I ended up getting a media pass for the event, which means awesome event privileges and behind-the-scenes action. I had an INCREDIBLE time, met amazing people, and learned so much. My goal with DIG SOUTH was to get the perspective of a young person working in the business world. For those of you who don't know what else I do besides write (Currently in the process of getting a book traditionally published!), I also own and operate two clothing lines. Inspire Thread Company, which inspires shirts after up-and-coming young professionals, and The Follow Me Company, where you can advertise yourself, whether a business or a personal brand, in your every day life. So without further what-this-is-about, here's an overview of my three days at the DIGSOUTH Innovation Conference.
Day One, TUESDAY, APRIL 26 - DIG VENTURE & DEMO DAY
Paul talked about tech and its high level of importance. He discussed AOL, stating that it was "One company that changed the face of the town...every city has its own 'AOL'", basically a business that changes the face of the city or town that it was created in. I know AOL is to Google, what Myspace it to Facebook, but it was a key part of the culture in its starting city, believe it or not.
His key advice was that "the best way to build a better company is to learn how other businesses are working." In regards to the Charleston area... "Every city has the same growth capabilities." Also the fact that MOBILE IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD. To those people that haven't yet mobile-optimized their websites and products...it has to be done. Now.
Today is basically the best day to get started in a business, because there has been a 99% reduction in startup costs since 1995. It used to cost about $5 million dollars to get going on a new company, and now the typical cost is $5K. This is a REALLY exciting point, because it means that the average person is now able to start their own business. The American dream is coming true world wide.
Web is getting bigger, and the world is getting smaller. Companies are growing faster than ever.
Another point that Paul hit on, is that transparency is everywhere. This one really stood out to me, because it's a main point at The Follow Me Company. Being transparent in your business practices and image is KEY to success. People want to see that there are people behind a company. So act that way.
A key question to ask yourself regarding your business, that is petty much indispensable...
"What have you done so far? What are your competitors doing?" Asking yourself that question will help you figure out where you're going wrong (if you are), and how you can improve.
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The first is that "We made it cool to be poor." Basically, this idea of a startup, poor founder, has become a trending subject. We don't want that! Sure, it's true that startups can begin with a struggle, and that it's typically not "rich at the going," but we shouldn't fantasize that. The goal is income, and a lot of it. Let's fantasize the growth, not the state of stagnancy.
Secondly, "We have glorified and Hollywoodized being a founder...we should be doing that for entrepreneurs." Anyone can be a founder, but not everyone can be an entrepreneur. The dictionary categorizes founders simply as a person who founds or establishes, whereas an entrepreneur is described as a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk. We're risk takers and initiators, not just establishers!
And as far as advice on pitching your business to investors, venture capitalists and angels... "THERE'S NO EXCUSE FOR A SHITTY PITCH!"
Paul's book suggestion was So Good They Can't Ignore You, by Cal Newport.
To end this keynote, Paul made a really incredible statement on how to introduce yourself in the business world...
"Say what you've done, not what you do." Tell stories. Focus on notability.
COHORT 5 PITCH
The Scholarship System won first prize, but the other competitors all have amazing companies that I would highly suggest you check out! The CEO and founder of The Scholarship System is Jocelyn Pearson who embodies "lady boss". She's highly intelligent, and one of the brightest young entrepreneurs, and people in general, that I have ever met!
I also got to go to a couple awesome "after event events", including THE INVESTOR BASH and the UPLOAD SHINDIG, featuring some awesome music from Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics
Day Two, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27 - CONFERENCE DAY ONE
Today, Robert Swan compares his icy experiences to boardroom maneuvers and his inspirational addresses have received the acclaim of discerning audiences worldwide.
Robert spoke on "Leadership on the edge."
I can't even get to the grocery store across the street without a GPS.
Jack Custo was Robert's patron, and he helped him raise money for the expedition. During the trip, Swan lost 69 pounds.
Their ship sank five minutes before they arrived at the pole, and they had no insurance. If this doesn't tell you how much perseverance Robert has, I don't know what will. In other words, they arrived at the small building with no way to get back. Robert said that at this point, he realized the importance and weight of leadership. He said to "Think carefully before you make a commitment, because you have to follow through with it." Robert isn't one to give up. If you don't follow through... "Who will believe you a second time?" Robert, after negotiations and stressful circumstances, was able to get him and his crew back with help from the U.S.
"Do what you say you're going to do. It builds a track record."
Robert's expedition to the North Pole took 56 days, and people from 7 different nations accompanied Swan on the trip.
Robert's expeditions have show him that his mission in life is to help keep the Arctic clean and preserve it. He has helped recycle 3,000 miles of solid waste from the Arctic in only 8 years, creating a massive positive impact on the area and the great wilderness, reversing Arctic melt.
Small Budget, Big Results
Deacon Webster, CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER OF WALRUS
Just a few points to consider about today's marketing world...
- General Mills is spending $10 million on mobile media for their new launch. What does this mean for advertisers? There is more money than ever put into mobile avenues, and we need to put as much value as possible on that
- Media/marketing has changed a LOT, and we need to follow these changes, and not market like it's 2000
- There's no longer a barrier to entry
One of the most incredible marketing campaigns EVER, in my opinion, is what Walrus did for Maloney & Porcelli, a NYC Midtown Restaurant. With a $10k budget, Walrus managed to get this businesses 38.9 million impressions, and a 15% increase in reservations, using expensesteak.com. Basically, they helped business people and Maloney & Porcelli regulars expense their $900 (or so, or less) meals. The campaign made nationwide news, and was marked as one of "The sexiest marketing campaigns ever." If you can make advertising sexy, I'd say you've hit your mark.
Deacon's main advice was to "be willing to take risks in marketing." His company focuses on taking risks, which creates viral marketing campaigns. AKA using Kevin Bacon in an ad for home-fix-it stores.
Brooks Buffington, CO-FOUNDER & COO, YIK YAK
Brooks Buffington founded Yik Yak in 2013. After passing up a career in finance in favor of app development, which he was drawn to because of the power and reach that apps have in a world where nearly everyone has smartphones. Brooks and Tyler created Yik Yak because they wanted to let people instantly be connected with the community around them. Today, Yik Yak is popular on over 1,600 colleges and university campuses. Brooks is originally fro Atlanta, Georgia. He is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys hiking and camping, and whose love of the outdoors took him to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Some key points of his speech...
"Millennials are impatient and in the moment." AKA, be brief. If you want to catch a millennial's attention with your businesses, then don't post a long ad, and don't be boring.
When Brooks and co-founder Tyler Droll were launching Yik Yak, they knew that they had to create something immediate. Yik Yak was the answer.
He said that "with millennials, you have to be willing to do what no one else is willing to do."
A main point being, BE PERSONAL.
-Millennials love experiences.
-Make everything an experience, and make it special.
-Be authentic! "Millennials can smell BS from a mile away."
Here are some key quotes from this high-energy, amazing entrepreneur.
"Keep trying new shit." Yep.
"Fail as much as humanly possible." Because enough failure, and you'll (I mean, hopefully) reach success.
"Understand your audience." This couldn't be more important! Know who you're selling and marketing to. Know your audience, and know them well. They will determine your success.
- We're in the age of the customer economy. Let other people sing your praise, instead of singing your own. Be known, not because of how you talk about yourself, but by what people see that you do. It's the ol', actions speak louder than words topic.
"Have a plan for when you succeed, and when it [your business] goes viral." BRAND EVERYTHING YOU DO. Peter couldn't stress enough how important this is. What happens when you craft a piece of content, and you don't brand it with something? No one will know it was you, and you won't gain anything from the piece. Brand, brand, brand.
"It is impossible to lie." Screw up? Own up to it. This leads back to the point that transparency is everything.
Here's some more helpful, totally usable advice from Peter:
1.) How do you know what people want? Ask them, "What can we do better?"
2.) Take an improv class. Learn how to talk to people and be more confident.
3.) Ask... "How can I help you?" "Stop focusing on likes, and start doing more likable things." I LOVE this point.
"Customers just want to be heard."
Day Three, THURSDAY, APRIL 28 - CONFERENCE DAY TWO
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Snapchat & Other Social Strategies For Business
- Post content that ads value for people
- Want to stand out? Make really unique content! This was a stand-out point from Shonduras. If you want people to follow you, then the content must be stellar.
- Add color
- The more you have on your story, the higher the attention
- Make people curious
- Don't just "post to post" Post great content
GARY FREAKIN' VAYNERCHUK!!
Gary Vaynerchuk build businesses. Fresh out of college he took his family wine businesses and grew it form a $4M to a $60M business in just five years. Now he runs VaynerMedia, one of the world's hottest digital agencies. Gary is The New York Times best-selling author of Crush It!, The Thank You Economy and Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Along the way, he became a prolific angel investor and venture capitalist, investing in companies like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Uber, and Birchbox before eventually co-founding VaynerRSE, a $25M angel fund. Gary also currently hosts the #AskGaryVee Show, a way of providing as much value as possible by taking questions about social media, entrepreneurship, startups, and family businesses and giving his answers based on a lifetime of building successful, multi-million dollar companies. The show is also available as a podcast. Gary is also a prolific public speaker, delivering keynotes at events like Le Web, an SXSW, which you can watch on his YouTube channel. He was named to both Fortune and Crain "40 under 40" lists in consecutive years, and has been profiled in The New York Times, Fortune and Inc.
I had the opportunity to meet Mike Vacanti, online fitness coach and writer. I actually met Mike through Gary Vee's Snapchat a while before DIG SOUTH, and was excited to meet him in person. He recently finished a two year job as Gary Vaynerchuk's traveling personal trainer. AKA, Mike seriously knows what he's doing. His snapchat (@mikevacanti) has consistent, fantastic fitness advice, and shows you the daily life of an online fitness coach. I would highly suggest following him. I can honestly say that he's 100% real and transparent. And also super fit. Seriously. If you want someone to admire in the fitness and hustle world, Mike's the guy to go with.