Big Omaha 2011: Day 1 live blog (afternoon edition)

We're baaacck. With a little lunch and networking under our belts, we've returned to our little nook in KANEKO and are posted up at the computer to bring you a live blog of the afternoon session at Big Omaha 2011. On deck this afternoon: talks from Dan Martell of Flowtown, Erich Broksas of the Startup

Aneesh Chopra (from left), Shervin Pishevar and Robert Scoble participated in a Q&A to wrap up the morning session of Day 1 at Big Omaha 2011. Photo by Malone & Company from Silicon Prairie News on Flickr

We’re baaacck. With a little lunch and networking under our belts, we’ve returned to our little nook in KANEKO and are posted up at the computer to bring you a live blog of the afternoon session at Big Omaha 2011. On deck this afternoon: talks from Dan Martell of Flowtown, Erich Broksas of the Startup America Partnership, Shervin Pishevar of the Social Gaming Network and Sarah Lacy of TechCrunch. 

Without further ado, here are the sights and sounds from the first afternoon session of Big Omaha. Refresh this page to get the latest updates. Also, if this blog doesn’t do the trick, get in on the conversation on Twitter by following the hashtag #bigomaha.

Dan Martell

2:10 p.m. — Martell encourages embracing laziness. “Find people, he says, “that play at the stuff you work at.”

2:25 —“Business is about getting yourself into trouble,” Martell says. If you’re really doing something that’s exciting and pushes the envelope, there are going to be people who resist. Challenges and unpleasant bumps in the road should be viewed as positive parts of the process.

2:35 — Martell shares the story of his brother, who fought through inexperience and financial struggles to build a successful construction company and become an award-winning entrepreneur. Martell helped his brother through the process and shares a mock-up of a magazine cover he used to motivate his brother. “I think everybody, especally in this room, has the potential to be on the cover of a magazine,” Martell says. 

2:40 — “At the end of the day,” Martell says, “I don’t think people give their gut enough credit.” And, with that, Martell wraps up the Q&A portion of his talk and hands the mic back to David Hauser. Up next: Erich Broksas from the Startup America Partnership. 

Erich Broksas

2:48 —Broksas touches on the distributed model, saying that with the right approach talent can trump geographic consolidation. “It’s not about where you live,” Broksas says. “It’s about how you build that network.” He continues: “There’s a lot of other factors for the success of your business that aren’t necessarily predicated” on being in a certain place.

2:51 — Broksas, as promised, kept his speech short to allow for plenty of Q&A. Get involved in the conversation by tweeting @startupamerica or using the hashtag #startupamerica.

2:58 — A la Startup Weekend, Broksas is asked to give a 60-second pitch for Startup America Partnership. His response: “Startup America’s desire is to inspire, celebrate and reduce barriers to entrepreneurship in America.” It works, Broksas says, to catalyze a movement and an opportunity to inspire more job creation and more jobs.

3:03 — Asked about why entrepreneurs locally should get excited about the Startup America Partnership, Broksas touches on the idea of growing from the middle. “It matters to Omaha as much as it does to any company in the Valley,” he says, “and maybe even more.”

Shervin Pishevar

3:09 — To paraphrase a point that Pishevar made more poingnantly — and with slightly more colorful language: friendship is always a more important thing than something as cheap as money. When you realize that, you’re suddenly surprised by what you can accomplish.

3:19 — An ability to put himself out there has been an asset for Pishevar throughout his career. “I was never, never afraid to ask,” he says. He once cold-called Jamie Dimon, giving a short pitch that earned him an invitation to New York to meet with the finance mogul. “That moment,” Pishevar said, “transformed my life.” The odds of him landing that invitation might have been long, but they were made better by the simple act of picking up the phone.   “The answer is always no — 100 percent of the time — if you don’t ask,” Pishevar says.

3:28 —Mentors, Pishevar says, have changed his life. He encourages attendees to let mentors have the same effect on their lives. “I want you by the end of the week identify one mentor that you would want in your life,” he says. “It doesn matter how famous they are. Just do it and ask them.”

3:30 — Pishevar applauds the audience for its, um, applause. The pre-emptive standing ovations the crowd has been giving, he says, inject a unique energy into the conference and its speakers. “It actually feeds the soul of the speakers and makes people speak with truth and true energy,” Pishevar says. “That’s awesome. It’s so powerful.”

3:31 — Our Jeff Slobotski, founder of Silicon Prairie News and, along with Dusty Davidson, the architect of Big Omaha, gets a well-deserved tip of the cap from Pishevar and standing ovation from the crowd. “I think what Jeff represents is exactly every single principal that I was talking about giving back,” Pishevar says. “Single-handedly and with his team, he’s transforming Omaha and this region in a way that I haven’t seen anybody do.” Not too shabby, Mr. Slobotski. 

3:34 — Pishevar enlists attendees in support of “One Percent of Nothing,” a new charitable effort he’s helping spearhead. By a show of hands, Pishevar gauges what percent of the audience is interested in a simple pledge: committing a percent of its value to a charity of its choice. The effort is set for a full-fledged launch soon, and it’s in the name-gathering process at the moment.

3:40 — Break time. We’re back at 4 p.m. with TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy. 

Sarah Lacy

4:09 — Lacy uses the spotlight to dish out a little good-natured ribbing. “Robert Scoble cheering for me, not attacking me on Twitter,” she says after stepping onstage to a standing ovation. “That’s a first.”

4:10 — Lacy, as it turns out, has a soft spot for Omaha. The last time she was here, on her previous book tour, Lacy says she fell in love with “the warmth and the energy and the creativity and the people.” Not only that, but Lacy says the city helped her husband, a photographer, out of a creative rut. 

4:19 — Lacy on “why I left Silicon Valley”: 1. the market; 2. cultures of innovation. In discussing the second reason, Lacy provides an interesting example, Israel. In 1990s, Israel was home to more NASDAQ-traded companies than any other place except Silicon Valley. Amidst bigger turmoil, Lacy says, the risks of launching a company seemed minor. Entrepreneurs there had less fear standing in the way of pursuing their goals. 

4:28 — Reasons No. 3 Lacy left the Valley: a desire to follow the money. Reason No. 4: the realization that there were plenty of problems to solve elsewhere, particularly in the developing world. “I just knew in my gut,” she said “there was a great story there.”

4:42 —Like Leila Janah earlier, Lacy tells an interesting story of traveling overseas and seeing technology against the backdrop of abject poverty. Lacy traveled to Rwanda, where “the idea of purposely expending calories to stay thin is considered opulent.” Still, Lacy said, there was technological infrastructure in place that made some she uses in Silicon Valley look outdated. Lacy cautions people who haven’t lived in the developing world not to judge the merits of having such technology there. 

4:52 — Gut-check time. After telling the stories of people in warn-torn and developing nations overcoming unimaginable circumstances to build successful businesses, Lacy says there’s no reason anyone at Kaneko can’t overcome their own challenges — almost certainly minor by comparison — to succeed. “If this guy can build a multi-million dollar company,” Lacy says of a man who survived the Rwandan genocide to make millions, “no one in this room has an excuse.”

4:56 — Lacy concludes her speech. Huh, Martell, Pishevar and Friday presenter Marc Ecko join her on stage for a group Q&A. 

Group Q&A

5:02 — The group of speakers is asked about familial considerations factoring into entrepreneurial ventures. It’s easy — or easier, at least — to launch a company in a vacuum, but what about when you have to balance career and loved ones? From Skype (Lacy and Martell) to marrying a person who understands your career aims (Lacy) to involving a spouse in the business venture from the outset (Huh), each has a uinque strategy.

5:16 — This live blog can’t quite keep up with the lively pace of the back-and-forth transpiring on stage. But, a few highlights: 

  • On superpowers: Lacy would give almost anything for the power to teleport, Ecko’s a wannabe time-traveler and Huh wishes he could code with his mind.
  • On companies the speakers admire: Martell is enamored with Instagram, Ecko admires the cross-generational success of the Star Wars franchise and Huh is obsessed with Warby Parker. Guess he’ll enjoy Neil Blumenthal’s talk tomorrow. 

5:28 — Again, the rapid-fire nature of the Q&A and mounting fatigue on the part of the live-blogger makes it difficult to do justice to everything said. So now begins the portion of the live blog in which offer non-contextualized but nonetheless inspiring quotes.

  • Huh says he tries to look at business failure logically, not emotionally. “Failure,” he says, “does not require you to put your head down in shame and walk away.”

5:51 — The Q&A is winding down, Jeff and Dusty are about to take the stage and other obligations have arisen for yours truly. This live blog has, it appears, reached the end of the road. Thanks to the ones of half-dozens of you who followed along throughout. Check back here tomorrow for similar coverage of Day 2 of Big Omaha 2011. And, if you’re in Omaha, make sure to stop by The Slowdown tonight. Why, you ask? Hopefully this’ll help you understand why (please excuse the NSFWish lyrics). 

Video from Bestofhypem on


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