MassTLC 2010 is designed like the Internet - tons of connections and no hierarchy. And the event moves fast, like this Ferrrari 360, which four lucky people will drive at the event and one will take home for the night.
I believe that the core of our innovation economy comes down to a single factor: People. I've been running MassTLC's Innovation unConference for three years now, and our main focus is how to help entrepreneurs find real mentors. When new people join your effort with great advice, even just for a day, you get new energy and new insights that can spark the discovery of new paths. On my own entrepreneur journey, I had many mentors and assists along the way. My hope is that MassTLC2010 offers these same kinds of opportunities, in the hundreds. You can register for the conference here.
MassTLC 2010 isn't a typical conference, and it isn't a typical unConference. In this post, I'll review all the ways that our two events - the conference on Thursday, October 14, and the pre-party on Wednesday evening October 13, work together to give all attendees an experience that they simply cannot get at any other event. And, I'll explain how you'll get two chances to drive the Ferrari 360 at the event, and one grand prize chance to bring it home that night!
Great Connections, and Lots of Them
The foundation of MassTLC2010 is to create as many ways as possible to engender real connections -- the kind where you feel like you can call or email that person later and dive right into your discussion. MassTLC2010 starts "in the round" in a huge room overlooking the piers at the Seaport World Trade Center. Everyone is there to help and to learn, and together, they create the agenda for the day. Last year there were over 80 sessions created. Some are large, some are small, but all of them are attended by people who are there because they care about the subject. The sessions are informal, and are a great way for participants to meet each other in a working environment.
We Start By Lining Up The Help Entrepreneurs Need
MassTLC 2010 is aimed at helping entrepreneurs, and doing that at scale. Not 20 or 30 entrepreneurs, but over 100 this year. So first, we ask people with some valuable experience to become Volunteer Experts. This means that they volunteer to do three 20-minute 1-on-1 meetings during the event, and they are listed on our Roster of Volunteer Experts. Some of these experts have decades of experience. Some have a few years, and may have just received venture funding. But all have something valuable to share with early stage entrepreneurs. And all join the conference with a similar goal: To help.
Finding Entrepreneurs Who Can Benefit From the Help
This year we'll have over 100 volunteer experts -- people who've started successful companies, venture capitalists, angel investors, and technical founders. Then the second step is to find the entrepreneurs who can benefit from this help. We encourage entrepreneurs to apply for sponsorship, which reduces the cost by $250 to just $95, and gives them 1-on-1s, in addition to all the meeting time they get during the event. We choose entrepreneurs not by how far along they are, but rather by how much we believe they can benefit from being a part of the conference and meeting the volunteer experts.
Attracting Great Attendees to Join In
This year, the combination of our Sponsored Entrepreneurs and our Roster of Volunteer experts is over 200 people! The next step is to attract great people from the community to attend the event and lend their energy and ideas. Everyone at the event is the same. Our experts are simply people who volunteered in advance to meet with entrepreneurs. There are no podiums and no panels. All sessions are created on the day of the event, so everyone is here with the same goal in mind: to help and to learn.
When I started planning this event over three years ago, I had never heard of an unconference. Instead, I was wondering: Why can't a conference be more like a trade show? Everyone talks at the same time, you get to wander around and see what you care about, and it's fun and exciting. When I learned about the Open Space Technology format that is typically associated with unconferences, I loved the idea. We began working with Kaliya Hamlin, the top technology unconference facilitator in the country. Together, we designed MassTLC2008, MassTLC2009, and now MassTLC2010. Lots of detailed planning has gone into every step of the conference, and it showed in the rave reviews we got in the past two years. This has been a great source of satisfaction for me, and I believe we'll take the event to a new level this year.
New This Year - Giant Pre-Party at Microsoft
We have all seen how generous Microsoft has been in creating a gathering place for our community. This pre-party event is an integral part of MassTLC2010, and it will help add to the real connections you can make. Taking place on all three floors of the NERD center, this party will be expand the ring of people that will take part in this year's event.
- Each registered conference attendee can bring a guest to the party.
- People registered for MassTLC2008 and MassTLC2009 will be sent free invitations
The theme of this party is "Anything But Work". The idea is to create ways for people to have shared experiences with each other around things they love outside of work. Often, once you've gotten to know someone, it's much easier to come together on work ideas later, or help make new connections to other people.
New Venue - Newly Renovated Seaport World Trade Center
The Seaport World Trade Center just finished a huge renovation in February of 2010. The giant ballroom we're using will seat 500 or more in the round for our opening session (and much more with standing, so get there early!). They took out the poles that used to be there, and added a huge outdoor balcony that will be used for the reception at the end of the event. These two new venues put us right where the action is these days - Cambridge and Boston.
New This Year - The Connectors
Even with all our social technology, nothing beats real, human matchmaking. So we've recruited ten young, energetic and well connected members of our tech community to become "Connectors." The connector's job is to get to know all of the Volunteer Experts, and all of the Sponsored Entrepreneurs, as well as many of the attendees. During the event, the connectors will be very visible and available to help people meet each other, including helping entrepreneurs pick which experts might be best for them in the 1-on-1's
New This Year - Drive a Ferrari 360
In an unconference, some of the venues are very small. Maybe even just a table for two. So it makes perfect sense that your small meeting might truly move fast. You and a passenger will have your own little part of the unconference in an Italian sports car. And some lucky driver will take the Ferrari home for the night! Details here.
An Event That Brings Us Together
I'm so excited about this event, and for many reasons. First, it will help entrepreneurs find new people to help them build their companies. Second, it will bring a wide range of people together in a new way that truly spurs conversations and creativity. And third, it's a way for us to get together and create the kind of innovation environment we all want. In real time, in one day. You'd be amazed what can happen. Please join us! Register here.