Last month I attended the EntConnect Conference to give it some coverage from Element14. I like entrepreneurship/engineering, and they had a bunch of fun events like Skiing at Vail which really drew me in. I wasn’t sure what to expect, with an attendee list of ~30 people how much of a conference could it be? When I interviewed the conference organizer, John Gaudio, he said that the best way to describe what goes on is serendipity. Looking back his description was accurate, however I had no idea what he meant at the time.
By attending I found that I had a chance to walk into a group of entrepreneurs who have been getting together every year for the past 20 to discuss their goals, companies, lessons, successes, and failures. They have known each other for a long time, and the honesty that each presenter offered was amazing. People giving hard numbers about their acquisitions, business deals, and company acquisitions presented a level of detail that I would never expect. The simple honest nature of their responses made for some of the best lessons I’ve ever had in the business world. Here’s an excerpt from my Element14 article:
The trouble with the mass-produced approach is the shallow nature of the connections made. A casual relationship is perfect for a sales person who only needs to have one meeting per year to get the order right. Normal conferences are remarkable at connecting people who are in a specific industry. Suppliers meet clients, new technology is unveiled, and an expo is setup as a trading floor for business cards. Keynote speakers often deliver whitewashed talks scrubbed of anything that could be seen as embarrassing or harmful, at the expense offering the whole truth.
But if a business person wants to make an actual connection where real stories are shared honestly, an entirely different approach is required. A forum where trust can be established over hours and days, with the same people returning year after year to tell their raw stories and set the candid tone.
EntConnect does exactly that. It is made of a group of engineers and entrepreneurs who have been getting together for the past 20 years bound not only by their interest in entrepreneurship, technology, and building their companies, but also their friendships.