Once in awhile it’s nice to get out of the day-to-day grind and gain some additional motivation from people who are doing awesome things. That opportunity came last week when several of us from the Hudl office traveled an hour east to sit through two days of great speakers at Big Omaha. We promised we wouldn’t make too big of a scene while we were there.
Big Omaha is an annual conference where innovators from across the United States as well as other countries gather to share ideas and gain inspiration. This is the third year of the conference, and it only seems to be getting more popular.
First of all, the guys at Silicon Prairie thought of everything. The event was held in the Kaneko space in Omaha’s Old Market. When we weren’t listening to the great speakers, we spent time (maybe too much time) at the photo booth they had set up. The Red Bull was flowing like water and the snack table was fully stocked.
There wasn’t a single speaker who left us without at least one thing we could take back to the office, whether it was a practical tip or simply conveying the importance of passion in everything we do. Here are some of my takeaways from two of the speakers:
Ben Huh—Cheezburger Network
Huh is the CEO of Cheezburger Network, which includes, but is not limited to, all those great cat pictures we see floating around on the internet. The mission of Cheezburger Network is simple: Make people smile for five minutes a day.
Huh’s business model relies on user-generated content. “Internet culture,” Huh said, “will produce the rockstars of tomorrow.” He stressed that with all the outlets through which people have to communicate today, we can’t continue to think that there are only a select few people who can create quality content.
Neil Blumenthal—Warby Parker
“Glasses are fun, but they are un-fun when they are $500”
Blumenthal co-founded Warby Parker which was founded to combat “overpriced and bland eyeware.” They provide high-quality glasses for less than $100. The business doesn’t stop at cost-effective glasses though. For each pair of glasses they sell, they donate a pair to someone in need. The whole model seems as though they wouldn’t make any money, right? Wrong. In the first three months of opening, they blew away their year’s sales goals, sold out of their top 15 styles, and had a waiting list of 20,000 people.
One thing that really interested me about Blumenthal’s talk was when he spoke of their company culture. He mentioned that one thing they strive to deliver is world-class support to their customers and they have a very open office space where people can bounce ideas off of each other, which reflects the culture of their company. At Hudl, those are two things that are key to everyday interaction in the office.
Blumenthal left the audience with two questions:
- What do the products and clothing you buy say about you?
- How can for-profit companies be a catalyst for change?
Other great talks came from Gary Vaynerchuk, who was returning for the third year in a row, and Sarah Lacy, the senior editor of TechCrunch. They sent the clear and blunt message to all the innovators not to slow down.
Lacy spent 40 weeks in developing nations speaking with innovators in countries like Rwanda and Indonesia. She stressed that we shouldn’t overlook countries that have never made a lot of noise in the innovation sector because they’re slowly emerging around the world.
Vaynerchuk, who can always be counted on for his raw honesty, said “The amount of people that are cheering and thinking they’ve accomplished something because they’ve raised money in a financial bubble… is ludicrous.”
The schedule was formatted with long breaks between every few speakers which allowed for everyone to get up, move around, and meet some really awesome people. It wasn’t until these breaks that we realized that not only were we listening to speakers who were doing awesome things, but we were also surrounded by people who were doing awesome things. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of them on stage next year.
Thanks again to the crew at Silicon Prairie News for making it an awesome week.