10 Takeaways from MassTLC’s UnConference

Overwhelming. Inspiring. Thought-provoking. These are all words that apply to the spectacle that was yesterday’s Mass Technology Leadership Council’s Innovation 2010 “unConference,” held at the World Trade Center Boston and organized by entrepreneur and investor Bill Warner, Matrix Partners’ Antonio Rodriguez, and MassTLC’s Tom Hopcroft. And one more word, ridiculous—that’s what it feels like to try to sum it all up in one post.

So I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll just give a few of the ideas and thoughts that my colleague Erin Kutz and I came away with from the discussions of the day. The basic format (or unformat): hundreds of entrepreneurs, tech executives, investors, and other business leaders broke out into about 100 organically created sessions on everything from customer development, startup resources, and how to generate social media buzz to alternative financing schemes, venture capitalist-entrepreneur dynamics, and education issues for engineers headed into industry and women in tech. I’d hazard a guess that a lot of strong connections were made during the course of the day, and we’ll be seeing the fruits of all that in the years to come.

Just a few of the people I saw as I flitted from room to room during the morning sessions: Shawn Broderick from play140 and TechStars, Mike Chin from Baydin, Ed Crawley and Ken Zolot from MIT, Wade Appelman from Harvest Automation, Carl Calabria from iRobot, Paul English from Kayak.com, Eric Paley from Founder Collective, Susan Hunt Stevens from Practically Green, Chris Sheehan and James Geshwiler from CommonAngels, John Landry from Lead Dog Ventures, Sim Simeonov from FastIgnite, Ziad Sultan from Marginize, Vineet Sinha from Architexa, Bettina Hein from Pixability, Gus Weber from Microsoft, and, of course, Bill Warner himself.

Here’s our top 10 list of observations:

1. MassTLC’s innovation conference, in its third year, has become a premier business event for tech entrepreneurs in New England. It has gained a critical mass of elite attendees, such that people now feel they have to be there. It has also found a way to blend the concerns of entrepreneurs, startups, and venture capitalists with those of big companies and other organizations to a degree that I’m not sure I’ve seen before. Kudos to the organizers and participants.

2. The World Trade Center Boston is a pretty good venue for this sprawling event. Although the day was fairly chaotic, that’s by design. The layout of the rooms and floors made it easy enough to find what you were looking for quickly. One logistical suggestion that might help things get started more smoothly—some advance prep and communication of what a few of the key topics will be (maybe this happened at the pre-party and I just missed it).

3. You’ve heard about co-working spaces; how about co-living? Cambridge Innovation Center founder and CEO Tim Rowe prompted a discussion on dorm-style entrepreneur co-living spaces, where a bunch of startups share common kitchen and bathroom space. The idea is to … Next Page »

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