Nantucket Conference 2001
In early May 2001 I was a speaker at the second Nantucket Conference. I was a speaker last year at the first conference, and wrote up my attendance and posted it here in my log. As before, it was attended by CEOs, founders, and a few "off the record" press. This year there were lots of venture capitalists, too. The subtitle of the conference was changed from "Conference on the Internet Economy" to "Entrepreneurship and Innovation". Lots of the talking was about life post-bubble.
As before, I took the high-speed ferry after driving down to Hyannis on Cape Cod (about 2 hours from Trellix's offices in Concord, Massachusetts). The sun was shining and the island was beautiful and quiet.
Harbor in Nantucket
The first evening there was a reception. I ran into people like Bill Bluestein, president of Forrester Research and Andy Miller (who used to run Miller Communications which was our PR firm at Software Arts for a few years and later helped launch Compaq):
Bill Bluestein and Andy Miller, first night reception at The White Elephant
I talked to one person who said he was at his hotel on the island and heard some people talking and instantly realized that he recognized one of the voices: Dr. Ruth (the sex therapist). Wow, we were close to someone famous outside of our field... Later I ran into another person who had taken a plane to the island (a 9 seater) and helped Dr. Ruth carry her bags and talked with her on the plane. Everyone has a better story...
I talked with people I've known for a long time, like Bob Metcalfe, John Landry, and Chris Herot. With them was Chip Hazard. Cool! Chip is the venture capitalist involved with ArsDigita that's in the news over a lawsuit with a founder. (The founder tells his side of the situation on his web site.) How topical, I thought, to read stuff in the papers and on weblogs and then see the real people in the flesh... (Of course, Chip couldn't talk about the situation to us.) He was on one of the panels and came across much nicer than many VCs I've heard speak. He looks pretty friendly here (which he was):
Bob Metcalfe, Chip Hazard, John Landry, and Chris Herot
We were on our own for dinner. A few of us ate at a local eatery. Survivor was playing on the big screen TVs. Someone said they tried to wave at me to get a picture of Lycos' ex-CEO Bob Davis sitting next to the screen. I missed it.
Eating dinner while Survivor played
The conference had arranged for a preview showing of the upcoming movie "Startup.com" at a local theater. We waited around until the regular movie let out and then watched.
Waiting to get in to see a private showing of Startup.com
This was not a movie to learn about exactly what happened. It was one to show you vignettes of life in a hot and then cold dotCom that showed interpersonal relationships and other emotional things. There was even a scene or two with founders in legal wrangling with the board (strange after just seeing Chip...) The movie's worth seeing. Some things hit real close to home. (As of this writing the movie hasn't opened for regular viewing, but you can read about it on sites like Upcomingmovies.com or in reviews like the one in WiredNews.)
Afterwards (after 11pm) we walked back to our hotels. The streets were empty. Nantucket is very quiet this time of year. (That's one reason people like it.)
Empty streets (except for us) while walking back
Next morning was breakfast and then over to the room where we'd have the sessions:
Breakfast at the Harbor House's "Hearth" restaurant and their Madaket Room where the sessions would be held (as seen from the outside)
Here's the room and two of the organizers during their opening remarks: Shayne Gilbert of Silverweave and Scott Kirsner, who writes for the Boston Globe (every Monday), Fast Company, etc.:
Setting up the meeting room, Shayne Gilbert, Scott Kirsner
I was on the first panel: Tech Veterans Read the Tea Leaves. Other panelists were Kathy Biro of Digitas, John Landry of Lead Dog Ventures (formerly of Lotus/IBM and others), Bob Davis, and Bob Metcalfe (now a venture capitalist with Polaris).
View of the audience from the podium, the other speakers on my panel
I didn't take notes this year. Since the conference is off the record, I felt that reporting on it would be unfair. The sessions I attended were quite good and thought provoking. You could ask hard questions and get thoughtful answers. The small, intimate setting sure helps.
Here's a picture of DC Denison of the Boston Globe. He has his own weblog. We talked a bit about weblogs and cell trees (his discovery of my "Cell Towers" page here led to a front-page picture and article in the Globe recently). Here's also a picture of Bob Davis' new book, "Speed is Life". We used it as a prop during our panel (which included Bob), and made jokes with it in the punch line throughout the conference. Pre-publication copies were also the prize when you got a question right in the Game Show session (hosted by Patrick Rafter of Expound who used to work with me at Trellix). Since the quiz allowed lifelines (like Millionaire) those of us in the audience got to help. (E.g., "What is the second part of the slogan for John Landry's Lead Dog Ventures? Is it (A)..." -- "Patrick, I'd like to use John Landry for my lifeline...") Lisa DeSisto of Boston.com got a copy of the book for helping with the answer to "Who did Boston.com buy their domain name from?" (Answer: Au Bon Pain.) I got a copy for helping a contestant know which TV game show my name appeared on (which was, as readers here may recall from my February 5th posting, Jeopardy). Notice how most questions were hard and needed lifelines... It kept the audience listening and won lots of us copies of the book. I've started reading some of it and find it interesting, with details of how deals came about, philosophy, etc. Bob told us he's donating his earnings to charity (the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, I think he said). (Here's an associates link to Amazon if you want to buy it or learn more.)
DC Denison of The Boston Globe, Bob Davis' book sitting on stage
One session was entitled Mid-Flight Course Corrections: When Strategic Changes Mean the Difference Between Success and Failure. Moderated by James Chung of Beansprout Networks, it included Michael Hirshland of Polaris Ventures, John Connolly of Mainspring, and Shikhar Ghosh of Verilytics:
James Chung, Michael Hirshland, John Connolly, and Shikhar Ghosh
We heard heart-wrenching stories of changing directions. We heard of its effect on employees who see you throwing away all the hard work they did while following the dream you sold them but that you were now abandoning. How do you know something isn't working and that something else will? What's it like when you replace most of your employees with ones better suited to a new direction? Really, really tough stuff.
John Connolly said something that I guess sums up a lot of the feelings I took away from my time at the conference: With the dotCom bubble over, now we see how hard it really is to build a company.
Other web sites with reports
Boston.com has many pictures of attendees as well as some of their comments about the movie. Look for the May 6, 2001 entry on their Photo Galleries page.
DC Denison of The Boston Globe (see his picture, above) has some coverage in his weblog dated May 7, 2001.
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