After years of hearing great things about the unConference, I finally attended my first one on Friday November 16 at the Hynes Convention Center and it was fantastic! As good as I had heard it was, I found it to be even better in reality.
As soon as the opening session started, long lines began to form at each mic and ideas poured out of the entrepreneurial community at a fast rate. The hour session flew, the boards were filled and I was off to my first session lead by Michael Skok, a VC at North Bridge Venture Partners. He also teaches at Harvard’s iLab and his session was titled “Start Up Secrets: Building a Compelling Value Proposition.”
Every seat was filled as the flip charts went up quickly along the walls. As a VC, Michael sees lots of pitches and knows what it takes to get funded and go “from zero to hero.” I was surprised to hear this was Michael’s first unConference too. He took our group through lots of great ideas on ways to define, evaluate and build a fundable value proposition.
One of my favorite takeaways was his “4U’s” to decide if you have a problem worth solving. His simple test consists of 4 questions — is it Unworkable? Unavoidable? Urgent? Or focusing on an Underserved market? To figure out who the right champion might be, look to see who will get fired if this problem does not get fixed, that person will be motivated! The problem does not have to be at the very top of the list but it should be one of the top 3 at least.
Another litmus test Michael shared was the Pain-Gain Ratio to evaluate which problems to solve. If the ratio is >10 there is a good chance you can overcome inertia and risk shaking up the status quo. It is important to be able to articulate the acute pain of the situation before and
absolute joy after solving the problem. It was a lively discussion and the time was up before we had barely scratched the surface. The group shared lots of relevant examples from personal experience and we could have easily chatted for another hour at least.
Michael clearly struck a nerve with this topic and I think everyone in the session learned a lot through the discussion. I can honestly say that I’m a big fan of the unConference and look forward to the next one! It is a fantastic way to energize like minded entrepreneurs and discuss topics we care about that enrich our community. 1000 smart people, thoughtful discussion, passionate discourse…what’s not to love?
As we head into Thanksgiving week, I am thankful to Mass TLC for bringing such an incredible group together and being part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Boston!