It’s nice to be able to blog about Big Omaha, because with my voice gone (day 3 of that fun) I haven’t been able to communicate well with anyone in person about Big Omaha.

The afternoon had a lot of notable speakers: Matt Mullenweg, Gary Vaynerchuk, Danae Ringelmann, Jason Fried, and a Panel Q&A. I’m going to recap everything but the panel.

Matt Mullenweg (interviewed by Robert Scoble)
Matt Mullenweg is the founder of Automattic, which is the company behind WordPress. WordPress is arguably the most popular blogging service. (One reason I think this? Everyone keeps telling me to switch over to it.) What’s interesting is by Matt’s estimation, he got into the blogging game late in 2003. He was told that the market was saturated, but here they are seven years later and they are number one when it comes to blogging.

WordPress will always be relevant because even though the web is continually changing, people still have their own content. They have their own site. WordPress is open source so anyone can tweak the code to make their blog more personal.

He was asked about how he communicates with his employees since they are spread out over nine cities. He brought up selection bias and some companies will only hire a man or woman for a particular job. In doing so, you cut 50% of potential hires. In requiring someone to be in the vicinity of your work, you reduce the amount of potential hires drastically. Hire people wherever they are at. Technology allows us to work with someone even if they are half a world away.

WordPress offers up two different blog services: and He compared .org to owning a home. You have to do more up keep, but it’s yours and you can do what you want with it. Whereas .com is like renting an apartment. You have less to worry about, but there is less you can do with it.

  • WordPress is still getting better. Good software takes ten years, according to Joel Spolsky. They are in year seven with WordPress.
  • One thing WordPress has noticed is more of their users publish to Twitter than Facebook.
  • Toolbars with social media links at bottom of a blog post are like a “mullet”.
  • They wait till a web fad has passed before they implement it to see if it’s worthwhile.
  • He’s resistant to ads on blogs. Ads shouldn’t be the reason someone blogs.
  • And, as a bbq fan, slow cooking makes good eating.

Gary Vaynerchuk
Next up was Gary Vaynerchuk, and as always it was an experience. I was sitting next to Dan Holke, and about ten minutes in he leaned over and said, “We should keep a tally on the amount of times he says the f-word”. I lost track after while.
While Gary is part showman, part motivational speaker, he’s also knowledgeable. I think that gets lost sometimes when people talk about him. He really knows his stuff. He was all over the place in his talk, so here’s a bullet list.
  • “It is phenomenal to be back in this sensational city”.
  • He called himself Sloth from Goonies because he was stuck in the basement making $2 an hour bagging ice at age 15. That was his first job with his dad’s company. After a year, he went upstairs to work.
  • He had sold collectible baseball cards, but realized early on in his dad’s liquor business that people collected wines. He made the connection and started selling wine with a passion.
  • He rebranded the business early on from Shoppers Discount Liquors to Wine Library TV.
  • “Liquor laws are b——-“.
  • “I’m driven by gratitude”.
  • Consumer internet is only sixteen years old. It’s still young and figuring things out.
  • He spends his time worrying about what’s coming down the pipe in 36 months.
  • He likes talking to friends who don’t like or get things he embraces. People have a tendency to draw lines in the sand, and then violate them down the road. He asked the crowd these questions with that. How many of you said you weren’t going to get a Facebook account and then got one? How many of you said you weren’t going to get a cell phone and then got one?
  • 1-on-1 scalability is something he is striving for with business. 1-on-1 relationships.
  • Patience is underrated. Don’t close too fast. It took him three years to close the deal with Virgin.
  • Why would a company spend $800,000 on a “viral video” when they could hire 20 people who love their company, at $40,000, to promote the company?
  • “People need to stop b———– themselves”. Be honest with yourself. As he said, he wants to average 42 points a night in the NBA, but that’s never going to happen.
  • Don’t be scared of your passion.
  • Content is always king. Marketing is queen, but it always comes back to the content.
  • “I’m so humbled that people give a f— about what I say”.
  • “I think we’re willing to do more than we think”.
  • People have a tendency to jump on bandwagons without knowing why they are.
  • Way more people get hurt texting while driving than posting information about themselves on Foursquare, Twitter or Facebook. People freak out over shark attacks, but yet hippos kill more people than sharks. No one worries about hippos because “we played f—– Hungry Hungry Hippos” as kids.
  • When you have the chops, don’t be embarrassed by them.
  • Competition is massively underrated. He doesn’t like how every kid wins nowadays at competitions. Competition should be embraced.
  • “I love Omaha”.
Got all that? I don’t think I even captured half of it.

Danae Ringelmann
It was going to be tough for whoever followed Gary, but I thought Danae Ringelmann did a good job. She was herself and stuck to her presentation about her company IndieGoGo. IndieGoGo is about “doing it with others” (DIWO). The standard practice for building a company in the past has been:

  1. raise money
  2. build product
  3. get customers
  4. grow

However, in the new customer development standard, the practice is:

  1. get customers
  2. raise money
  3. build product
  4. grow

Crowd funding is viable way for someone to get their project or product funded.

  • People like transparency and specificity when it comes to non-profits.
  • Deadlines help with non-profits. It drives action.
  • There is donation fatigue, so try not to say the word “donation”. Leverage perks and awards. Offer something real.
  • Tell people about your project because it is accountability. There is social pressure of not wanting to fail in front of others. Consistency effect.
  • Get the education by trying to do it yourself.

Jason Fried
Wrapping up the afternoon of presentations was Jason Fried. Jason was one of the speakers I was looking forward to hearing. Without much show, he came up and said he has list of things he wanted to discuss. Systematically, he went through the list and hit each one squarely. If you’ve read Rework you’ll be familiar with many of these.
  1. Bootstrapping – He’s a big fan of these companies because they have to make money on day one. Companies that are funded only have to spend money on day one. Making money is something you get good at over time, unlike venture backed companies that are good at spending money. You can buy time by owning your schedule. You are renting time when you are funded.
  2. Price – Charging things seems to be anomaly on the internet. It’s odd. Price forces  you to be good. Giving something away for free is easy. There is intimacy in business when people pay for a product. Charge for something and you’ll get good feedback. Think about the counsel you get from a friend versus a therapist. Focus in on core business.
  3. Useful > Innovate – Innovation is massively overrated. Usefulness is underrated. Usefulness should pull through everything you do. Cool wears off, usefulness never does. He asks himself, with his work, “Is this useful?” Post-it notes will be used in ten years, who knows about Facebook.
  4. Focus On Won’t Change –  Invest in what won’t change. You’ll be better now and later. Details take awhile. Quality takes awhile. It may not be sexy, but it will pay off.
  5. DIY – How can you evaluate someone for the job if you don’t know the job? You should try it before hiring someone else. If you know the job, then you know what to look for in hiring someone. Try learning instead of spending your way out of a problem. Grow slowly, learn stuff.
  6. I’m sorry. vs We apologize for any inconvenience we may have… – There are two different apologies. The generic ones that politicians and businesses give, that sound like they were written by lawyers, are ones that aren’t authentic. They don’t care. If you are sorry, own up to it. You’ll have more trusting customers if they believe your apologies. Don’t let lawyers apologize for you.
  7. Draw A Line In The Sand – It is important to do. Know who you are and what you do. What are companies about nowadays? We don’t know. What do you say no to? What jobs will you not take? The things you practice early you’ll do well later on. Whole Foods decided early on what foods they would and would not sell, and they are doing well.
  8. Specs! Features! Technology! (Yeah, whatever.) – Specs, features and technology do not drive people. It gets a niche of the market, but most don’t care. An example would be with shoes. It doesn’t matter at all what the numerous features are with shoes. All people want to know is if the shoes is comfortable, looks good and is affordable. None of the other stuff matters. Companies are obsessed with features. People just want it to work. Customers want a few things done well. Nail the basics.
  9. Less – He wants people to do less work. Want to get stuff done? Do less, and you’ll do more. People always regret doing more. Try to do less and focus in on doing things well. Less is always an option.
  • Laziness is the best ROI sometimes. You can solve problems in an easier manner.
  • “I can’t tell people what Google Wave is”.
  • You can’t control what the competition does, you can only control what you do.
  • Hard to solve other people’s problems, but I can solve my own really well.
  • Favor context over consistency. “Do style guides really matter that much”?
  • Places will give you a sample, but then you buy. Restaurants aren’t like the internet where you get everything for free. You might get a sample, but if you want food you have to pay.
The afternoon was great. Combined with the morning, it made for a great day. And, there’s still more to come tomorrow.
Capping the day? Getting the Big Omaha badge.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be posting more tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll be able to converse again verbally.

3 thoughts on “Big Omaha: Day 2 (PM)

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