Silicon Prairie News

Big Omaha 2011: Day 2 live blog (morning edition)

Omaha May 13, 2011 by John T. Meyer, Royce Haynes & Michael Stacy Only 17 days until Big Omaha. Get your tickets before they sell out!

Day 1 of Big Omaha 2011 closed with a Q&A featuring five speakers. Four more speakers highlight the morning session of Day 2. Photo by Malone & Company from Silicon Prairie News on Flickr 

More than half of Big Omaha 2011 is now in the rearview mirror — or, given the conference’s theme, the space shuttle equivalent thereof — but there’s plenty packed into the portion of the conference that remains. This morning, we'll hear from another spectacular slate of speakers: Gary Vaynerchuk of VaynerMedia, Philip Kaplan, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur, Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker and Micah Baldwin of Graphic.ly.

If you're looking to brush up on today's speakers, see our post on what they've done recently to make headlines: "Big Omaha 2011: Friday speakers in the spotlight."

Without further ado, here are the sights and sounds from the second morning session of Big Omaha. Refresh this page to get the latest updates. Also, if this blog doesn't do the trick, get in on the conversation on Twitter by following the hashtag #bigomaha. (Note: the language, at times, is a bit colorful. You've been warned.)

9:10 — Jeff Slobotksi and Dusty Davidson kick things off, no worse for the wear after last night's shindig at The Slowdown, The Hood Internet concert presented by Microsoft BizSpark.

9:13 — Senator Ben Nelson has joined us. For the second straight day, a speaker from Washington takes the stage in a suit — and admits to a fashion faux pas. “I didn’t get the dress code today,” Nelson said.

9:19 — Nelson is bullish on the potential of today's innovators and entrepreneurs. "This is the new America," Nelson says in closing. "You're making it. You're a part of it." This generation, he says, will make the last look like “they were making model-Ts.”

9:22 — MC David Hauser is celebrating his birthday, and everyone's joining in the fun. Despite his protestations, Hauser is serenaded with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" (or whatever the song is technically called).

Gary Vaynerchuk

9:32 — Big Omaha regular Gary Vaynerchuk is back for a third go-around. And he's fired up. "When you raise money," he says, "you haven't done shit." He continued: "The amount of people that are cheering and thinking they’ve accomplished something because they’ve raised money in a financial buble … is ludicrous."

9:39 — A glut of user-generated content has changed the game. Any more, context is more important than content, because there's so much of the latter. "There's so much content that comes through," Vaynerchuk says, "that there’s only so much you can consume."

9:50 — Vaynerchuk's parting words before opening it up for Q&A: "Ideas are shit. Execution’s the game." This draws applause, but Vaynerchuk doesn't pause. He's, again, fired up. “The next time one of your friends rolls up on you and says, "Oh, crap, they stole my idea," punch them in the fucking mouth."

9:56 — Q&A is rolling along, and Vaynerchuk's asked about his life and family. After an update, he discusses his desire to take some time to enjoy the ride while still working hard. He cites Scott Harrison's take on charity — "Don't donate after you've made it. Donate along the way." — and says he's been applying the same philosophy to enjoying life.

10:02 — Vaynerchuk's doing his best Dr. Drew, dispensing relationship advice. To "a guy who plays World of Warcraft" and asks for advice on women, Vaynerchuk offers this nugget: "Yeah, they're hot, and that's awesome. But honestly, you’re hot too, bro."

10:05 — Asked about the fear of taking risks, Vaynerchuk cops to, once upon a time, wishing he would lose evertyhing only so he could build it up again. "Until I had my daughter, I was secretly hoping I was going to lose everything … because I couldn’t wait to rebuild it and show to the world what a badass I was."

10:11 — "The next speaker," Vaynerchuk says of Philip Kaplan, "is the single best speaker I've seen in my life." Kaplan has a big reputation to uphold. And he's coming up next.

Philip Kaplan

10:22 — Kaplan dispenses a bit of priceless wisdom: name a company after yourself. It makes you seem infinitely more important — no matter if you're the company's only employee. Kaplan joked of arriving at meetings for his eponymous company, "They'd say, 'you're the guy?'"

10:31 — Kaplan echoes a thought expressed by Vaynerchuk just moments ago: fear has seldom been the obstacle to him that it is to some. "What I have found is in my career all the success I've had has been from times I’ve gotten in over my head," Kaplan says. Case in point: the success of the book he wrote. "I signed a contract saying I was going to write a book," he says, "and I really don’t read books.” 

10:37 — Kaplan's running through the companies he's started. It might be time to start sprinting — he's started 40. Many are based around simple but practical ideas, and many have found their footing. But Kaplan says people lose sight of the other side of things: "What they don't know about is the things that I launched that didn't go anywhere."

10:42 — "How do I get users," everyone seems to wonder. Kaplan is delving into it. First: start controversy. "Being super-polarizing makes you president," he says. "It makes you succesful." 

10:55 — Catching up on Kaplan's tips for getting users: 1. Start controversy; 2. Viral tricks; 3. Affiliate programs; 4. Search engine optimization; 5. Press; 6. Celebrity endorsement; 7. Biz dev; 8. Offline events; 9. Get creative.

10:58 — It's break time, and Slobotski has another Oprah moment: "Every-body gets a copy of Gary V's bbookkk! You get a book! And you get a book!" OK, maybe his delivery was more understated. A lot more. But a live-blogger can dream, right?

Neil Blumenthal

11:25 — I'm calling for a reliever. In from the bullpen: John T. Meyer. John, take it away.

11:28 -- Back from break and Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker hits the stage. He asked the audience to think of three things. 1) What do the products and clothing you buy say about you. 2) How can for-profit companies be catalyst for change. 3) Be ready with your questions for Q/A.

11:36 -- Blumenthal tells the story of how Warby Parker started to take shape. He was at business school at Wharton in Pennsylvania and met his co-founders. They were all passionate about making change and also all liked glasses.

11:41 -- Blumenthal explains how everything Warby Parker does is very intentional and thought through. They want to make sure their impact in genuine and purposeful. "We deliver our glasses in a thoughtful way. We don't want to just plop down in some village in Africa, drop off thousands of glasses, and leave," Blumenthal said.

11:47 -- Quick stats on Warby Parker. "On February 15 we launched in Vogue and GQ. In three weeks we hit our 1st year sales targets. We sold out of our top 15 styles. And have a waiting list of 20,000 customers. This all seemed awesome, but we were like fuck. What do we do?" Blumenthal explains. 

Micah Baldwin

12:06 — We're passing the baton again. Micah Baldwin has stepped on stage, and Royce Haynes is taking the reins of the live blog.

12:12 -- Baldwin shared a personal story that he had never spoke of, especially in front of a crowd of people he didn’t know. Five years ago, he was a drug attic. While experimenting his share of drugs, he said his close friend would take advantage of him, taking money and valuable merchandise in his house and sell them. 

12:22 -- It wasn't until Baldwin help move his close friend to Califonia that he realized he had two problems: 1. His friend was a liar and even though Baldwin forgave him, he shouldn't have and 2. He was a drug attic and that he needed to stop.

12:30 -- "I can't do this anymore," Baldwin said. It was this point, where he had realized his close friend stole his credit card to pay for his flight back from California, and he had prepared to snort enough cocaine that even "Charlie Sheen" would be proud of, he would (1) stop forgiving his friend and (2) stop his addiction.

Baldwin's been sober for five years now and left the Big Omaha crowd with two things to live by:

1. Always be honest with yourself.

2. Always do the right thing.

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