone bargain down your value.” A lot of people, I’ve noticed freelancers especially, don’t quite understand how to price their services. People are so used to getting things for free, that when someone puts a price tag on it, they turn their nose up. But Divine’s advice is not just for business, but for anything you’re working on.
How to Make Dope Content
The content panel was my favorite: How to Use Content to Build a Thriving Online Community. Morgan DeBaun of Blavity led a panel with Danielle Leslie of Mayvenn, Benoni Tagos of The Bizz Plan, and Julian Mitchell of BuzzFeed. That panel was black magic for real. Everyone gave great tips:
- Pay attention to what people want to learn
- Speak to people’s pain points
- Create content around stories you want to tell
- Get to the why first
- Breakdown the funnel with feedback loops
Of course, these tips made it so clear about how to reach you with Startup Noire. So I appreciated this panel the most.
Need Funds? Ask Your Day Ones
How to Raise the First Million Dollars for Your Start-Up was a popular session, led by Joah Spearman, founder of Localeur. Joah made it simple: family, friends, and network first. You hit up your warm leads first, people who know you and will vouch for you no matter how crazy your idea is. Those people usually don’t expect their money back. They do it because they love you and believe in you. Then, you target your network, especially people you used to work for.
A gem that Joah gave was about finding your cofounder. He said they’re probably working a job, so check LinkedIn for someone who has the skills that you don’t. Find someone who is hungry. I have been working with my co-founder, Freddie, since 2011 on various side projects. It only made sense to bring him in the loop with Startup Noire.
Don’t Wait to Launch
Sheena Allen of Sheena Allen Apps taught the room how to build a rockstar mobile app as a non-techie. Simple! Find a developer. But ensure that you own the code. You can either find a technical cofounder, or find a freelancer online on places like guru.com. Your idea shouldn’t be limited to you not having the skills to build the app. I mean, look at Steve Jobs.
We also had Mike Seibel, a partner of Y Combinator, give us tips on how to start a startup. He wants you to know that the problem is more important than the solution, and your MVP (minimum viable product) should be ready soon, like, 2 weeks soon. At least the first iteration. Don’t hoard your business or idea. You have to get it in front of at least 1 customer in order to get the feedback needed to move forward.
Another thing that Mike mentioned was that he has all companies who take part in Y Combinator register as a Delaware C Corp. We’re going to do some research on that and be sure to bring that to you guys.
Last session of the day: Build a For-Purpose Business: Make Money While Doing Good presented by Tiffani Bell of Detroit Water Project. She learned a lot from a project she had no idea would grow so large. Her wisdom included:
- Plan nothing.
- Focus on the customer.
- Let it be ugly.
- Change constantly.
- Be cheap as hell.
We’re trying to change the world over here. If we waited until everything was perfect, we wouldn’t be helping anyone. That’s why we’re a startup and not some conglomerate or company pretending to be something it’s not. And we encourage you to do the same.
Conferences like Tech808 are the incubator for businesses all the time. Something about being around likeminded people who have the same passion you have will bring out the very best in you. Thank you to our fam at The Phat Startup and all the presenters at Tech808 who made this dream possible.
Featured image photo: CC image courtesy of Thomas Hawk on Flickr