(5.16 Update – Grateful for everyone coming to the site to read about Scott Harrison’s talk. Throughout Big Omaha, and even before, money was raised for charity: water. Once a final figure is posted, regarding how much was raised, I’ll post it here. Thanks for reading.)

(7.02 Update – Over $15,000 was raised for charity: water at Big Omaha!)

Skipping lunch so I can put down some of my thoughts on the morning. The morning started strong, and ended with a flourish. Once again, KANEKO is filled with 500 creatives, entrepreneurs, techies and more for the gathering. Five speakers shared this morning. Here are highlights from four of them: Roger Fransecky, David Hauser, Scott Belsky and Scott Harrison.

Roger Fransecky
Roger Fransecky welcomed everyone by mixing wisdom and poetry. Fransecky moved to Omaha, from New York City, after 9/11. He called Omaha a “setting where great people can do great things”. Some highlights…

  • I’m the old guy in a blazer that says welcome.
  • Figuratively and literally, we are starved for horizons. Omaha is rich with horizons.
  • Big enterprises are elephants trying to dance in figuring out what’s next.
  • There are oil spills in our lives, but also sunrises and sunsets.
  • How am I showing up in my life? Am I present in my life?
  • Big Omaha is the “What’s Next” conference.
  • Have 3 new conversations. Not just new people, but have new conversations.

David Hauser
David Hauser of Grasshopper was the first main speaker. He champions entrepreneurs. Some notes from his presentation.

  • Culture is the building block of a great company.
  • When you start a company, you should be part of the team. It shouldn’t take you years to be accepted. You should have the same amount of vacation days as everyone else.
  • Culture comes from core purposes and core values.
  • Core purpose is the reason of being. The why.
  • Core values are not: aspirations, honesty, respect, and excellence. These are a waste of time. It’s obvious. They’re rules to play the game. Enron had these values.
  • Core values are: never changing, guiding principles, transcend product or service, the how. Core values should be prevalent to employees and customers.
  • The better you are at core values, the less you need to worry about marketing.
  • Authenticity is more important than “selling”.
  • Stand out from crowd, don’t join it. Grasshopper sent FedEx packages to 5,000 people with chocolate covered grasshoppers. (Literal grasshoppers.) No letter, no anything. It generated buzz and talk. (Grasshopper.com/5000) What can I do that makes me stand out in my industry?
  • Government doesn’t believe in entrepreneurs, despite: 44% of payrolls in US comes from small businesses, small businesses are 13x more innovative that large businesses, 64% of new jobs in past 15 years are from small businesses, small businesses provide over 50% of workforce in private sector.

When asked why he changed brand of business to Grasshopper, David replied his previous brand “F*****’ sucked.”

Scott Belsky
Scott Belsky of Behance was up next. Scott was one of the speakers I was looking forward to hearing from. He didn’t disappoint. He’s all about making ideas happen. Most ideas never happen. There is a lot of energy at the beginning, with a new idea, but as time goes on the energy wanes. People hit a project plateau. Instead of trying to finish the idea, most people just come up with a new idea. It’s why a lot of people have multiple half-finished projects. Why there are more half-finished novels in the world than finished novels.

People have an idea-to-idea syndrome. This is due to a lack of:

  • organization
  • accountability
  • leadership capability
  • disorganized and isolated networks
  • feedback exchange

And it’s why most ideas never happen.

  • Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. -Thomas Edison
  • We need to overcome reactionary workflow to be more efficient. Set aside blocks of time in the day where we are not at beckoning call of email, voicemails, texts, social media and more. Use that time to be focused in work.
  • People also need to spend energy on staying organized. You can have 100 great ideas, but if there is no organization you will have no impact with your idea and creativity. Extreme examples of this are author James Patterson and artist Thomas Kinkade. Their work may not be a favorite of critics, but they have impact and are successful.
  • We need to organize with a bias toward action. We should measure a meeting in action steps. If someone leaves a meeting with no action steps, was it necessary for them to be there?
  • Process begets process.
  • Share ideas liberally, share ownership of ideas.
  • Fight your way to breakthrough.
  • Judge applicants based on initiative and not always experience.
  • Value chemistry over people.

Nothing extraordinary is achieved through ordinary means.

Scott Harrison
The final speaker of the morning was Scott Harrison of charity: water. I’d known a bit of his story, but to hear it in detail was amazing. The room was silent throughout his presentation.

He grew up taking care of his mother because her immune system was shot after a freak carbon monoxide accident. His parents were Christians and he grew up in the church. At age 18, he rebelled and moved to New York City. He joined a band and got involved in the nightlife scene. Scott told stories of how he was paid money to drink alcohol. He thought he was living the life.

At age 28 he realized what a mess his life was and had a renewal of faith. He tried to get involved with ministries and non-profits, but none would take him. “Hard to serve God if you’re a nightclub promoter. I was lauged at.” Mercy Ships was the only organization that accepted him. (I may have been one of the few people at Big Omaha that knew what Mercy Ships is, since the ministry I use to work at worked with Mercy Ships.)

Mercy Ships is a hospital on a boat. It brings a hospital to people who don’t have health care. Scott was the photojournalist for them, even though he had no idea what that was. On the boat, he shared a 250 square foot room with two other roommates. Paid $500 a month to be a volunteer and deal with cockroaches. (Ah, reminds me of my missionary days.)

He gets to Liberia, and loses it after seeing the health needs one of the first children admitted. He was touched by how Mercy Ships would help so many people, but there were always thousands more that were turned away because there wasn’t enough time. That was the toughest thing to realize.

After his time with Mercy Ships, he came back to New York City. He went to a nightclub and someone bought him a $16 margarita. His first thought was the cost of that margarita could feed a family for a month. Huge culture shock for him, but he didn’t want to have righteous indignation. He wanted to do something.

So, he started charity: water when he was $40,000 in debt. (As he joked, nightclub promoters know how to spend money but not save money.) Water was root cause of a number of health issues for people around the world. He thought he could tap into a group of people that were disenchanted with charities who didn’t actually put money to the charity effort.

  • 1/6 of the world does not have clean drinking water.
  • People carry water in Jerry Cans. When full, they weigh 40 pounds.
  • Sometime people will wait 8 hours for water, and the water is dirty.
  • 88% of disease on planet relates to dirty water and lack of sanitation.
  • 50% of world’s schools don’t have clean water.
  • 40 billion hours are wasted in Africa by people going to get water. (I believe this is per year.)
  • The Jerry Can is the iPod of Africa.

Charity: water has come up with 6 different solutions to provide clean water to a community.
$5,000 will provide clean water to 250 people.

Water changes everything. It brings life and hope. It brings dignity to women and communities. It is liquid gold.

  • Charity: water puts 100% of donations to the charity effort. They raise private donations to run the charity.
  • Once a well is built, it can be viewed by people who gave to it on Google Earth. People who gave couldn’t believe they were actually seeing what their money was going toward.

They are big on brand excellence. Most charities aren’t good at this, and as Scott put it they “wouldn’t suck at design”. (Amen.) They were going to have blinking .gifs. They created compelling, edgy content that can be seen for free. This varied from a baby bottle filled with dirty water, to rich kids being shown carrying Jerry Cans of water. They also used creative ways to do corporate partnerships.

In the end, charity: water became everyone’s story. People took ownership of it and did campaigns on their own. In 3.5 years, 1 million people now have access to clean water. While that’s great, that’s still just one-tenth of 1% of people who don’t have access to clean water.

The challenge is big. By 2020 they want to raise $2 billion dollars that will bring clean water to 100 million people who don’t have it now.

When Scott was done, the room erupted and gave him a standing ovation. Amazing moment.

More to come…

2 thoughts on “Big Omaha: Day 2 (AM)

  1. You're welcome. Thanks for sharing this morning! I've been to the Grasshopper site a few times today. Going to share with my team some of things your company has done. It's great stuff that's generated some ideas.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s