While Day 1 reminded one of the value of a smaller conference like V2V to complement (not replace!) a bigger conference like SXSW Interactive, Day 2 made clear another important reminder: the importance of diversity. In the hyper-choice world in which we live, it is easier than ever to fashion our communities (physical and digital) in ways that eliminate diversity, intentionally or accidentally.
My experience during Day 2 of V2V was one clearly punctuated by a sense of the great value – the essential nature, really – in diversity of age, race, gender, nationality, economic status, and all of the many other forms of each person’s identity that we all carry. If every V2V day could be hashtagged, then mine for Tuesday would be #Diversity, with nearly moment reinforcing it.
In panel after panel, speaker after speaker, diversity was a repeated theme as a source of strength in founding teams or a flashpoint for innovative business concepts. Here were just some of the highlights:
- A great all-women panel on the impact of female angel investors on start-ups – a powerful observation by Natalia Noguera: far too often “people of color don’t have the option of a ‘friends and family’ round” which makes angel options and other non-traditional funding sources that much more important for supporting their entrepreneurship
- Matt Faulk’s systems & stories presentation about how you take a guy whose significant other is his Lab and one who has a wife, kids, and a very involved, nuclear family life, and form a team to create an award-winning agency (BASIC) doing business with clients from the San Diego Chargers NFL team to the American PS4 launch
- A terrific panel on “Leveraging Diversity” that was part of a Kauffman Foundation-sponsored track at V2V featuring speakers (3 of the 4 of whom were investors) including an African-American, a Latino, a lesbian, and a Kansan. I kid. Actually, the Kansan, Regan Carrizales, is a female graduate of the Naval Academy and spoke strongly about the importance of the Academy experience leaving her with a personal guideline of “never compromising your standards” when building a diverse team.
- Another great story from the same panel was from Angela Benton of the NewME Accelerator, who spoke about how one of their members developed the idea for his product – a service connecting inmates to the outside world — after being incarcerated for a felony, himself. He would have never known of the need for the service, for which he was able to create a working product, acquire customers, and raise $1 million in funding, if he hadn’t been imprisoned.
Coming at it from another angle, the importance of diversity of media was on display. On one end of the spectrum, I saw more guys walking around with Google Glass than I’ve yet seen anywhere else. On the other end, two different investors spoke about how they got jobs at their first start-ups by answering ads: one from a bulletin posting in a coffee shop and the other at a bookstore.
Even the downtimes yielded moments of diversity, like when one of the Soutby contract sound guys clued me into a fabulous Filipina jazz singer whose music he was playing while awaiting a panel, then invited me over to try out his $500 Grado headphones on my iPhone (gorgeous tone!).
Some other gems picked up through the day included: the Zero Moment of Truth in Customer Experience (download the free eBook) from the ever-professional Brian Solis; the genuine enthusiasm by speakers from TechStars, Astia, and other investors about now having their flags planted in (and being part of) the Austin start-up scene; and, a couple of useful search sites for domain naming, Domai.nr and impossibility.org recommended during the “Reach Hacking” panel.
Ok, well I’m off to see a special screening of the movie Cheap Thrills, where the director, actors, and producers are all watching it and staying for a Q&A session afterwards. Just another, final example of diversity… in this case, of the kinds of diverse, digital experiences that V2V is delivering. More to come.