Earlier this week, I attended ‘A Conversation with Eric Ries’ hosted by Startup UCLA. Startup UCLA is a group that just emerged this year and is committed to enriching the start-up community on campus by hosting various events. This was also the first major networking event I attended on behalf of Marksmen Academy, so I had no idea what to expect and came in a bit nervous. In this blog post, I want to share my experience at this event and how things played out for me. If you are interested in the start-up community, let me know and I’ll be sure to share with you future Start-up UCLA events!
6:15pm: Preparation at my Apartment
The event officially started for me back at my apartment as I went through some mental preparation. I rehearsed some scenarios and wondered how I could best approach others at the event. Do I bring up Marksmen right away? Should I get a feel for the other person with small talk first? Thinking through exactly what I would say coupled with my nerves reminded me of how I felt in high school before appearing on stage in theater. I grabbed my iPod, a notepad, and about 20 business cards before heading off.
6:55pm: Arrived at Schoenberg Hall
On the bus ride over I decided not to think about the event much and tried to change my nervous energy into something more productive. Music helped clear my mind and focus less on details. It was already a small victory for me that I managed to get there on time, so that boosted my confidence heading into the event venue. Eying the crowd ahead, I was surprised to find out that the event was mostly filled with people in their late 20′s/early 30′s and that there were hardly any UCLA students there. As I waited in the check-in line observing the crowd ahead, I suddenly broke focus as a middle-aged man tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Nice to meet you, I’m Al.” I realized quickly that these types of quick introductions and approaches would mark the rest of my evening. I introduced myself to him and we talked about our mutual interest in the startup community. It was comforting to me that others are looking for a good conversation too and come in with an open mind ready to listen to others ideas. I told him about Marksmen and we swapped business cards. We parted ways after the line cleared and went into the main lobby.
7:15pm: Schoenberg Hall Lobby
The lobby behind the closed auditorium doors was filled with people engaged in conversation. The only way to get around was to walk along the outside area, which was slightly calmer. It looked like most people grabbed about half a plate of food so I did the same. I didn’t have it in me yet to introduce myself to anyone as Al did, but I knew I had to take the time to get to know people at the event. I noticed a crowd of about 5 people where one man in particular drew the attention of the other four people. I figured he was someone either really important or was sharing a really interesting idea, so I entered the semi-circle around him and listened in. I didn’t understand much of what he was saying, but fortunately for me the group broke after about 2 minutes. After the group of 6 broke, three pairs naturally formed and I started talking to the closest person to me, Lutrell. He was 6’2″ and very well spoken. I found out that most of the people attending were part of StartupLA, which was a bigger movement that Startup UCLA recently became a part of. He works as a recruiter from a firm in Santa Monica that hires coders/CompSci majors. I learned that Compsci majors will never be out of a job in the near future with such a strong demand for them. We swapped business cards and he gave me some good ideas about Marksmen that I’ll look to implement.
8:15pm: A Conversation with Eric Ries
The event started an hour after the scheduled time. I learned that from how the event was conducted, there is a lot of emphasis in the start-up community on mingling and small talk. I ran into a friend from one of my classes in my Freshman year, Henry and spent the rest of the evening with him as well as his friends Evan and PA. We were among the few undergraduates there so we get along well. We sat together for the event with pretty good seats (3 rows from the front). Eric Ries appeared on stage alongside a moderator who asked him about concepts from his book, “The Lean Startup” and about some of his business experience. In my opinion, his best advice was conveyed through his outlook on running a business. He envisions a start-up as a company that runs multiple experiments by releasing products in a scientific way to improve the lives of others. Successful start-ups are those that can best identify and address the concerns of others in a timely manner.
9:15pm: Q&A with Eric Ries
The evening concluded with Q&A from the audience…there wasn’t anything notable, but it was good to see that Eric really cared about the concerns of the audience. He answered questions like, “Why is Apple doing better than Microsoft?” to “What do you think about my new folding machine idea?” After answering 4-5 questions, Eric was received well by the audience as everyone clapped for him.
This post was pretty long, but I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience! I’m definitely looking forward to the next Startup UCLA event!
All the best,