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Pics, quotes, and audio from the 11th annual Nantucket Conference

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 3, 2010 10:20 AM

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Wanted to share a few photos, comments, and a bit of audio from last week's Nantucket Conference on Entrepreneurship & Innovation. It brought about 150 founders, CEOs, and investors to the island for the 11th time, to talk about building great companies in New England. (In the interest of disclosure, I should mention that I serve on the advisory board that helps plan and run the event.)

You can read the Twitter stream from the event here...a blog post from Mass TLC president Tom Hopcroft here, about a session on building big companies in New England... entrepreneur and angel investor Chris Maeda wonders on his blog whether we're entering a golden age of angel investing...  and there's some Mass High Tech coverage here and here.

Here's the complete audio from two sessions (apologies, but audience questions were unmiked): 

1. The opening panel of CEOs, moderated by Bouzha Cookman, talking about how CEOs grow companies and how they grow with their companies. The CEOs included Bob Brennan of Iron Mountain, Diane Hessan of CommuniSpace, Rob Seaver of Vivox, and Scott Savitz of Shoebuy.

2. A session with A123 Systems chairman Desh Deshpande and CEO David Vieau, talking about the battery company's evolution from start-up to the most successful IPO of 2009 (and beyond.) Moderated by Nick d'Arbeloff, the founding president of the New England Clean Energy Council.

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A few paraphrased comments that struck me as interesting... and which got "re-tweeted" a bunch on Twitter.

Paul English of Kayak: when someone recommends a talented person to me that belongs at Kayak, the clock starts ticking. I give myself seven days to find them and hire them. They're in color, and my whole world turns to black-and-white.

Kwin Kramer of Oblong Industries noted that selling technology to deep-pocketed big companies is a challenge: in a 30,000-person company, 24,500 people are the wrong person to talk to, 499 are sort of the right person, and one person can actually write the check to buy what you're selling.

Brad Feld of Foundry Group and TechStars: Most successful entrepreneurs are obsessed with product.

iRobot CEO Colin Angle said that when the company tried to come up with names on their own for their robotic vaccuum cleaner, the top vote-getter was the CyberSuck. #2? Dust Puppy. A naming firm came up with Roomba.

Wrestling with battery technology that wasn't developing fast enough, A123 Systems CEO David Vieau said that sometimes it's hard to know whether more engineering will get you past what seems like a tough barrier, or whether there is a Grand Canyon between you and your goal. (A123 eventually changed courses and pursued a different battery chemistry, called nanophosphate.)

Desh Desphande said that every start-up company makes four big decisions a week. They get two right, and two wrong. The difference between success and failure is identifying the wrong ones quickly enough to rectify them.

Opening up his interview (via Skype) of entrepreneur and angel investor Jason Calacanis, who was in southern California, Bob Metcalfe says he has always been a big believer in transporting our bits, not our atoms.

For Internet start-ups today, Calacanis said, the opportunities are greater today than they were in 1995 or 1999.

Given that Boston doesn't have Silicon Valley's scale, we should leverage collaboration, support networks, and our intimate size to build great companies here, Calacanis suggested.

Calacanis: Everything truly innovative is both a scam and a game-changer.

Some pics:

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Steve Zamierowski of Deloitte and MITX board member Don McLagan waiting to board the fast ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket.

















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Harry West and Ed Milano of Continuum, the West Newton design consultancy, get ready to lead a workshop on "design as a strategic asset."







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Matt Pierson, chairman of JitterGram and the New Hampshire High Technology Council.









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Larry Bohn of General Catalyst and Dharmesh Shah, chief technology officer and co-founder of HubSpot.









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Portrait Software CEO Luke McKeever speaks on a panel about doing business globally.











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Lilliputian Systems CEO Ken Lazarus (behind white pitcher) speaks as part of a break-out session on working with venture capitalists.











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Left to right: iRobot CEO Colin Angle, Erika Ebbel of the non-profit Science from Scientists, and Michael Greeley of Flybridge Capital Partners at a lunch discussion on building big companies in New England. 








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Desh Deshpande of Sparta Group chats with Bill Warner, angel investor and founder of Avid Technology.









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Carbonite CEO David Friend prepares for a panel on developing products for consumers, which I moderated. Friend, who described himself as an ACLU member, said one of his toughest marketing decisions was spending $2 million on advertising with conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh which proved effective for the company.




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The conference's closing lunch, on the patio outside the Jared Coffin House, where most conference sessions were held.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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March 3: Web Innovators Group
Demos, drinks, and schmoozing at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.

March 7-8: MassDigi Game Challenge
Competition for aspiring game developers... plus panels and keynotes related to the business of play.

April 3-4: Mass Biotech Annual Meeting
Issues facing the region's life sciences community.

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