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Conrad encourages entrepreneurs to start movements, not companies

Tony Conrad is both a founder and investor. As a founder, he’s behind Sphere and about.me, two companies acquired by AOL, the second just four days after its public launch. Earlier this year, Conrad and his co-founder spun About-Dot-Me out of AOL and are working to make it the “web’s starting point for identity.”

For Tony Conrad, successful entrepreneurs aren’t starting companies—they’re starting movements. Conrad’s keynote kicked off Big Omaha, where he challenged the audience to think bigger. “Think and ask yourself, ‘How does my product impact the world?’” he said. “How does this product capture imagination? And how can this product spark a movement?”

Conrad started about.me with this in mind. He saw the site as an opportunity to reframe social media so individuals could control their own online identities, instead of being defined by their tweets or a Google algorithm. “The only person who should define you is yourself,” he said.

Conrad went on to list entrepreneurs who are also sparking movements—people like James Freeman, the champion of artisanal coffee who started Blue Bottle Coffee. He mentioned Bre Pettis, the founder of MakerBot, whose vision is for everyone in the world to have access to a 3D printer. Conrad also mentioned Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, who started with $500,000 and “had the audacity,” as Conrad said, to create a publishing platform that powers 18 percent of the world’s websites. The impact of projects like these, Conrad says, has the power to change the lives of everyone, from farmers to doctors to entertainers.

Conrad challenged the audience to think about the resources at hand and to “think big and reach” for building meaningful movements.


Big Omaha is a two-and-a-half-day event that aims to inspire, educate and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the heart of the Midwest. Produced by Silicon Prairie News, it’s part of the Big Series, the nation’s most ambitious events on innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Big Omaha Video Series is presented by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Based in Kansas City, Mo., the Kauffman Foundation is among the largest foundations in the U.S. with a mission to foster a society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens, continuing the improvement of their communities.

Credits: Video by Quadrant5. Snippet photo by Malone & Company.

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