Beg, Borrow, or Steal (Okay, Maybe not) Your Way into O'Reilly (Pt. 2)

The SF O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo was a defining moment for me, and for my startup. True, I was just a noob there. I thought I knew what I was doing with my social networking app.

But from the workshop sessions on the first day — the serious, four-hour kind (I chose ‘Strategies for Financing,’ which included startup CEOs telling their war stories) — to the evening ‘Launchpad’ startup pitch competitions, to the interviews with the likes of Max Levchin (ex PayPal, now Slide) and Marc Andreessen (him you should know) — to the Booth Crawl (a sort of ‘Weed & Feed’ where you walk around the exhibit floor sipping beers and margaritas) — it was positively giddy.

Now just so I don’t sound too much like a starry-eyed fanboy, the real stuff of O’Reilly is in the main sessions.

Pay attention. You will learn about viral acquisition (it’s about nuance, and testing — did you know that RockYou! (creators of Facebook’s SuperWall), with 100M monthly uniques across all its apps, sometimes does as many as 30 releases a day? That they A/B test samples for as few as five minutes? (Guess that makes sense, when you have 100M users.)

And you’ll learn about retention, cohort analysis, monetization. Those were just a few factoids, from a couple of sessions. Multiply that by four days, five sessions a day, and nine parallel tracks! (The worst part of it all: your inability to be in multiple places at once.) Sure, you can get the Cliff notes — a lot of the presentations are available — but seeing it, tasting it, discussing it at the parties (oh, yeah) . . . is indispensible.

There was much more than I can go into here. All I can say is, figure out which one makes the most sense, and find a way to get there.

And if you still can’t seem to justify it, maybe this will convince you . . .

End of the Booth Crawl, my last day at the conference, getting ready to board BART for the red-eye. Beers and blenders at every booth . . . but no one seemed to have any food. Until a nice young lady offered me an extra sandwich she had (I promise never again to refer to them as Booth Bunnies!). I sit down to eat it, and there’s all this commotion around a booth. Turns out, the Make people were doing free laser-etching of phones and laptops. (I’ve seen places charge upwards of $100 for it.) Two minutes before the show closed, thanks to a nice gentleman who offered me his place in line, I had annotated a little piece of history.

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On BART, I drunk-twittered the world that I had marked my virgin O’Reilly experience with a ‘tattoo.’ And it’s just as permanent — which means, for my startup, failure is not an option. I’m reminded of that every time I take out my MacBook Pro.