How often are you inspired, pushed to your limits, and feel included in a supportive community bigger than yourself (simultaneously) for 48 hours? I am not sure about you, but for me personally, this trifecta is hard to come by.
Life gets in the way. As a graduate student, I am required to spend time writing papers. As an entrepreneur, I need to secure my next round of funding…develop and market my company…create my next pitch deck…the list goes on. But, I did find time last weekend, tucked away on West 4th street, to attend the 2nd Annual NYU Entrepreneurs Festival (NYUEF). And I’m glad I did.
For two full days, I took a step back and celebrated entrepreneurship without a care in the world, with the leaders in this field. I was joined by 750 NYU students, entrepreneurs, friends, strangers, venture capitalists, you name it. I found it most amusing when I was speaking with someone who had never step foot on NYU’s campus, and he said, “After this Festival, I feel like I’m enrolled! I might as well join this NYU ‘club’ of entrepreneurs.” I replied, “What are you waiting for? Welcome!” I wish this could happen every weekend since this, to me, is magical.
I believe that the NYUEF has earned its spot in the line up of Festivals that every entrepreneur needs to attend annually. This year’s Festival was jam-packed with key notes including Herb Kelleher, Rachel Sterne Haot, Jack Dorsey, Alex Douzet, and Dan Porter. Each of these all stars brought electrifying messages to the audiences and lit up the stage of Paulson Auditorium. The Festival didn’t stop there. Panels, star-studded with NYU-bred entrepreneurs, were hosted. Roundtables were offered where intimate discussions were led on topics ranging from protecting capital to going viral. The workshops offered skill sets that entrepreneurs walked away with, ready to use in their every day lives. An after party, providing a platform to network, was hosted at a local bar. If you weren’t at the Festival, I bet you’re sorry you missed it. I hope you’re marking your calendar for 2013.
I guarantee you will not find a better sense of community, support, and group of people who want you to succeed than at the NYUEF. You can hold me to that. Not one person told me a flat out “no”. Conversations were hosted around “Well, maybe you should try this” or “How can I help you?” or “You need to talk to…” Events like these need to happen more often. We need to support the efforts of fellow entrepreneurs at an exponentially higher rate. The NYUEF has forged a new path, and has certainly set a new precedent for these types of events.
This blog post was intended to be about my personal highlight of the NYUEF, Dan Porter, CEO of OMGPOP and former President of Teach For America. However, I could not stop my fingers from typing once I started reflecting on how awesome the Festival was. In all, Dan spoke ever so eloquently about the gauntlet of emotions and experiences we face as every day people and entrepreneurs. At some point, we are all going to face success and failure. He made it clear that failure is okay. And he made us laugh about it.
Dan also spoke to the circuitous nature of life that many of us experience. It’s always nice to hear an extremely successful entrepreneur talk about the five+ different careers he had before this very moment. Nonetheless, it is fitting that I conclude by writing about the universal entrepreneur who brought the entire NYUEF together.
Regardless of industry or being an entrepreneur in that moment, you could connect with him, and here’s why. Whether you were in attendance as a student just starting to dabble in entrepreneurship, more so worried about completing a Masters in Latin American studies like he once did, a struggling entrepreneur looking failure in the face, like he experienced when the Flashlight app surpassed Draw Something’s rankings in the app store, or were a budding business owner, selling your company for millions like he just did, when OMGPOP was acquired by Zynga, you felt like Dan was your best friend. Or, maybe you were his.
There was not a single person listening to Dan’s closing keynote who could not identify with him, which to me is the beauty of entrepreneurship. Dan, thank you for bringing this to life, even up to the very last minute of the Festival.
It is my hope that every person who walked in to the NYUEF on March 1 took away as much as I did. I hope everyone made one new best friend or found one new inspiration, yes, this person can include Dan Porter. I also hope that you woke up on Sunday ready to pick up where you left off before the Festival, but with far more energy. Most importantly, I hope you left happy. That is what our work is all about an entrepreneurs. Despite how hard it sometimes is, it is supposed to make us happy. With that, I will leave you with a smile and see you at the 3rd Annual NYU Entrepreneurs Festival.