Woah. That was one crazy week, dude. Geeks everywhere.
English wasn’t even the primary language of choice at Techweek 2013 … Ruby on Rails was (Python a close second).
(1871 has asked me to get all bloggy about my experience presenting at Techweek 2013. It’s the least I can do, read below to find out why…)
Earlier in the week I called upon all Chicago tech-preneurs to come out from behind their Macbooks and stroll four floors below to make some noise during Techweek.
There were so many device charging stations I thought the power was gonna blow out the entire Merch Mart.
Panoramic view from my iPhone 4s minutes before the show gates opened
Days before I had been toying with the idea of pivoting my startup – “Niching down” my DigitalBookNetwork.com from publishing everyone to focusing strictly on making blogs into digital books and selling them on Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Google Play stores.
Turning Bloggers into Authors, paying them a royalty each time their blog is downloaded. BlogIntoBook.com I’d one day call it.
Then I received an email from 1871 about an event that was being held just a stairwell away:
“Would you like to present at Techweek 2013, free of charge“?
WTF?? I was already gonna pay $45 just to get into the show, and now here I have this wonderful opportunity to present my wee startup in front of the wide world of Tech?
The chance to showcase side by side with names from both the NASDAQ and TechCrunch wonder-kids alike. Disruptors like Aereo, Hailo, GoGoAir. Brands like Bing, CDW and Motorola (see their Techweek setup below).
My lizard brain took over as I envisioned the industry big wigs of technology strolling the aisles of Techweek 2013, visiting the luxurious booths of these iconic companies and then stumbling upon this teeny weeny little startup like my own.
Still in beta … actually alpha. Banners, brochures, and business cards? Damn, I didn’t even have a website yet.
I could picture Steve Ballmer, Larry Page, or Jeff Bezos approach my bare booth and having a good laugh about it at my expense … Steve Jobs rolling over in his grave. FML.
Still unsure of what to do, I went to the local StartupGrind and continued bouncing the blog-into-book idea off some more like-minded entrepreneurs.
I got some great feedback and ended up getting networked into a meeting with two entrepreneurs from Poland, Pawel Nowak and Michal Opydo who were in town sporting a table themselves at TechWeek to promote their PressPad app.
So digital publishers from Poland were coming to River North, Chicago just to present at this conference? How could I pass this opportunity up? (BTW Pawel & Michal are now my new BFF’s and I’m gonna visit them in Kraków.)
I signed up for my time slot and cloned my DigitalBookNetwork.com responsive WordPress theme to get a minimum viable website up and running … BlogIntoBook.com was born.
I hit up VistaPrint for some free business cards and got a logo blown up to mini-poster size at The Mart’s internal FedEx. Now that’s bootstrapping in America.
I began practicing my pitch and even threw heat at Stephanie McNeely at the Chicago City Treasurer’s office pitch competition. I hadn’t pitched this much since my ass was on Mashable and boy was my arm tired.
Was I ready for Techweek? That depends on your definition of ready.
My ducks were certainly not aligned so I took the CTA Brown Line to the Harold Washington Library and borrowed a copy of Seth Godin’s “Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?“.
Within a few minutes I noticed this best-selling book was composed of repurposed posts from Seth’s blog. At that moment I knew there was no reason to wait any longer.
IMHO shipping an idea is what sets apart true entrepreneurs from want-trepreneuers. The time to ship BlogIntoBook.com was upon me.
I tapped StartupGrind’s Assistant Director, Peter Bruce, to join me with my Techweek booth in case I got scared and tried to run away and hide.
I donned the greenest shirt and shoes that would fit me and marched back into the Merch Mart a man on a mission.
My main man Eric Ries, master of the Lean Startup had recently given me some slender advice about getting things started:
Blinded by the blue checkmark verifying Eric’s thought leadership I followed his advice by asking questions instead of talking up my services.
I started meeting tech-bloggers, travel-bloggers, lawyer-bloggers, Tweeters, Tumblrs, StumbleUpon’ers and more. My trade show table was now unofficially named “The Blog Pound”.
U of Michigan basketball star Zack Novak dropped by to talk hoop blogs and I even got interesting insight from Chicago’s most influential blogger, Tribeca Flashpoint Chairman Howard Tullman.
I was having a blast, talking to customers, getting feedback, and then pivoting my pitch to perfection. Ries woulda been proud with my skinny expense report, the whole show cost me less than $100.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel then stopped by the 1871 section and shook hands with (and chest-bumped) FasPark’s Gerhard Boiciuc. That’s just how we roll on our home turf inside The Merchandise Mart.
I was taking a bunch of vine videos – here’s six of them strung together into one 36 second flick:
Rose Tibayan then interviewed me for her Blackline 90 second quickpitch (see below), and my email was blown up by Nibletz about doing a story for their startup site. The next thing ya know I’m getting an email from Tech Cocktail naming BlogIntoBook.com one of the Chicago’s hottest startups and inviting me to their pitch contest (winner goes to Vegas in October).
Yes, I was feeling mighty proud of my little cute, fuzzy, snuggly, less-than-24-hours-old startup company, located right smack dab in between the Bing booth and the GoGoAir charging station. My time slot was about up and I was getting ready to pack up and call it a week.
Just as I’m taking my banner down, some guy sees my dinky green logo and starts asking me questions. Interrogating me, hitting on all the important things a blogger would want to know.
Turns out the guy is Michael Koenig the Schmooze Engineer for WordPress, the world’s most popular blogging platform. My kinda guy.
I told Michael about the awesome TGIF Happy Hour we have at 1871 and how he should definitely check it out upstairs later that afternoon.
Koenig took me up on the offer and just as our little beer pizza and ping pong shin-dig was ending…
who shows up but WordPress founder and legendary entrepreneur Matt Mullenweg
Next thing ya know I’m pitching BlogIntoBook.com face-to-face with the man who invented WordPress, the world’s most popular blogging platform. Sweet.
I spent the next 10 minutes talking to Matt, Michael and 1871’s own Caity Moran about the possibilities of converting all 60 million sites that are powered by WordPress into digital books. That’s how you disrupt shit.
I’ve followed Mullenweg’s entrepreneurial career for a while (including a recent double-episode of my fave podcast This Week In Startups), and more than anything he’s taught me that you don’t tear down industries by thinking small. Think Big. Think Huge.
I’m about to hit “publish” on this here blog post from within the slick WordPress platform Matt founded, I must say, as a single founder with nothin but a small poster, a few business cards, an iPad and a dream…
I heart Techweek. <3
Turning Bloggers into Authors
PS – Shoutout to the 1871 staff and interns who made our little Techweek space totally awesome.
Here’s some other fun stuff from Techweek 2013:
Shak from Bad Testing and the Fundology crew (Kison working the phones, obviously) holding down the 1871 section.
(not pictured – Achyuta Akella of Creatle.com, Michael Doyle of RentLikeAChampion.com and Rill Hodari of ALittleBitOfHappiness.com)
Microsoft’s Bing and BlogIntoBook showcasing side-by-side.
Startup Grind Chicago Assistant Director Peter Bruce joined the Blog Pound.
Jimmy Odom lead the passionate WeDeliver team to victory in the Launch competition
Lawrence Brown of Starter League fame dominated social media spreading the word about WeDeliver en route to their jumbo check.
Jumbo checks are showing up everywhere. This guy won $2,000 at the Cheeky Chicago party at Studio Paris for pitching to investors (in a SideCar) about a pillow that helps you cuddle.
Who says guys can’t be Cheeky?
If you’d like to read more of my silly stories about Startups please visit www.ZackPrice.com