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Big Omaha: Morning sessions live blog

Note: The following live blog has been edited following the event. Changes include addition of pictures, spelling and grammar and order of updates, which were originally posted most recent to oldest.


8:32 a.m.  The doors are open, the breakfast table is stocked and the mic’s gettin’ tested… Big Omaha 2010 is underway!

Jeff and Dusty should be taking the stage in roughly 30 minutes for the day’s opening speech. We’ll check back in with you then!

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

9:11  Dusty and Jeff are on stage. Here we go, folks!

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

9:21  The crowd looks bigger and bolder than last year’s, and the Silicon Prairie News guys have been working overtime to make sure Big Omaha 2010 is in every way an improvement on its predecessor.

Also, Big Omaha’s collaborative effort to raise five grand for charity: water to build a well in a country that desperately needs it has been a rousing success! Everyone who donated, give yourselves a hand!

Quote of the moment:

We only had two complaints last year. One, was that the wifi sucked. The other is that we ran out of coffee.

– Dusty Davidson, co-founder of Big Omaha & Silicon Prairie News

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

9:37  Roger Fransecky, founder and CEO of The Apogee Group, started the day off by talking about the five conversations every leader needs to have each day:

  1. Talking with your team, the people who work for and with you.
  2. Talking with your customers, the people who are paying you, “the people who create the value.”
  3. Talking about the uncertain marketplace, “which right now is roiling about, but the digital world is changing it in ways we can’t even imagine.”
  4. Talking about the unknown future, and “accepting that fact that you’re not in control; there are oil spills in all of our lives ahead, but sunrises and surprises, too. It’s all there.”
  5. Talking with ourselves. “It often needs to be a courageous conversation that says, ‘How am I showing up in my life?’ and the deeper question is ‘Am I the president in my life?’ This event is a ‘What’s next?’ conversation. That’s what Big Omaha is. It’s the setting for your next courageous conversation.”

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

10:16  Just heard from Grasshopper‘s David Hauser on standing out in the marketplace. No matter who you are or what you sell, competition’s part of the game. In order to get noticed, Grasshopper FedExed chocolate-covered, deep-fried grasshoppers to bloggers and media outlets across the country. Tasty!

The greatest asset for entrepreneurs, according to Hauser, is authenticity. It’s easy to ape other businesses in your field, or to cherry pick from a standard list of so-called “core values,” but if you want to succeed, your company or your brand needs its own genuine identity.

Quote of the moment:

Honesty, respect, excellence… Ever notice how many businesses have these as their core values? Pretty sure Enron did. These things are not core values. These are bullshit. These are the rules to play the game. Who’s going to hire someone who isn’t honest?

– David Hauser, co-founder of Grasshopper, Chargify and Grasshopper Labs

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

10:23  Here’s a bonus video for anyone staying with us throughout Big Omaha. Scott Blake is a barcode artist showcasing his work at the event. Putting in some 40 laborious hours in Photoshop, Blake constructs celebrity mosaics from nothing but interactive bar codes. Each picture is roughly 29,400 pixels, skirting close to the maximum size Photoshop will allow; each image comprises about 2,400 bar codes and takes a full four days to render. When scanned, the codes bring up corresponding videos on a nearby television screen.

Here’s a brief interview with Blake. Check it out to see his Warren Buffet piece in action!


11:12  Annnnnnd we’re back after the break. Rachelle Hruska is on the stage, talking about the history of her startup, Guest of a Guest. Right now, she’s busting out some slides of Guest of a Guests’ early days. It’s crazy to see how the site’s evolved over time.

Quote of the Moment:

(Guest of a Guest) started as all good businesses do: as a hobby of mine. All entrepreneurs are crazy; we’re crazy. It’s everything all at once, all the time; and I would never have it any other way.

– Rachell Hruska, co-founder of Guest of a Guest

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

11:31  Scott Harrison from charity: water is up now. He’s discussing what his life as a night club promoter was like before charity work changed him. Even though he was paid to drink for free, his days and nights still felt empty.

After he got a gig as a Mercy Ships photojournalist, he started documenting that charity’s work: gruesome surgical undertakings to remove massive facial tumors. He’s showing before and after slides of some of Mercy Ships’ patients, and the pre-procedure pictures are almost too hard to look at. During his time at Mercy Ships, Harrison came face-to-face with the horrendous living conditions of third world nations, including the lack of quality drinking water.

Quote of the moment:

When I got back home from Mercy Ships, first night in, someone bought me a $16 margarita. My first thought was, ‘Do you have any idea what $16 can buy?’

– Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

12:12 p.m.  Scott Harrison just finished up his charity: water talk; the crushing poverty and stomach-churning living conditions of the third world have never been more palpable. Throughout his travels to Africa, Harrison saw guys his age dredging up mud, just to obtain the moisture within. In villages across the continent, people couldn’t afford charcoal to boil their water. It’s no surprise, then, that 88% percent of disease on this planet can be attributed to unsanitary drinking water. Most schools Harrison visited didn’t even have toilets.

In Africa, 40 billion hours are wasted every year gathering water; more than the workforce of France. After witnessing a young girl alternate between drinking and vomitting up what no one in this country would ever call water, Harrison collected a sample of the drink. Scrutiny by modern medical technology revealed the water to be saturated with microbes, leeches and vulgar tissue lab analysts couldn’t describe as anything other than “alive.”

For only $5,000, a well can be constructed that gives 250 people access to clean water. Near the end of his presentation, Harrison showed a video of a freshly dug well. As the geyser of pure, clean water (which the locals called liquid gold) burst into the air, those encircling the pit danced and whooped, as though they’d just struck oil…

Quote of the moment

Water really changes everything. Clean water brings hope into communities, it brings life, it restores dignity to women, to kids, to teenage girls. Disease rates start plummeting when clean water is introduced.” Scott Harrison, charity: water

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

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