Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at Boyan Josic’s Daily Deal Media Conference in Chicago.
Our topics were the growth and fundraising environment in the "daily deal" sector - which today happens to be both one of the hottest and one of the most maligned technology investment sectors in the world.
While I am by no means an expert in the space, I know serious, talented entrepreneurs when I see them, and Boyan’s conference was chock full of the kind of creative high IQ and high “EQ” people that smart investors love to back.
They ranged from Brian Lent, Chairman and CTO of Medio.com, an Accel Partners backed real-time mobile, predictive analytics solutions provider, to Jim Brown, Vice President of Business development at Admeris, a Toronto-based best of breed "cloud-based" mobile commerce payments provider, to Mark Donahue, CEO of TripAlertz.com, a leading travel - focused daily deal site.
And then there were the conference organizers themselves - Boyan Josic and his executive partners - Martin Tibbits and Joe Walker. While they don’t “come” from the daily deals industry (but really who does?), man do they possess so many of the great entrepreneurial skills that make this country great.
What I admire especially about them is their visceral understanding of the connection between technology, the customer experience, and making money.
Now, it was only by coincidence that the conference was held in President Obama's Chicago home town. And it was an even greater coincidence that I ended up watching part of his “jobs” speech at the same hotel where many of his 2008 presidential campaign events were held.
And by golly was the contrast stark between the energy of our President and his fellow Washington suits and that of the action hero entrepreneurs at the conference.
While Boyan and his merry cast were invigorated and hopeful as to the power of micro-innovation, small business hustle and just good old-fashioned greed as actually effective levers of real job creation, listening to the President drone on about "infrastructure" and "common cause" was like a time warp.
Heck, I was almost waiting for him to start talking about the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Works Progress Administration and about how the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!
It felt like a liberal arts professor giving an economics lecture that is just off key because it is so obvious that the person speaking is talking about something they have never actually done themselves.
Luckily for me, the conference continued on the morning after the President's speech, and the deflation I experienced from it was quickly replaced by that happy adrenaline I always feel around people passionate in their entrepreneurial bubble.
I find that the best of them possess that delicate balance between starry-eyed idealism and cold-blooded-we're-going-to-make-money-darn-it-now-and-God-help-anyone-who-stands-in-our-way.
Really now, isn’t that the entrepreneurial change we can all believe in?
As opposed to the President’s unfathomable, Leviathan spending proposals - this latest $450 Billion incarnation is greater than the market capitalization of Apple - the entrepreneur's goals were human-sized.
Hire a programmer here, a freelance public relations staffer there. Book a plane ticket or two to see a prospective partner, and maybe while doing so buy a new laptop or tablet to better communicate the proposed strategic synergies.
Small decisions, little things.
But in their tens of hundreds of thousands aggregate, well, these are the decisions that are the making of a vibrant, prosperous, and dignified entrepreneurial society.
And decisions that create the kind of energy that all of the attendees shared at Boyan’s conference last week.
Not a profound and histrionic energy like that of a politician scrambling for relevancy and votes, but an earthy and common sense energy of entrepreneurs out to change the world one small pebble, one daily deal at a time.